River Valley Market Celebrates Groundbreaking

A diverse group helped the cooperative’s founding

One hundred fifty enthusiastic community members arrived with shovels in hand on May 17 to join in the celebratory groundbreaking for the Northampton, Mass., new locally grown food co-op. David Gowler, one of the first co-op members and a co-op board member from 1999 to 2006, led the group in an enthusiastic participatory event.

Mayor Clare Higgins wielded the official silver-plated ceremonial shovel and was joined by dozens of cooperative members, each with a shovel. The participants ceremoniously dug the corner foundation for the 17,000-square- foot green grocery facility, which will house River Valley Market’s store operations featuring fresh, local and organically grown foods.

Neighboring co-op Green Fields Market provided a delicious buffet lunch featuring a variety of local foods, and freshly brewed fair trade organically grown coffee was served by Equal Exchange. A diverse group of presenters arrived to help the cooperative’s many founding member-owners, board of directors, and other community members celebrate this milestone for River Valley Market.

Co-op member Marvin Ward delivered a site history presentation, outlining its ownership and use dating back to the 1700s, including the city’s quarry there until 1925. Co-op member Nancy Little gave a presentation about the geology—a beautiful granite cliff rises above the store site on three sides. And a beautiful quilt made from co-op T-shirts from across the country was on to display to represent the support independent community food co-ops provide to each other.

Since its original incorporation in 1999, some 2,000 area families have joined together to launch this community owned food co-op in Northampton. General manager Rochelle Prunty was hired in 2001. Earlier site and lease options were stymied, then in 2004 a lease was secured on “the old quarry site.” More than $300,000 in member equity and $1 million in member loans has been raised by the cooperative. Total financing is over $7 million, with half of that from the Bank of Western Massachusetts.

River Valley Market is scheduled to open in early 2008, creating 70 new jobs. Located in the five-college area of the Pioneer Valley, home to Smith College, and recently identified as one of the top 100 towns for artists in the country, Northampton’s demographics indicated a very strong market for this business. The local success of the nationally acclaimed “Be A Local Hero, Buy Local” program showed that with their pocketbooks, consumers would support local agriculture, small businesses, and farmers.

The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative is supporting the cooperative with a $406,522 grant. Green building features include a 30-KW solar electricity generation system, energy efficient equipment that captures heat from the refrigeration for hot water, daylighting to reduce electricity use, extra insulation to reduce energy consumption, capture of rainwater for flushing toilets and watering plants, landscaping with native tree and plant species, and use of regional and recycled materials for construction.

For more information, visit the co-op’s website: www.rivervalleymarket.coop

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