Free Range Food Co-op

Building a modern food co-op is a long process, averaging from 3-5 years of community development before there is a store to shop at.  There are many different factors that determine how long it takes such as, the willingness of community members to become owners and invest in the co-op, how the organizing team and board of directors functions, the strength of the organizing team both in numbers and engagement, the resources available, the ability to secure funding, among a number of other factors. There are many moving parts and tasks that must be addressed in order to build the co-op in a way that sets it up for success once it's open. In Minnesota, cooperatives are not non-profits. They are considered for-profit businesses even though they are structured in a different way than other businesses, often with thousands of owners. 

Our co-op would not exist as it is today without the commitment, and dedication of volunteers! All of these volunteers are owners and community members who want a food co-op in Grand Rapids that will provide us with local, organic, whole, and natural foods and products. Once the co-op opens, the intent is that it will function successfully as a business with everyone who works there as paid staff. However, there is a lot to do before we get to that point, and we can’t get there without people willing to commit their time, and positive energy.

Our organizing team is made up of people that help out once or twice, people doing work in the background, those that are "all-in", and everything in between. We have found the most enjoyable positions are those that highlight something you are passionate about, or skilled in. Volunteer needs fluctuate depending on the stage we are in, but we always need people willing to help, and chances are there are tasks that would fit your interests.


  • Grand Research & writing
  • Marketing & public relations
  • Event coordination
  • Prepare food for events
  • Educational development
  • Capital campaign planning
  • Business management
  • Real estate
  • Community outreach
  • Coordinating farm tours
  • Fundraising
  • Hosting a co-op house party
  • Photography & videography
  • Giving presentations
  • Project management
  • Writing & editing


  1. Attend a Board meeting
  2. Give us a call to talk about your interests! Call Sarah at 218-259-9735 or Annaliesa at 218-259-7548
  3. Check out the Owner Toolkit packed with resources for learning more about the co-op and what you can do to help as an owner.
  4. Email to set up a time to talk.


The outreach team is where much of the action happens. Most of our tasks are driven by meeting ownership goals, so we always try to have a strong, engaged outreach team that works on building ownership through different incentives, events, and tabling sessions. This is the team we recommend for everyone in order to learn about the co-op, and decide what areas and tasks are right for you because the team is always active. The teams are structured into three month time frames where we ask for volunteers to commit to collaborating, taking tasks, coordinating events, or doing work from home when needed. The most important part is being present, and supporting the team through communication, collaboration and actively volunteering your time during your three month term. When the three months are up, you can choose to stay on the team, or you can choose to "retire" knowing that you jumped in and helped to build the co-op!

While everyone has their reasons for volunteering, there are many different physical, mental, career and social benefits that can be achieved through volunteering. It's a very personal thing, and we want it to be a fun and positive experience, rather than something you feel like you have to do. While the development process is a long journey, it is necessary for building the life, and uniqueness of our co-op. As community members, owners and volunteers, we are lifting up our co-op into what it will be for us when it opens, and the way that we do that now makes a big difference in whether it will be a strong, resilient food co-op, or a weaker one that may not able to meet our needs. The choice is ours to make!


  • Leadership experience
  • Volunteer experience
  • Potential for election to board of directors
  • Opportunity to make social connections and friendships
  • Résumé building experience
  • Opportunity for letters of recommendation
  • Experience building an organization from the ground up
  • Be a part of a team where your creative ideas are welcomed
  • Increased knowledge of food co-ops
  • Provide a sense of purpose, or personal challenge
  • Volunteering can also provide benefits to both mental and physical health