Maria Stepka of Spofford arranges a display of cheeses with colorful labels and exotic names. As the cheese buyer for the Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene, she is one of 60 people to get a new job at the nonprofit market.
“I can’t believe this co-op has happened. I’ve learned a ton,” she says.
CDFA awarded $500,000 from our Investment Tax Credit Program to the co-op to acquire an undeveloped parcel of land. We also provided a $500,000 CDBG Economic Development loan through the Monadnock Economic Development Corporation for the purchase of equipment.
The Monadnock Food Co-op opened in April. In addition to creating new jobs and providing $1,500,000 in payroll, it’s a key landmark in Keene’s continuing downtown revitalization. “It makes the city more walkable, more shopable, more livable,” says General Manager Michael Faber.
Helena Kopczynski of Keene makes a quick scan of what today’s selection of produce is. Each day is different, as local farmers bring in the freshest fruits and vegetables. Normally, customers would only be able to purchase food from these small- to mid-sized farms at out-of-the-way stands or temporary farmers markets. Now they are available seven days a week.
“It’s hard for these producers to find a local market for their goods,” says Michael. The co-op’s local focus means secondary economic benefits for more than 100 New Hampshire farmers, cattle herders, and artisanal food product manufacturers.
Among the cheeses Maria arranges are several crafted by area makers. “The benefit of the co-op is that it gives customers a choice,” she says referring to her display. But, in the end, it’s the whole community that really benefits.