A group of volunteers working to open a cooperative grocery store in Southeast Raleigh is looking for more members and a permanent home.
Fertile Ground Food Cooperative has been in the planning stages for more than four years. Volunteers hope the project will bring affordable, high-quality food to Southeast Raleigh, which is considered a food desert, and also serve as a community hub for educational and cultural events.
The co-op has nearly 200 members but needs 500 to pay for a brick-and-mortar space, said Erin Byrd, chairwoman of the group’s board of directors.
Volunteers have been spreading the word about Fertile Ground through community meetings, crowdfunding and social media.
“We want to bring the community’s enterprise together,” Byrd said.
The group is looking for a space in Southeast Raleigh that is at least 5,000 square feet, includes room for parking and is near bus stops. Ideally, the group wants a space that is near other stores and restaurants.
Membership costs $100 and can be paid in monthly installments of $25. Every member has a say in how the organization is run.
The co-op will sell products such as jewelry that are made by local residents, Byrd said. Produce, including organic options, will come from North Carolina farms.
“We want to be a market for local entrepreneurs and business people,” Byrd said. “Over the long term, we want to build a cooperative economy.”
Because Fertile Ground is being developed by the community, volunteers say it has a good chance to succeed.
In 2013, Kroger closed two grocery stores in Southeast Raleigh, citing declining sales. Soon after, flea markets on Capital Boulevard and Rock Quarry Road were shuttered.
“For a long time, we’ve had no access or very limited access to food,” said Demetrius Hunter, a Fertile Ground board member.
A Roses discount store opened in 2015 in the former Kroger site on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Art Pope, CEO of Variety Wholesalers, also partnered with national grocery store chain Save-A-Lot in the space.
In addition to Save-A-Lot, Southeast Raleigh residents have three other grocery options: Food Lion on Cross Link Road, Galley Grocery on Bragg Street and In & Out Mart on Creech Road.
While Fertile Ground looks for a location, the group plans to launch Horns of Plenty, which will provide boxes of vegetables every month. Members will receive a discount.
“(Fertile Ground) will belong to them,” Byrd said. “They’re never going to give it up.”
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler
Find out more
To learn more about Fertile Ground Food Cooperative, including how to become a member, go to http://bit.ly/2d72eOI.