Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Still a Food Desert

There was vision, there was interest, there was passion, there was commitment, there was even a logo, so what happened? The Board of Directors of the Acres Co-op Market released the following letter this morning.

Dear Friends,

We are writing to update you on the efforts we - and many of you - have made to establish a co-op grocery store in Hudson. You may know that we nearly leased a space recently. But at that time, it became clear to the majority of us that we had not laid the organizational or financial groundwork to support that long-term commitment.

The principal organizer of Acres Co-op has been Peter Pehrson. Peter’s vision and presentation seemed plausible and exciting. His idea for a co-op market coupled with food education and other community-building activities addressed real needs. We were inspired by Peter to join the board and make it happen.

Peter is paid a salary, funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant through the New York Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, whose mission is the propagation of local food systems. We therefore assumed that he understood all that this project would require – the nuts-and-bolts as well as the good ideas. We followed his lead, more or less uncritically. When it came time to commit to the lease, however, we had only a fraction of the money required for inventory, equipment, and other expenses needed to establish a store. Peter and the majority of the board disagreed on how to proceed. He has since resigned from the board and the co-op.

It is now too late in the growing season to get commitments from local growers to supply a store. And we still believe it would be self-defeating to open without adequate funds to operate for at least a year. Therefore we have suspended activities, to step back, rethink and make a realistic plan. In the meantime, we will refund what remains of membership fees received. A public meeting will be held to elicit interest, energy and ideas for moving forward. (It will not take place on July 13, as previously announced; a new date and time will be announced shortly.)

Regrettably, expectations were raised that have been disappointed. But the need for a Hudson co-op remains strong. Much can be learned from this experience, and a lot has already been done that can contribute to a co-op’s success.

Mike Loki Anthony
Susan Ball
Mona Coade-Wingate
Gideon Crevoshay
Justin Goldman
Jonathan Lerner
Ellen Thurston


  1. Peter Pehrson was fully aware of the nuts-and-bolts aspects. He did not merely spew ideas. He was one of the few members of the board of directors who actually took action and produced concrete results while others merely talked about what they intended to do. Much of his strident effort and hard work went unremunerated. The grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which was needlessly referenced in the open letter as it is totally irrelevant to the discussion at hand, barely covered the amount of time Mr. Pehrson committed to the co-op project.

    No one was in anyway misguided by Mr. Pehrson, who provided only expert advice. Unfortunately it was regularly ignored or unheeded by those who presumed to know better.

    At board meetings, it was repeatedly made clear that fundraising efforts could not begin until there was an actual site for the co-op, something which brought the co-op out of the realm of abstract concept and into the world of tangibility. Mr. Pehrson believed that once a site had been selected, prospective funders (of which there were several) would come forth with contributions. It had become apparent to astute individuals on the board of directors that potential funders were withholding contributions due to a lack of commitment regarding a location for the co-op. Several of us believed that Nick Haddad's former shop was the ideal site and one that the community and prospective funders would embrace. Initially the directors expressed support and enthusiasm for the site and then several weeks later recanted when the reality of fundraising set in.

    I speak from the standpoint of a former Acres co-op director who, having worked with a number of boards, was dismayed by the usual lethargy and fear that impede progress.

    1. Thank you Walter and Peter.

      It's a wonderful opportunity but Hudson always prefers to shoot itself in the foot first.

  2. Why didn't they take an active, critical role in the entire process from the beginning? It's really strange to admit they didn't bother becoming actively engaged and then when the only person who apparently had any actual drive put his ideas in motion, they bail. That speaks much worse for them than it does for Peter.

    Opening a food cooperative isn't for navel gazers. Look at what happened to Pioneer in Troy. You need a plan, sure, but you have to be willing to take risks or nothing will get done. And jeez, in Hudson, with the diverse community and myriad of restaurants and "foodies" in the area, I think the old adage is true: if you build it, they will come.

  3. "If you build it, they will come" is poor business advice in my experience.