Bernadette Unger is an enthusiastic woman with short curly brown hair who wears little blue eye-glasses. She has a passion rooting down to her core about supporting the local farm communities around Oxford to promote a more sustainable lifestyle.
Unger is a board member of MOON Co-op, in Oxford’s Tollgate Shopping Mall.
Unger is proud to be a part of MOON (Miami Oxford Organic Network) and stands by the difference they are making to the environment of Oxford. The store’s emphasis is on making decisions with a broader perspective of social and environmental responsibilities that benefit the community as a whole.
“MOON Co-op started because we couldn’t get the food we wanted, and we were worried about the local farmers not having a market,” she says. “We wanted to support the farmers and the producers that were doing the right thing for the earth and for their animals, so we opened our own store.
According to Jessica Greene, assistant city manager, Oxford’s main strategic priority for 2019 is sustainability. That means avoiding the depletion of natural resources to maintain ecological balance.
MOON is mission driven. The store takes pride in its ability to support local and regional growers and producers to strengthen the local economy and reduce environmental impacts of long-distance shipping and shopping. Consumers are aware of where their food comes from and how it is produced when they shop at MOON.
MOON Co-Op, in the Tollgate Shopping Mall, is a foodie fixture in Oxford. Photo by Marguerite Meyers
“We are able to take locally produced products and make them directly available to the consumers.” Unger said. “For example, the woman who makes the scones: she doesn’t have a retail outlet otherwise. So, this enables our goal in hoping those farmers and producers make more money to continue being successful farmers and dedicate more of themselves to being a farmer.”
Lorin Pucel, a regular customer at MOON, says she shops at the co-op because she appreciates that the fresh produce is locally sourced, so she knows exactly where it’s coming from, as opposed to Kroger, where she doesn’t.
Pucel said she always has cherished the earth and the ground we live on. Shopping at MOON means she is not supporting the big factory farms that produce food and use chemicals that are harmful to the environment. It also means avoiding the unnecessary packaging of food, which also impacts the environment.
“There are about 40 farmers within 50 miles of Oxford. Considering how isolated Oxford is, that is amazing,” Unger said with a smile. “Some make multiple products too, so that’s hundreds of products on our shelves.”
Organized composting is a new endeavor in Oxford, and about 150 families in Oxford are composting with buckets provided by the city, Greene said. MOON composts as well by having farmers pick up compostable materials, such as unsold produce, to take back to their farms for nutrients for their soil.
She can sit and talk about MOON and the community it has built for hours. It is a place to share diverse food and cultures. She said the inclusivity it has built within Oxford, surrounding food and sustainability, gratifies her.
She pointed out something new in the store she would love to see continue to succeed: the bulk food section and the liquid bulk section.
The liquid bulk section contains a combination of shampoo and conditioner, body wash, and lotion that customers can use to refill their own smaller plastic bottles or Mason jars. Reducing, reusing and recycling are crucial parts to MOON’s difference in Oxford and they love to see customers come in and taking part.
“I love being here at night and watch the employees close,” Unger said with a laugh. “We really take care of the farmers’ produce because we know the care that went into getting it here. We roll a cart over to the lettuce and hand-by-hand pick up the lettuces and rest of the produce and put them in little containers to rest in the refrigerator for the night. Almost like they’re putting them to sleep.”
MOON Co-op is owned by a group of member-owners who receive discounts on their purchases (hence the Co-op part of the name). But anyone, member or not, is welcome to come in and shop.
The Co-op is having its annual members-only meeting, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3.