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The Potsdam Food Co-op celebrated its 40th anniversary with an open house

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POTSDAM — A bundle of brightly colored balloons marked the front of the property of the Potsdam Food Co-op on Saturday, notifying the community of the 40th birthday celebration from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The co-op hosts its free open house every year as a thank-you to the community for year-round support. This year, it also is celebrating 40 years of existence.

“This is our thank-you to our member-owners as well as the community at large, which we want to work more closely with to provide a place for food security in the north country,” said Pamela J. Maurer, member of the co-op board.

Ms. Maurer said she’s been working for the co-op since 1985.

“The first thing I did when I moved to town was join the co-op,” she said. “We aim to support as many local producers and expand the local food production so that we all know where our food comes from.”

A lined formed out the door of the Carriage House Bakery, a 2001 addition to the co-op, as Ms. Maurer grilled the bakery’s country white bread with Cabot sharp cheese and local tomatoes to serve to the public.

While food was being sampled from five vendors — Clayton Distillery, St. Lawrence Valley Coffee Roasters, Sandefer Beef, Longview Farms Pork and Prosper’s Farm Yogurt — three music groups from Potsdam — the Animal Crackers, Minor Swing, and Church and State — performed.

The event also featured face painting and art and science stations for children.

“It’s very exciting to have been here 40 years,” said Eric D. Jesner, general manager of the co-op. “Everything we do here is in support of what our member-owners want us to do. So the community’s support and input is essential to everything that we do.”

Mr. Jesner said many co-ops opened up in the 1980s across the country, but didn’t receive enough support and had to close. “There’s a handful of co-ops in the country that are this old, and we’re lucky enough to be one of them,” he said. “We’ve had enough community support throughout all the years that we’ve just grown and grown and grown.”

Board member Robin McClellan, Potsdam, has been involved with the co-op since it began in 1973.

“It’s incredibly satisfying and gratifying to see how the community has supported it over the years,” he said. “It’s become a really integral part of the community.”

Mr. McClellan said the co-op did not start out as large as it is today; it’s grown slowly over the four decades.

He said he saw trends where college students were really involved when the co-op first opened, but they shifted away in the 1980s. Now, he said, students are becoming more involved again.

“We know those trends are there, but to actually see that the co-op rode with them and stayed with them is heartening,” he said. “The co-op lives in a fairly unique place in the food universe and in the county, and I think it will continue because there is a commitment of younger people.”

Mr. Jesner said that not only has it seen an increase in college student involvement this year over previous years; it also is doing more wholesale. “Clarkson is trying to support a lot more locally, so they’ve been ordering a lot more of our bread,” he said.

Esther R. Oey, Canton, brought her three children, Xiomara Oey-Langen, 11, Danilo Oey-Langen, 9, and Diego Oey-Langen, 6, with her to enjoy the day’s activities and good food.

“The quality of the food and how it’s grown are ways to keep the kids and myself healthy,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a little bit more costly, but it seems like it’s a lot more gentle on everybody.”




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