Alaska’s first member-owned community grocery store is open for business thanks in part to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Economic Development Loans and Grants (REDLG) that helped fund the Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market.
Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA), a USDA borrower since 1949, made project possible. GVEA received a REDLG to fund a revolving loan, which it used to help establish the market. USDA Rural Development Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska last month to join with community, volunteers, and founders in the grand opening of the new Market. The store has already provided more than 20 new local jobs for residents.
“We couldn’t be more pleased and proud of the longtime partnership we’ve had with GVEA,” said Nordlund. This is the first time Alaska has received REDLG funding in more than 10 years and we couldn’t be more excited for the business owners, volunteers, and residents in celebration of their new, local marketplace. The project complements USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative by strengthening the connection between farmers and consumers and supporting local and regional food systems.”
The market will provide opportunities for Alaska farmers and ranchers to promote their locally and regionally produced food and expand access to affordable fresh and local food. Additionally, its educational efforts should cultivate healthy eating habits and educated, empowered consumers.
“Our collaborative success today couldn’t be complete without the strength and determination of the staff and volunteers at the Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market, Alaska’s first food cooperative, and we want to make sure they receive credit for their teamwork in this effort,” said Mary Christensen, General Manager of the Co-op Market Grocery & Deli. The goal of the new marketplace is to emphasize Alaska-grown and made foods as much as possible.
With more than 1,500 followers on Facebook and spotlights from local media, residents quickly discovered the new Co-op as a place where you can find freshly prepared soups, sandwiches, salads, local meats, and Alaskan seafood that are local produce and much more.
“We can’t stress how important it is that Alaska builds its agriculture and food security programs and it’s the successful partnership between USDA and local business that will go a long way to encourage this industry and bolster community and economic growth, and provide new jobs in the Fairbanks area,” said Nordlund. We hope that other electric and telecommunications companies in Alaska will be inspired to follow suit and work with Rural Development to establish similar success stories in their own communities.