Catonsville Co-op

Members of the steering committee of the Catonsville Cooperative sort food and products at the Catonsville home of Megan Davis, a committee member. From left, Mike Souder, of Arbutus, Davis, Debbie Rosier, of Catonsville, Emily Souder, of Arbutus, and Shannon Thomas, of Catonsville, are preparing the items for future pickup by members of the co-op. (2011 photo / April 3, 2014)

Organizers of the Catonsville Cooperative Market have a vision of doing more than just bringing natural and organic foods to its members.

Toward that end, the organization will hold a do-it-yourself workshop Saturday, April 5, at Immanuel United Church of Christ, at 1905 Edmondson Ave.

The two-hour session, which starts at 1 p.m., will feature a number of activities and workshops on canning, composting and beer brewing. Tickets are $10 at the door. Proceeds go to the co-op.

Megan Davis, one of the founders of the co-op, will be among the presenters. The Catonsville resident will be teaching a "household essentials" workshop on leaning methods that are more sustainable.

Davis said the idea to start a cooperative market surfaced because some in the area felt there was a need for a natural food store in Catonsville.

Davis said there is a demand for year-round natural and organic produce in Catonsville that the two area farmers markets that are open in the warmer months, Wednesdays on the Bloomsbury Community Center parking lot and Sundays in the 700 block of Frederick Road in the center of town, do not fulfill.

The closest Trader Joe's, for example, is in Columbia and the nearest Whole Foods is on Fleet Street in Baltimore City.

But the goal wasn't simply to start a store that provided organic and natural foods.

"It's not just about becoming a Trader Joe's, but offering services to the community," Davis said.

The cooperative market is envisioned as also offering natural and organic household items, non-produce items and beauty products.

In its third year, the Catonsville Cooperative Market runs a buying club in which members can purchase non-perishable items such as organic soaps and detergents, beauty products and dry goods at wholesale prices.

As a food cooperative, the organization is a business, owned by those who use it and operated for the benefit of its members.

There are currently about 150 members and more are welcome, said Holly Leon-Lierman, one of the leaders of the organization.

The cooperative's goal is to be member- and worker-owned, Leon-Lierman said.

"It's a hybrid model because the workers would also be invested and it's something that not all co-ops do," Leon-Lierman said.

The group is in the process of becoming an incorporated business and is working toward opening a storefront in Catonsville, which they expect will happen within the next three years, Leon-Lierman said.

They're putting together a business plan that should be ready by the end of the summer, Leon-Lierman said.

They'd like to offer members organic and locally grown produce and are reaching out to local farmers to see if any would like to sell their produce to their members, Leon-Lierman said.

Some farmers have expressed interest in selling their produce at the co-op once they have a storefront, she said.

Catonsville Cooperative Market has gained resources and support from the Food Co-op Initiative, a nonprofit established in 2005 that offers, "support to community groups across the county to help them organize new retail food cooperatives as efficiently and effectively as possible," according to its website.

There are roughly 325 cooperative grocery stores throughout the U.S. and about 200 in development, according to the website.