“From the beginning, co-ops have been about social change"

In her interview for Radical Roots, Mississippi Market General Manager Gail Graham told us that “from the beginning co-ops have been about social change.” When it comes to the natural food co-ops of the Twin Cities, she should know. Gail started working in the co-ops in the late 1970s as a collective member at the Wedge, and was that co-op’s first general manager.

She has been in a position to see the big changes in the co-ops: their transformation from simple collectives to complex businesses with managers; the decline of the volunteer member; the emergence of natural processed and packaged foods; and the huge expansion in the number of people who want what the co-ops have to offer.

In this clip Graham talks about the new questions facing co-ops, like defining their role now that natural foods have become mainstream and finding ways to address racial disparities. Mississippi Market is already making moves to expand access to good food: in September, the co-op will open its third store on East 7th Street, marking the first time the St. Paul's East Side has a natural foods co-op. It has also made major donations supporting the Hmong American Farmers Association and Frogtown Farm, a multicultural community project to to acquire a parcel of land for a public park and urban farm.