This year we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Viroqua Food Cooperative.
Anyone who has ever been involved in the creation of a new organization knows there are always colorful back stories before the official start date. Although the VFC opened a small store with 700 sq. ft. retail space behind the Nelson Agri-Center on September 2, 1995, our story doesn’t begin there! The VFC was originally a natural foods buying club organized by a small group of individuals who worked together to provide their families with healthy foods.
Key organizer Bill McDonald shares his remembrance of this phase before the Co-op was formed:
“It all started in 1990 when Sara and I moved to Viroqua. There was no local co-op here; the People’s Food Co-op La Crosse was quite small back then, not to mention the even smaller co-ops in Viola, Gays Mills, and Richland Center. All were too far away for our liking, so we formed a buying club (you could do that back then with a minimum order of $500 and a location where a delivery truck could navigate). The word got out slowly and pretty soon we were ordering for over 30 families.
“By this time we lived out on our farm on Prairie Edge Road and were getting bi-weekly deliveries with our old milk house set up as a little mini store. The logistics started to get a little difficult. We were basically the buying club’s bank, so there was a lot of money floating around. People were treating it like a store with returns, exchanges, and rain checks on deliveries. Then in the last winter, we had a few bad snowstorms fall on Friday/delivery day, so the truck wouldn’t come down our road. I had to meet the truck out on Hwy14 (at what is now Cornerstone), then load up our trailer to bring it back down our driveway... I was done!
“Sometime during the winter of '94-'95, people started asking about setting up a space in Viroqua as a real co-op. ‘Sweet relief’ was what I thought. Easier access, closer to the schools (by then many of the new Pleasant Ridge parents were ‘townies’). Tom Jerde, Diana Winer, myself, Chris Cox, Sally Colacino and others (I am sorry to say I can’t remember who all was there) found the space behind Nelson’s and we started cleanup and setup. The rest, as they say, is history.”
Do you have a story to tell about the early days of VFC?
Please share with us any stories or photos regarding the history of the Co-op by emailing us a digital copy at: firstname.lastname@example.org