The transitions of the sixties in our culture reached far and wide, even into our farming and food access; putting many family farmers at risk and out of business. New farming methods began to threaten the quality of our foods and within the decade, food cooperatives began to spring up all around the country. People wanted whole, healthy foods and their business was modeled after the Rochdale Pioneers of England who in 1871 formed the first cooperative. These pioneers had similar beginnings based wanting access to foods not available. Many co-op’s worldwide base their on these same principles that are now practiced worldwide.

Caution- these next details are fuzzy… but what we do know is that in Buffalo, in 1971 (we think around March 17th) 17 people organized themselves to order food they wanted to eat and prepare for their families. Foods like whole wheat flour, rice, grains, beans, tofu and similar foods grown without pesticides and “organically”. Organic was not a certification process then, but instead a traditional form of farming. Eventually these members wanted to sell excess food to others in our community, opening a public store.

Co-op owners did all the work and many still tell the stories of cheese cutting nights at the co-op, unloading trucks when the farmers came around or even driving their own vehicles to pick up their food. For lots of fascinating stories told by founding owners and others, watch our 40th anniversary video “Locally Grown” to the right.

By the early 2000s we were bursting at the seams in our store on Lexington Ave (hence the name) were 2500 owners strong, and our owners wanted more space. We ran one of the most successful owner loan drives in national co-op history, an exciting sign of our community’s dedication to our little store, and in 2005 we opened a brand new co-op at 807 Elmwood Avenue.

Now we are now a community owned by over 10,000! We’re working daily to fulfill our BIG Direction, our plan for making the world a better place one head of lettuce at a time. Through all the years, our owners have continued to put their faith, trust, equity and patronage into Lexington.

Locally Grown: A Lexington Co-op Story – our 40th anniversary film made by local filmmaker John Paget!

Our Big Direction

Our board created a set of “ends statements which define how the world will be better because of the Co-op’s values and work. We interpreted these values as “happy, knowledgeable people”, “local, sustainable food”, “co-op economy”, and “sustainability”. These values define our purpose and guide our decisions. Through our everyday actions, we feel we are edging the world closer to our values.

And we’re not satisfied. We want to grow the Co-op to create MORE happy, knowledgeable people, support MORE local farmers & producers, have MORE grocery dollars returned to the local economy, and become MORE sustainable in our practices. That’s where our BIG Direction comes in.

From owner forums in 2011, a forty year vision emerged: of a thriving co-op in every community that wants one, Lexington or otherwise. This vision has caught hold as a strategic direction for our work now and in the future. We call it our BIG Direction– our plan for creating more good in the world by bringing our values to life.

Through our everyday actions, we feel we are edging the world closer to our values.

Our Commitment to Sustainability

Sustainability is a key piece of our co-op.

Sustainability is a key piece of our co-op. It’s part of our Big Direction, and a consideration in the decisions we make every day. From packaging choices to building materials, we’re finding the best options to meet our owners’ needs and honor our responsibility to the environment. How are we doing it?

  • Buying Local: Last year, 59 cents of every dollar spent at the co-op was returned to the local economy, and we purchased from over 120 local farmers and producers.
  • Organics: Organic food production reduces chemical fertilizer and pesticide runoff into our streams, rivers and lakes, protects farm workers from disease, and grows healthy, nutrient-dense soil for future generations of farmers. Our produce section is over 60% organic, and our store is 25% organic overall. We’re proud to make clean, healthy food available to our community.
  • Clean Energy: The co-op chooses renewable electricity sources including hydropower, biomass energy, and wind power through the Energy Cooperative of America, Inc.
  • Green Design: The store you shop in has a triple insulated roof, and LED lights for all of our fixtures and refrigeration cases. We use low VOC paints, and natural cleaning products throughout the building. We have 5” of building insulation (that’s 2” more than required!) and heat produced by our refrigeration preheats our hot water tank. Bright windows reduce our lighting needs and make our store feel nicer.
  • Thoughtful Choices: Lexi’s Kitchen offers recyclable and compostable packaging for our prepared foods, and our registers use exclusively BPA free receipt paper. We sell over 600 SKUs of bulk foods, eliminating the need for extraneous packaging.
  • Reduce Waste: The co-op recycles almost 50% of our solid waste. Our cardboard recycling dumpster runneth over, and is picked up four times weekly. Food scraps from our kitchen, produce department and employee break room are all composted by local community groups and reused as soil the following year.

We’re not finished. Our goal to be a net zero business by 2050 is a part of our BIG Direction.