Hi Neighbor! Food Co-op Potluck and Picnic – Aug 8th

COOPpotluckPicnicOne week from today is the Hi Neighbor Potluck and Picnic at NARA park in Acton (8/8/15). Join us from 2:30-5:30pm at the Bath House Pavilion (to the left of the snack bar, at the entrance).  NARA park is located at 25 Ledge Rock Way in Acton – about 1/2 mile north of the route 2A and route 27 intersection.  We have lots of fun things planned.

Bring a meal to eat yourself or share with others – either way is fine (especially if you have dietary concerns) – the important thing is to come and have fun! We are using a website called Perfect Potluck to help keep track of who is bringing what for the potluck and to make it easier for you to decide what to bring.  There are food and supply options, so check it out!

We have a lot of exciting things planned for this event – which is open to ALL  – Owners and non-Owners alike. Here is a sampling of the days activities:

  • 2:30-5:30pm Potluck and Picnic – eat and enjoy the community, check out the silent auction and door prizes, socialize
  • 3:00-3:30pm Cooking with Mrs G – Wild Food Foraging for the Whole Family
  • 4:00-4:30pm Presentation from members of the Board on current status of the Co-op and information about the market study, some special guest speakers
  • 4:45pm – door prize drawing
  • 5:00pm – annouce silent auction winners, closing remarks
  • 5:30pm – general good byes and clean up!

We will also have some information set up for your perusal concerning the market study, a dream board, and information on community organizations.  There will be a craft table for the kids, and there is also a playground on site, nearby. (NOTE – NARA park has a swimming area, but you MUST pay to enter this area.)

We are thankful to the following businesses, community organizations, and farms for their generous donations to this event toward our door prizes and silent auction. Please be sure to check them out online and visit them in person:

Farms/Producers

First Root Farm in Concord          Applefield Farm in Stow          Crooked Row Fields in Concord

Balance Rock Farm in Berlin          Rob’s Gardens (Perennials) in Littleton

Businesses in Maynard

Summer Street Fine Consign          Terry’s Barbershop          Scrub-A-Dog

Jam Time          6 Bridges Gallery          LOOK Optical          The Flower Pot

Berkshire Hathaway N.E. Prime Properties in Maynard

Gallery Seven Frame Shop & Fine Art Gallery         

Explore Pathways to Wellness          Art Signals Studio

Community Organizations

Maynard Family Association          Maynard Community Gardeners

Open Table          Acme Theater Productions

Come for the food, to learn about the market study, bid on something in the silent auction or hang out.  Sat August 8th, 2:30-5:30pm at NARA park.  See you there Neighbor!

Cherry Peach Pie

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 9.42.54 AMYou will wow the crowd with this pie, almost overflowing with fruit. Stone fruit is ripe and ready for baking. Pie making requires an investment of several hours. But oh, how great the rewards will be when you see the finished product and taste the first mouthful.  Too hot to bake? No problem, see below the recipe for a no-bake version. Intimidated by pie crust? No problem, keep reading!

Even as an accomplished home baker I imagined it would take me years to master pie crust. As it turned out it really wasn’t all that difficult. Even if you feel timid, I urge you to try it. On the other hand, there is no downside to saving the time and/or anxiety by using a store-bought crust. Note that it may not be as deep as your own pie plate and you may have some filling left over (aw, shucks!). With a little confidence, you can elevate this pie from “wow” to elegant by creating a lattice with a second crust. It will look pretty even if not all the strips look “perfect.” Here I opted to use a cinnamon streusel topping (with canola margarine) rather than a top crust as a way to cut back on the butter.

CRUST (makes 2 crusts)
2 C unbleached white flour
1 t. sea salt
12 T unsalted butter, chilled
3-5 T ice water

The keys to good crust are a) cold butter and water, b) just enough liquid for you to gather the dough into a ball, and c) mixing as little as possible (not to develop the gluten.) In short, less is more in both ingredients and handling.

By hand: In a mixing bowl combine flour and salt. Cut in the butter until all the flour is incorporated and you have pea size lumps. Sprinkle on 3T water. Blend lightly with a fork. Add more water, 1t. at a time, until you can gather the dough into a ball.

