The small space occupied by the Taos Food Co-op isn’t much to look at yet. But the volunteers who’ve gotten it off the ground have big ambitions.

“The goal is to provide healthy food to people at the lowest possible price,” says Susan Moore, an organizer of the nascent co-op.

The retail location is tucked into the back of OptiMysm, at 314 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, the space formerly occupied by RadioShack.

The premise is relatively simple: By banding together under a single organization, the co-op is able to buy food at wholesale prices and making minimal mark ups on the retail side. By relying on volunteer work and keeping overhead down (the co-op’s $300 a month rent is paid up through September), prices are generally 15-30 percent below competing grocery stores, Moore said.

The Taos Food Co-op counts 48 members and about a dozen volunteers who take turns running the retail store. Co-op memberships cost $40 a year. “Lifetime” memberships are being offered for $300.

Shoppers don’t have to be members to buy at the store, but members are entitled to a 10 percent discount on purchases. Volunteers who work at least four hours a week get an additional 10 percent off.

Moore says 95 percent of the co-op’s inventory is organic, and the group has gone to great lengths to search out local items. Not only is the co-op designed to sell safe affordable food, says fellow organizer Matt Foster, it’s also a way to build a network of growers and producers, and bolster the economy by keeping dollars circulating in Taos.

Taos’ last food co-op, the Amigos Food Co-op, first based in El Prado during the ‘80s, relocated to Paseo del Pueblo Sur and finally closed in the late ‘90s.

The Taos Food Co-op is being run by a volunteer board that includes Matt Foster, Susan Moore, Martha Sykes, Denise Morvant and Jeremiah Marin-Kubiak.

At the moment, the co-op store offers mostly dried goods. The shelves are lined with local beans, honey and coffee from Taos Roasters. A new cooler will allow the co-op to sell pastries, eggs and some produce. Local rancher Mark Schuetz has a freezer with different cuts of grass-finished beef that is being sold at wholesale price.

Food vendors who use commercial kitchen space at the Taos County Economic Development Corp. have also been asked to provide salsas and other foods for sale, Moore said.

To get the co-op off the ground, volunteers donated bulk food items like rice and quinoa. Profits from these early purchases will go back into improving the co-op inventory. Going forward, most of the co-op’s bulk inventory will come from Golden Organics based in Arvada, Colo.

In addition to the store, the co-op makes periodic bulk orders. Both members and non-members are welcome to put in bulk orders by email. To see a list of bulk items available through the Taos Food Coop, visit www.goldenorganics.net. Moore said prices on the website are not current.

The Taos Food Co-op is open three days a week: Thursday from 2 to 6 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more call Foster at (575) 770-8013 or email taosfoodcoop@gmail.com.

The co-op will be celebrating its grand opening Saturday (June 16) from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. There will be hors d’oeuvres and music.

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