The Food Co-op (Coop) – Port Townsend

Thing Learned

I haven’t realized it yet, but the thing painful lesson I will probably learn is… Don’t make fun of the Food Co-op. I can see all the members riding up in their wagons, using their farm raised, beeswax candles to light their way, waving their pitchforks covered with fresh, organic goat manure and wearing their fair trade, organic, locally-sourced, living wage ‘shop local’ baseball caps.

First, A Brief Preface – I Would Like To Think Myself A Local, But Alas, After A Decade, I Am Not

I grew up in Washington state, always near Puget Sound. Went to grade school, middle school, high school and then undergraduate school all within miles of this massive inlet of the Pacific Ocean. I have lived and worked in other parts of the country, but I returned to the area and chose Port Townsend. I have been there a decade (But, that makes me subject to the typical Washingtonian refrain from the late ’80’s, “Welcome to Washington, now please go back to California.” 1*LA Times: Welcome to Seattle–Now Go Home : California Emigres Meet New Hostility in Idyllic Northwest ) I have thought about getting a bumper sticker (on my out-of-place) SUV that reads – Just Visiting. Don’t Worry.

Washington residents, like Oregonians, have another favorite saying, ‘Don’t Californicate Washington.’

Just What Is The Food Co-op

Don’t let the fact this grocery store is a co-op. Aisle for aisle, this grocery store is as busy as any national chain store.

According to the Food Co-op website 2*Port Townsend Food Co-op website , “The Port Townsend Food Co-op is a full-service organic foods market providing affordable organic foods to everyone – every day! We are a member-owned consumer cooperative serving our community since 1972. Working hard for our co-owners, employees and our local economy.

  • We have more than 6,000 active co-owners
  • We employ an average of 100 co-owners of our community
  • We contribute every day to our local economy
  • The Port Townsend Food Co-op, whose owners voluntarily and consciously co-operate for the common good, acts to create social and economic change and improvement within the larger community.”

An Underlying Local Subliminal

When we were considering living in Port Townsend we examined quite a few ‘best places to live 3*Best Places To Live – Port Townsend ‘ websites. We asked locals like out Realtor, waiters at restaurants, cashiers in stores why they like Port Townsend. They all told us about the weather (we get half the rain of Seattle due to the Olympic Rain Shadow 4*Olympic Rain Shadow created by the Olympic mountains), the outdoors and the friendly people.

And, finally, much like Sandra Bulluck in the movie Miss Congeniality, when she is asked the question, “What is the one most important thing that our society needs?” She is ‘obligated’ to utter the answer, “World peace;” it is the same way all the locals always end their sincere analysis of Port Townsend with, “And we shop at the Food Co-op.”

Almost everyone, almost subliminally, mentioned the Food Co-op.

So… We Bought A Lifetime Membership.

We bought a home, intending to live summers in Port Townsend while we closed up loose ends in (don’t tell anyone) California. We had heard so much about the Co-op that we also bought (subliminal techniques work 5*Subliminal Messages: Do They Really Work? ) a lifetime Port Townsend Food Co-op membership 6*Port Townsend Food Co-op membership .

How To Shop (Like A Local) At The Port Townsend Food Co-op

I may have been subliminally coerced to buy the membership, but nobody bothered to tell me the rules of shopping there. Here are just a few rules I broke over the years (slow learner) that might help you assimilate:

