Mustard Seed Grocery Co-Op

By Jim Ruxton
Published January 16, 2013

My partner Anna and I recently moved to the South Sherman area and have felt very welcomed by the community. Six months ago, we gave birth to our beautiful daughter Frida and feel confident this area will be a wonderful place for her to grow up.

When leaving Toronto a year ago, I knew that one of the communities I was going to miss most was my local food co-op, Karma Co-op. I have been a member of the Co-op for over 20 years . The Co-op itself has been around since 1972. We have remained members of Karma and continue to do large shops whenever we are in Toronto.

This past October, I heard some very exciting news that a food co-op is opening up in Hamilton in the spring of 2013. Once I heard about The Mustard Seed Co-op, I immediately signed on as a volunteer to help bring the co-op to fruition. A committee is looking at a few possible central Hamilton locations.

Member owned co-ops are not new to Hamilton. Hamilton Community CarShare is another co-op that has been in Hamilton since 2009. I recently learned that the Canadian Co-operative Association, a national association made up of Canadian co-ops, actually began in Hamilton in 1909. 2012 has been declared by the UN as International Year of the Co-op.

Another interesting fact about co-ops is that they typically have longer lives than conventional businesses. A 2008 study of co-ops in Quebec showed that 44 percent of co-ops survive after 10 years where 20 percent of traditional businesses survived. As a member of a co-op that has been around for 40 years, I'm not surprised by this statistic.

Sense of Ownership and Community

Unless you have been a member of a food co-op, it may be difficult to appreciate the wonderful sense of ownership and community you experience when shopping there. Member-owned co-ops are managed democratically whereby each member gets a vote in the election of the directors.

The purpose of the co-op is to provide its members with affordable and nutritious food while supporting local farms and businesses as much as possible. Unlike commercial enterprises, a co-op's main goal is not to maximize profit for its shareholders.

Committees are formed for critical issues to research such as which products will be carried in the store. Members can make suggestions of what they want to see on the shelves or can make special orders of some products that the co-op may not carry on a regular basis.

The Mustard Seed also plans to hold food-related workshops on a variety of topics. Over the years we were members at Karma Co-op, it has been interesting for me to watch children grow up taking active roles. I've seen youth that I remember as babies now working as a cashier behind the cash register.

I'm looking forward to see Frida grow up and take an interest in where her food comes from and learn about community based projects. I see The Mustard Seed playing an active role in that part of her education.


The Mustard Seed Co-op recently held its [membership kickoff meeting](/blog/2600) at Central Library. Each household membership requires paying a $100.00 loan to the Co-op, which is redeemable (minus a $10.00 processing fee) should you decide to leave the co-op at any time after the first year.

While non-members will be able to shop at the co-op, members will get a discount at the cash register. For more information on Hamilton's new community-owned grocery store, take a look at their (our) website: I can't wait until spring!

You can register online now to become a member of Hamilton's first non-profit grocery store, The Mustard Seed at

Your $100 household membership will help the Mustard Seed open its doors in downtown Hamilton May 2013. You can read more about membership and as well as the community loan investment option on the website. Show your support for local, wholesome food options in Hamilton and Join the Co-op!

First published on the South Sherman Hub News website.

Jim Ruxton is an electronics engineer and media artist. He is director of programs for Subtle Technologies Festival.


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By Ottawa Streeter (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2013 at 08:20:24

This is a difficult call for me as I currently support the Ottawa St. farmers market. Granted, there are not many farmers this time of year.

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By BeulahAve (registered) | Posted January 16, 2013 at 09:08:52

Another interesting aspect of the model is how Mustard Seed is raising funds from community investors, $1000 at a time, as profiled in Jason Allen's recent RTH blog post on saving heritage buildings

Details are posted at

In fact, there is an Investors info night this evening for potential investors. Hotel Hamilton studios Board Room - 195 James St. N (above Mulberry Cafe) January 16, 2013 at 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm . RSVP's requested

I am publicizing this as a new member and a potential investor as I think this is an exciting and needed initiative in Hamilton.

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