New Harvest Moon Co-Op Has a Shine for Its Community

The story of how the newest Twin Cities area co-op came into existence is a testament to the power of community.

First, a commitment to community sparked the idea more than five years ago.

“I grew up in a small town,” explained Kari Pastir-Smith, one of the founders of Harvest Moon, in Long Lake, Minnesota, and now its marketing chief. Last week, she sat down with me, a Harvest Moon member, and Peter Doolan, Harvest Moon’s general manager, in the new store’s cheery, sunlit deli. “I saw Long Lake as a small town, too,” she continued, “except that it didn’t have a grocery store, and it didn’t have a gathering place to bring the community together in a cohesive way. With Harvest Moon, we now have both.”

For a while, though, there were doubts about whether they could actually pull it off.

“The population out here isn’t nearly as dense as it is in the city,” Kari explained. “We didn’t know for sure if our customer base was large enough to support a co-op.”

To find out, they began to recruit members – long before a store even existed, long before they even had a space for it.

The response was enouraging. “We had 1,000 members at $175 each before our store even opened,” Kari exclaimed, smiling. “With additional investors, we raised $1 million in capital. That’s unheard of!” She went on: “And our $2.5 million dollar project budget actually came in under budget. at about $2 million.” This was due, she said, to the “thousands and thousands of dollars worth of products and services donated by community members who wanted to see this become a reality.”

Other members of the community with a vested interest in the success of Harvest Moon are area farmers.

“Our store sits on the edge of farmland,” said Kari. “In the 13 years I’ve lived here, I've seen that farmland slowly disappear. We want to help preserve what’s left.”

Peter agreed: “Harvest Moon exists to support local growers and the local economy as much as possible.”

I asked him what he considered “local.” He was quick to respond.

“For so many reasons, that’s become a difficult word to define,” he said. “But I’ll tell you what’s not local.”

Then he told me a story that was told to him by a local apple farmer, who had an orchard “not far from here.”  The farmer said that one fall, when the apples were ready for market, a buyer from a large supermarket chain came to him and made a deal to buy all of his applies so they could sell them as local in their Twin Cities stores. They made him an offer, he accepted, and he sold his entire harvest to them.

“You’re not going to believe what happened next,” Peter said, shaking his head. “They shipped all the apples to their warehouse in Texas, then shipped all of them back to the Twin Cities to sell as local. So, after all that shipping back and forth, would that be considered local?”

It’s obvious that both Peter and Kari are passionate about their new store and the buzz that it’s creating in the Long Lake/Orono community. The local school district is participating in a big way: first, by actually supplying Harvest Moon with organic produce grown by students in the school’s garden; and second, by working with Kari to create a slate of classes that will be offered through the school’s community education program. The first one will take place in September: “Canning and Preserving,” presented by the folks from Peterson Produce. Peter said he will build on this relationship with the local schools by supporting their sports teams.

“In the past, high school football and natural foods may not have had a lot in common,” laughed Peter. “But we hope to change that!”

Changing people’s minds about food seems to be a task on both Peter’s and Kari’s to-do lists. “There are people out here who don’t know why local, organic food costs more than what they get at supermarkets,” said Peter. “How do we teach that? How do we make them recognize the true value of our food? We need to figure that out.”

Then he added: “This will always be a store that listens to the community. That’s who started this. That’s who wanted this. That’s who, for five years, worked so hard to build it.”

Kari agreed: “We dedicated a large part of our store to a large seating area -- where we're sitting right now – to accommodate people who want a place to eat, to meet friends, to have meetings, to participate in their community. This store really is all about them.”

Harvest Moon is located on the northeast corner of West Wayzata Boulevard and Willow Drive in Long Lake, Minnesota. It is open until 9:00 every night. For more information, visit its website or call: 952-345-3300.



Shari Danielson is editorial director at Simple, Good and Tasty.
You can write to her at