Farmer seeks funds for local grocery co-op

Published 9:00 am Saturday, June 24, 2023

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On Tuesday, Eric Simpson of the West Georgia Farmer’s Collective presented a funding request to the LaGrange City Council to help create a local farmer’s co-op.

Simpson sought $200,000 in ARPA funds or any remaining funds that have yet to be dispersed to accelerate the project.

The West Georgia Farmer’s Cooperative is a small farmer’s cooperative that was founded in Harris County in 1966.

“A lot of our members are in Troup County. We are an agricultural co-op that’s been about the business of building local food systems,” Simpson said.

Simpson said their most ambitious project to date is the planning of a cooperative economic development complex on Hamilton St.

“We just purchased nearly two acres, 1.8 acres, in the 1400 block of Hamilton Street where we plan to build a food co-op, also known as a grocery store, and a couple of other cooperatively owned businesses for the purpose of stimulating economic development in a much-needed and much-blighted area,” Simpson said.

Simpson said the project would address various basic needs, food, security and finance and stimulate local businesses in the area.

Simpson initially requested $500,000 but lowered the request to $200,000 due to much of the funds being designated elsewhere.

“[The funds] will allow us to continue our reconstruction efforts that include some architectural work, civil engineering and some of those things to kind of get the project accelerated,” Simpson said.

Councilman Nathan Gaskin voiced support for Simpson’s request, saying his heart is in the right place.

“What he’s trying to do is truly help the community with a grocery store. You can call it a co-op as you would like to say, but fresh produce is needed in my community. It is actually easier to find many more things that are unhealthy than things that are healthy,” Gaskin said. “Because as a co-op, it’s truly a nonprofit, and it’s not for his profit. It’s for the community. So, I would like us to keep that in mind.”

Gaskin suggested that the city do anything that it can to help the project move forward, even if the funding isn’t provided.