The Littleton Co-op: Buying Where It Sells

Dec 31, 2015

Produce accounts for much of the local purchases, but general manager Ed King says the demand for meat from local farms is growing.
Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR

In 2008, when some North Country residents were trying to start a food co-op in Littleton, one of the goals was to support the region’s economy by buying as much locally as possible.

Six years later, the co-op is buying about $1.7 million a year in the area, says the Co-op’s general manager, Ed King.

“The local food and producer business is probably 25 percent of our business. That is a pretty good chunk of money going back into the local economy," he said.

That money goes to producers like Tim Wennrich.

“Got any eggs for me girls," says Wennrich as he moves among his free-range chickens, gathering eggs, one of several items he sells to the Littleton Co-op. His Meadowstone Farm in Bethlehem also sells vegetables, pork and goat cheese.

Local meat is one of the fastest growing products for the co-op. The co-op still sells a lot of produce, but Ed King says more and more people want dairy, pork, chicken and beef from nearby farms.

Just before Christmas the cry of "meat delivery" is heard at the co-op's meat counter. Large coolers of organic beef are arriving from Tamarlane Farm in Lyndon, Vermont.

“We are delivering a lot of ground beef, some steaks, some ribs, we have some roast," says Bonnie Paris, the third generation of her family to work the farm. She says selling to the co-op is "huge for a farm like ours."

Opposite that meat counter, Warrick Dowsett, the owner of “Wozz! Kitchen Creations” in Bethlehem is selling jars of gourmet condiments including sauces, salad dressings, fruit vinegars and relish. The condiments are made in Vermont, but Dowsett buys some ingredients, such as beets, locally.

“So, you get this whole community effect, where everyone starts winning," he says. "It is a much bigger impact than ‘Am I selling stuff?’”

Millie Nelson is the interim executive director of the Littleton Area Chamber of Commerce and she says the local purchases have had "a great positive impact on the Littleton area and community."

Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR

The Littleton Co-op is following the path of the Hanover Co-op – started in 1936. Last year it bought almost $13 million worth of local food. That’s about eighteen percent of its purchases.

Next year the Littleton Co-op plans to increase the size of its building about 50 percent -- from about 13,000 to 20,000 square feet.

Among other things that will provide more room for local products, King says.

The goal is to buy about $2.2 million a year by 2017 and $3 million a year by 2021.