  • Carefully, Thoughtfully, Introspectively Inspect Each Item You Purchase: I initially failed to carefully look over all the vegetables, say turnips, by just picking up the first one I touched. I know carefully, thoughtfully and introspectively analyze and then determine which specific turnip I should even consider to pickup. After careful consideration I look at, rotate, inhale and then, only then, do I nod my head in agreement that this specific turnip was right for me and, more importantly, I was right for that specific turnip. Bonus Tip – Be sure to look at the bottom of the turnip to see if there is any dirt left. If so, say something, just loud enough for someone nearby to hear, like, “Hmm, this looks like it came from the Short’s Family Farm 7*Short’s Family Farm or any other Port Townsend area farm 8*Port Townsend area farms . Skilled, long time Co-op shoppers can complete this assessment in typically two minutes per turnip (longer for fruits).
  • Know When To Look Guilty: When I was ready to check out I used to hastily look at the length of each line and simply pick the shortest line. Nope. Not in Port Townsend. And definitely not at the Food Co-op. You have to consider who else is in line. Are they elderly? Are they a long time local? Would they want a newcomer next to them in their line? I learned how to ask, with a wistful face and a soft tone, “Nice day,” “I love shopping here,” “I know I am not worthy, but do you mind if I stand in your line to check out?”
  • Know When To Look Guilty 2: Once I have perfected the look of feeling guilty when standing in line, I also had to learn to look guilty when the turnip I bought wasn’t just organic, fair trade and provided a living wage,  but it wasn’t, OhMiGawd, locally sourced. I ultimately learned to look up, and slowly, with regret, say, “I was hoping this turnip was also locally sourced. Next time for sure.”
  • Know Your Food Co-op ID Number: After navigating which line to choose and what to say, I also learned that I should know, by heart, my Food Co-op ID number. Everyone does it automatically. I still fumble around in my wallet trying to find that damn code. That is how they tell you aren’t really a local.
  • Sophie’s Choice – The Wrong Recyclable Shopping Bag: As if it isn’t hard enough just to remember to bring shopping bags with you, I also had to learn to bring the right kind of shopping bag. It couldn’t be made of plastic or anything so damaging to the world. It had to be natural fibers along with the now familiar refrain of organic, fair trade and providing a living wage,  plus, hopefully, locally sourced. One time I showed up to buy groceries, got halfway to the store entrance and realized that I forgot the shopping bag. I casually hurriedly went bag to my car (across the street – more on that in a bit) and I found that the only shopping bag I had was a… Walmart plastic shopping bag. Talk about a Sophie’s Choice 9*Sophie’s Choice Trailer – I turned the bag inside out and went inside. All the shoppers knew my ruse.
  • To Bean Or Not To Bean – That Is Not The Question:  As with any good company, they reward you when you do the right thing with their ‘Beans For Bags’ program. In this case, if you remember to bring the correct shopping bag, you are offered specify a donation to a local charity.  The checkout cashier would say, “Where do you want your bean to go?” Initially, I was so horrified to ask what is the difference I would say, “You choose.” (According to their website, “Beans for Bags Program 10*Port Townsend Food Co-op: Beans for Bags Program in which we gave our member/owners the choice of receiving either a nickel refund for each container or bag they bring for their groceries, or a bean worth five cents which they can drop in their choice of glass gallon jars designated for three local non-profit organizations. One of those three non-profit organizations is always the county food bank. The other two choices come from nominations made by the member/owners themselves).
  • How To Park At The Food Co-op: As if all the above isn’t hard enough, I had to learn where and how to park while shopping at the Co-op. I ultimately learned (leering eyes do work) to park my (whisper) gas-guzzling SUV (end whisper) in the bank lot across the street so I don’t have to endure an intense, Scarlet Letter 11*Amazon – Scarlet Letter of ‘a**holes who drive cars that ruin the planet’ looks.
  • How To Park At The Food Co-op – Bonus Tip: When deciding which of your Prius cars to drive to the Co-op, always bring the car with the ‘Obama ’08’ bumper sticker.
  • And, After You Shop There Is More…: When friends neighbors people in the neighborhood stop over to visit, you have to remember to always say, “Oh, I just got this turnip from the Food Co-op (In case they don’t acknowledge that say with a bit more force, ‘I JUST GOT THIS TURNIP FROM THE FOOD CO-OP!’).” Then after they automatically say, “We just shopped this morning there. Aren’t the turnips wonderful this time of year?” You reply by saying, “Yes, this organic, fair trade and providing a living wage, almost locally sourced  turnip does taste terrific!”

These videos have not, and will not, be approved by the Food Co-op.

Freaks of the Garden Sale Mountain Style Hailey, Idaho (Parody Song – Start at the 40-second mark)

Organic And I Know It (Sexy And I Know It Parody)

Farmers Feed the World (Watch Me, Hit the Quan, Uptown Funk Parody)

I’m Farming and I Grow It (Parody Song)