By Ruth Molloy
From the surface, you could perceive HFFC as another natural and health food store. We carry a good deal of similar items, side by side, with some comparative food stores. But here is our “twist”---
This organization of member-consumers was incorporated in 1976 by community residents who wanted to offer an alternative to what they saw as a growing trend in corporate influence on our food supply.
Their efforts were encouraged by the times, when consumer co-operatives were seeing a “third wave” of enthusiasm during the late ‘60s and into the ‘70s.
If the HFFC was formed during the Third Wave, what about the First and Second Waves?
Great question! In order to answer that, we have to step back in time to nineteenth- century England……
The Industrial Revolution did more than make consumer goods more accessible and increase international trade. It had the effect of automating many artisan crafts, which eliminated the need for those trades. This was a time of development for an economic middle-class, a time of social turmoil and a time for action!
On a particular night in December, 1844, a group of weavers, henceforth known as the Rochdale Pioneers, opened the doors of the first consumer co-operative in the UK. They used their combined funds to procure candles, flour and a small inventory of consumer needs in protest to the rising costs imposed on them by shop-owners.
The concept caught on in popularity. And that same year, a co-operative buying club (based on pre-ordering by individuals for their goods) was started in Boston. As social strata seemed to level out, the passion for overcoming strains of economic differences quelled. Growth in the co-operative sector stagnated.
Then, in the 1930s, The Great Depression exerted its influence, and citizens rekindled their desire to chart their own course to overcome their dire conditions. This movement has a very rich history. Anyone could find a fascination with the topic; and you are encouraged to investigate the development of co-operatives. Today, long-standing co-operative examples persist in agriculture, insurance, worker-owned businesses and many models of consumer-owned retail stores.