Local Control and Wealth Creation
Synopsis: For the 300 people in Old Crow, the Yukon’s only fly-in community, having a DIY mindset isn’t a trend — it’s a way of life. So, instead of renewing the lease with the company that ran their grocery store, they chose to run it as a co-op in a new facility and keep the wealth in their community.
Past the Arctic Circle, not far from the Beaufort Sea, you can find Old Crow, Yukon. The village of fewer than 300 is one of the territory’s most isolated, and faces challenges that arise from living remotely every day.
With no permanent road, the community is accessible only by boat in the summer, snowmobile in the winter, plane year-round. And while there may be no shortage of caribou meat thanks to the 200,000-head herd that migrates through the area each year, food security can be a challenge.
The community had a grocery store for many years. Owned by a corporation with its headquarters thousands of miles away, community members felt the store didn’t act in their best interests. It offered a limited selection of food and produce to the remote village, and wasn’t responsive when residents asked for healthier options. This often meant that locals had to pick up their food when travelling to places like Whitehorse, or even paying to have goods flown in out of pocket.
The company that ran the store also did little to invest in or benefit the community. Residents felt all the profits being made from their purchases were leaving Old Crow, and they wanted a way to capture them locally instead.
So when the lease came up on the store, the community decided not to renew it. Instead, they formed a co-operative, and built a new grocery store, so they could run it themselves.
A group of locals reached out to Arctic Co-operatives Limited, a co-operative wholesaler that supplies more than 30 member co-ops and their communities. Before long, members of the new co-op grocery store were using Arctic Co-op’s larger purchasing power to get the products they wanted.
The co-op store has created jobs and keeps wealth local by sharing its profits with members and investing in community projects. The local members all have a say in how the business is run. What’s more, the community now benefits from weekly fly-in grocery deliveries, with a greater selection of goods and produce that is sold at a more affordable price.
The power of the co-op structure gives local control to the community, ensuring it can be independent and thrive for years to come.