Rochelle Prunty is the general manager of River Valley Market, a retail food cooperative in Northampton, Massachusetts, owned by over 5,000 area families. River Valley Market is a consumer owned co-op with a mission that extends beyond the store to creating a just marketplace that nourishes the community. Prunty was part of the organizing team that worked for nearly nine years to develop, build, and open the co-op store in the spring of 2008. Shortly after the co-op opened its doors, the economy had its biggest downturn in decades which negatively impacted most retail businesses. In spite of the economy, the new co-op food store took root and grew to $15 million in annual sales by its fourth year and now employs over 100 people and purchases 30% of the products it sells from local and regional producers.
Prunty studied art and women's studies at the University of Iowa. After college, she worked at the local food co-op and found it a good match for her passion for social justice, creativity, and good food. Rochelle has twenty-seven years of food co-op management experience. She is a strong advocate for the cooperative ownership structure as a way to build a better world that harnesses collective buying power. There are about 300 food co-ops in the United States, most of which started in the 1960's and 1970's. River Valley Market is one of the first of a new wave of food cooperative openings in communities all across the country that started about five years ago. Prunty said, ''When I look at how the food business has developed over the last forty years and I compare to businesses over that same time period, I can't help but commit myself to building a system that is community based instead of profit based. Food is a basic system touching everyone's life in some way and the corporations have blown it by focusing on profits over all else. I see cooperative businesses, especially food related cooperative businesses, as having the potential to build a better future."