Earthfoods Cafe was founded on April 12, 1976 by a group of students concerned with the lack of economical, healthy food on campus. Today we continue a not-for-profit student-run business at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Our mission is to provide ovo-lacto vegetarian food at an inexpensive price to the UMass community. Simultaneously, Earthfoods provides a cooperative learning environment for students who are seeking experience in restaurant management.
The Café provides opportunities for learning skills in all facets of the restaurant business as Earthlings (Earthfoods employees) actively seek to contribute and benefit from a positive working environment and prosperous business.
The success of Earthfoods today is due to its collective structure and the enthusiastic students who take hold of the business' reigns. Ten to fifteen years ago Earthfoods was serving less than 50 people a day in the Suffolk Room and had only a few members. Today Earthfoods is serving between 400 and 500 people a day in the Commonwealth Room and has 23 co-managers. Earthfoods is a prime example of not only how student run businesses can succeed, but also of how collectively managed businesses can grow and prosper.
Earthfoods is not a true cooperative because we do not own the business. Unfortunately, UMass owns all the means of production. However, we refer to ourselves as "Co-op in spirit" because we engage in consensus decision making and abide by all the ideals of egalitarianism and non-profit production which distinquish coops from traditional hierarchial businesses. Earthfoods also has other complications intrinsic to its structure. For one, as Earthfoods is a rather amorphous group due to graduation, turnover, etc. the social and intellectual fabric of Earthfoods is ever-changing. Earthfoods must constantly strive to redefine itself as its membership changes.