Blue Hill Co-op
People in Blue Hill, Maine, really care about food. Eaters of all persuasions live here: heritage meat grazers, diversified organic farmers, vegans who run animal sanctuaries and vegans who run schools for children. Many innovative, outside-the-box thinkers, passionately pursue their chosen path where the rolling glacial tilth meets the rocky ragged shore. The Blue Hill Co-operative Grocery and Café sits right in the middle, selling food from local farms and cottage purveyors, as well as organic products from all over the world.
Begun as a bulk-buying club in 1974, the Co-op now has around 2,000 owners. We are proud of our selection of local, organic, sustainably grown, international and specialized items not available elsewhere in Blue Hill. We offer the area’s largest selection of fresh organic and local produce year-round. We sell over 500 bulk items; some are local, most are organically grown. Our cheese department is known for the raw milk and handcrafted cheeses from Maine and New England, as well as artisan and specialty cheeses from around the world. The Co-op has 30 year-round staff-members, making us a significant employer in the area. The Co-op is proud to have added over $1,750,000 into the local economy in 2017. Sales reached over $3 million in FY 2018.
The space itself is small, around 1,850 square feet for almost 10,000 items. After many years of dreaming and planning, as well as incredible member-owner investment, Blue Hill Co-op is currently building a new 11,988 square-foot building about a mile up the road, scheduled for a summer 2019 opening. With over 7,000 retail square feet, including an expansive café and fresh foods department, the new space will allow us to do so much more of what we love.
In the meantime, the staff works creatively to make it feel bright, relaxed and open. The deli serves delicious fare daily, pleasing a broad range of diets and tastes. The bulk, grocery and wellness departments all do brisk business. Produce, given the prevalence of farmers markets and farm stands, thrives, perhaps because of the locals’ craving for fresh vegetables.
So intimate are the folks who live here, that locally grown produce and meats are often thought of in relation to the person who grew them, or by the farm’s name. King Hill carrots, Horsepower Farm potatoes, Eliot’s eggs, Phil & Heather’s beef, Tinder Hearth bread and many, many more are all commonly heard in conversation. It makes for very close-knit community. The folks are drawn here from all over the world, to apprentice on the myriad farms, to find a quieter life, to be artists, to live the ‘goof life’ like their iconic forebears Helen and Scot Nearing. In the 1950s when the Nearings moved to the area, farming and writing books, igniting the “back to the land” movement, did they imagine this day?
Another iconic local group is The “Local Food, Local Rules” movement, which has helped towns across Maine and the country pass ordinances protecting citizens’ rights to private contract when buying food from each other. These two groups overlap somewhat and encompass a wide swathe of political beliefs, eating practices and philosophies. They share many things: a desire to thrive without many of the trappings of overarching consumer culture, a devotion to the soil and sea themselves, a unity within diversity, where vegans, pescatarians, heritage breed hog raisers, micro-scale raw dairy farmers, grass farmers, hopeful homesteaders and any number of iconoclasts can be found sharing coffee, soup, and lively conversation in the sunny Co-op café.