So far, so good

Will Medford ever have a food co-op right here in town?

That remains an open question.

It's not that the idea lacks a committed group of organizers: In the last year, they have rescued an effort that was looking sorry indeed and pulled together a plan that might work.

It's not that it lacks community support: More than 1,000 Medford residents put up $100 each to take part in the co-op campaign the first time it emerged several years ago, and many of them stepped up and handed over a check without even being asked to do it.

No, there's no question the co-op concept has energy. But backers also have a huge hill to climb before their idea can be transformed into a place where people can buy food.

Did we mention that they say they need $500,000 more from the community to get the store's doors open? That they hope to raise it by November, just four months from now?

They're battling not just an ugly economy but considerable wariness. The people most likely to support a co-op gave to it the first time and then watched in dismay as the effort unraveled. Those people, about 1,200 of them, remain members, but many are less trusting than they once were.

New board members will have to be open and forthcoming if they are to win back the original crowd and gain new fans, something they seem to understand.

Medford will need to hear exactly why the board need sthe money and exactly how it will be spent. Residents will need to know that co-op board members are getting good advice about the risky business of retail and that they've done their homework this time. We say this time because as well-intentioned as the initial co-op effort appeared to be, too many pieces of the puzzle took the first board by surprise.

Finally, if organizers are going to raise $500,000 from this community in this economy, they'll need a clear, detailed plan for doing it. If they don't have it already, they need someone with experience running a large fundraising campaign.

Co-op organizers seem genuine in their enthusiasm for the effort. They seem convinced Medford's ready to support a store that offers local, organic products. They seem, frankly, considerably more realistic than the first co-op board was.

In the past year, they have reorganized, elected new leadership, talked with potential lenders and toured more than a dozen buildings with potential to house the store. They have presented finalists for the site to members and launched their fundraising effort. It's an impressive effort by committed people.

And if they're going to succeed at making a store of it, they've got a lot more to do.

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