FAQ — Frequently Asked Questions

Co-ops 101

  • A cooperative (or co-op) is a business operated and democratically controlled by its membership of Owners to meet their common needs and aspirations. Co-ops are guided by the seven principles.
  • Cooperatives operate according to seven basic principles. Six were drafted by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) in 1966, based on guidelines written by the founders of the modern cooperative movement in England in 1844. In 1995, the ICA restated, expanded and adopted the 1966 principles to guide cooperative organizations into the 21st Century.

Source: Willy Street Co-op

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership: Co-operatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
  2. Democratic Member Control: Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
  3. Members’ Economic Participation: Members contribute equally to, and democratically control the capital of, the co-operative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the co-operative, rather than on the capital invested.
  4. Autonomy and Independence: Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.
  5. Education, Training, and Information: Co-operatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees, so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of co-operatives.
  6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives: Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.
  7. Concern for Community: Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs approved by the members.

Source: wikipedia.org/wiki/Rochdale_Principles

The Store

The store will be located as close to downtown Amherst as possible, on a bus line so that it is accessible to as many members of the community as possible. The Co-op board will announce the site as soon as we have entered into an agreement with its owner.

We are planning to build a store that is approximately 12,000 sq. ft. with room to expand. At startup, it would be smaller than River Valley Co-op (17,000 sq. ft.), but will still have everything you want and need in a grocery store. An important part of the store will be a community space, which will be available for educational workshops and events – everything from classes on food and nutrition to political activism

We are aiming at a 2021 opening. Food co-ops need around 1,000 members to open a store, which shows that the community is solidly committed to the project. Join today to make it happen!

The project will be financed through member-owner equity shares, donations, grants, bank loans, and member-owner loans.


There is currently no full-service grocery store close to the downtown area selling healthy and affordable food 7 days a week. In fact, many parts of Amherst and its surrounding towns are considered USDA Food Deserts. This means that many of our neighbors lack convenient and equitable access to healthy, fresh, and affordable foods.

Anyone can shop at the Co-op, but member-owners receive special benefits.

You can join the Common Share Food Co-op either online through our website (commonsharefood.coop), or send a check to: Common Share Food Co-op, 141 No. Pleasant Street, P.O. Box 169, Amherst, MA 01002. [download brochure]

The standard membership share is $175. Choose the payment option that’s best for you:

  • Full Payment: $175 paid all at once
  • Monthly Payment Plan Options:
    • $25 per month for 7 months
    • $12.50 per month for 14 months

For BIPOC community members and people with low incomes, we offer Solidarity Shares that are free or $25.

Full membership payment information is available on our Become a Member-Owner page.

No. There is no volunteer requirement but all are welcome to volunteer to move the project forward.

Social Concerns

Read about our commitment to social justice on our About page.

See a list of our supporters and member-owners!