I became a co-op convert when I moved to Bozeman. I'll admit that at first this city girl was a little freaked out; our co-op is about a quarter of the size of the Whole Foods I frequented in Washington DC. But my food philosophy has evolved since then (more on that transition here and here), and I love buying local/as locally as possible, and the feeling of community at my co-op. I joke that it is my second home, but I'm not really kidding. I enjoy the fact that I go there practically every day; I know, to some that sounds tedious, but my cooking strategy is to stock up on bulk items and then cruise in to the co-op daily to pick up the fresh items I need for each day's meals. And of course, chat with everyone too. If I lived in France, one day I'd make a great old lady who knows everyone and everything at the daily market. I've made lots of friends at the co-op, because one thing I can bond over is food. In fact, one of my co-op friends happens to be a chef there as well as a farmer, and she will be cooking on some of our retreats this year. Not only that - she'll be giving a talk on eating sustainably and her experience as a grower. (An Interview with a Grower and a Cook coming very soon!)
I was very pleased to see "shopping the food co-ops" called a hot trend in the February Bon Appetit: These worker-owned grocery stores have shed their hippie aura from to '70s and are offering better products than ever before: The bruised apples of the past have been replaced by local kombucha, cardoons, and grass-fed beef frankfurters, available alongside bulk items like red lentils sold by the pound. And with foodies flocking to co-ops, the number of such stores is expected to double in the next five years.
Don't have a co-op in your area? Check out Edible Communities and find out more about how you can go local.