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How did Alfalfa House begin ?

Submitted by admin on 1 July, 2012 - 20:08

Alfalfa House grew out of a rent strike by a single household in Charles Street, Erskineville in 1981.

Using the money accumulated from the strike, they began buying non-perishable wholesale goods (grains, cereals, nuts, seeds), which they sold with a small markup out of the front room of their house. In 1982, the Charles Street Food Co-op relocated to Erskineville's Anglican Church Hall, and became known as "The Erko".

In 1983, The Erko moved to the Alpha House building on King Street, Newtown, which was squatted by a group of artists. The co-op was renamed The Community Food Store. It was only open on Saturdays and was maintained voluntarily by a small dedicated group, whose aim "as stated in its first newsletter in early 1985 " was to form a workers' co-op under the Companies Act and later to register as a consumer co-op.

Long-term, the group also hoped to “have a permanent place of residence, open six days a week, stock fruit and veges, and put a sign outside.” In 1987, Alpha House was reclaimed by the NSW Department of Housing, which owned the building and the Community Food Store moved to its current location in Enmore Road, Enmore.

Initially the premises (known as the EPI Centre) were shared with Permaculture Sydney; the whole co-op took up part of what is now the co-op's storeroom. In those days, if you worked in the co-op you were paid the princely sum of one dollar an hour. In early 1988, a group of active members held a public meeting to discuss a proposal that the Community Food Store form as a cooperative under the NSW Cooperatives Act. The meeting agreed to proceed and in the following nine months a core of thirteen people developed the structure, aims and rules of the co-op in accordance with the Act. During this time, each store member pledged $1 in shares, eventually buying up the full 20 $1 shares when the co-op was registered.

Finally a formation meeting was held on October 17, 1988. When the paperwork was complete, and the required 100 people had each pledged $1, an 'Alfalfa House Formation Meeting' was held and on December 23, 1988 Alfalfa House Community Food Cooperative Limited was officially registered as a cooperative. A part-time coordinator was employed and when Permaculture Sydney relocated in the early 1990s, the co-op took over the whole of 113 Enmore Road.