In the food processor: Put flour, salt and butter in the processor bowl. Pulse about 5 times and check the size of the lumps. Do not over mix. Add 3T water and pulse a few times. Add more water, 1t. at a time, until you can gather the dough into a ball by hand. Do not mix until the processor forms a ball or the dough will be over-mixed and tough!

(If your lumps are smaller than peas don’t fret. Smaller crumb yields a tender crust; larger lumps make it flaky.)

Wrap the dough well and chill 30-60 minutes. Remove dough from refrigerator and divide it in half. Flatten one piece to about 3-4” in diameter. Working from the center out to the edges, roll the crust to a diameter about 2” larger than the pie pan. Rotate and roll the dough, keeping it as round as possible, to a thickness of 1/8” or less. Gently fold the crust in quarters, place it in the pie dish and unfold. Press lightly into the dish to remove any air gaps. Trim the edge, leaving enough to crimp.

Roll out the second crust. For the lattice top, cut the dough into strips 1/2-3/4” wide. If you are not using the second crust, it Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.30.29 PM
will keep in the refrigerator for a week; remove from the fridge 60 minutes before using.

FILLING
6 medium peaches, peeled and sliced
2 T raw sugar
2 T arrowroot OR 2 t. agar powder
2 C pitted cherries

Combine all filling ingredients and let stand 10 minutes before pouring into the crust.

STREUSEL TOPPING
¾ C whole wheat flour
¼ C butter or margarine
¼ C raw sugar
¼ t. cinnamon (optional)

Combine flour, sugar and spice.  Cut in butter to make fine crumbs.  This is accomplished quickly in a food processor.

ASSEMBLE & BAKE
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Pour the filling into the unbaked crust. Move the fruit around with a spoon to pack it tightly together.
Cover with the second crust or woven lattice and crimp the crusts together with your fingers or the tines of a fork. For a full top crust prick it all over with a fork, or cut out a few small shapes, to allow steam to escape. Or, if not using a top crust, sprinkle on the streusel and crimp the edge of the crust.
Bake 10 minutes at 450deg.
Lower heat to 350deg. and bake another 40-50 minutes, until the crust turns golden brown. The fruit will remain firm.

NO-BAKE, NO-CRUST METHOD
If you don’t have the time to create a pie, or the weather is 85deg and muggy, you can still enjoy this cherry peach delight. Skip the crust and the heat of the oven by cooking the whole dessert on the stove in under an hour. This method works perfectly for serving at a picnic or taking to the beach. Also, you can easily adapt this version for one person—simply cut the fruit and streusel recipes in half to yield about four servings.

Filling: Place all ingredients together in a deep skillet or 8 qt. pot. Using a wide pan requires less stirring which keeps the fruit intact. Cover, bring to a simmer and lower the heat to medium. Continue cooking 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the heat and pour into a serving bowl. The juice will thicken as it cools.

Streusel: Increase the quantity of flour to 1C. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. (Margarine works just as well in this version.) Stir in the flour and coat it completely. Reduce heat to low, cook 5-8 mins. while stirring, until the flour just begins to brown. Scrape into a bowl and mix in the sugar and spice. Let cool before serving.

Assembly: Keep the filling and streusel separate until ready to serve. To serve picnic style, spoon the fruit into cups (reusable or paper!) and sprinkle on the streusel.

– Recipe by Nancy Teasdale (Owner #294)

Tips on Healthy Eating Habits

AVFCO Flyer General 2015-0430 (1)Part of our vision at the Assabet Village Food Cooperative is to sell healthy and nourishing food at an affordable price, and in doing so promote healthful living.  We encourage people to become educated about where their food comes from, what healthy eating looks like, and to connect with their food.  Below is a blog from one of our Owners on how he has found inspiration and made changes to live a more healthy lifestyle. Enjoy!

 

Inspired by The Power of Habit by Charles DuHigg, I set about creating habits that would promote a healthier lifestyle while reducing the unhealthy.  I did so for the health benefits, but for many it is about weight loss.  According to the June 15th, 2015 NY Times “To Lose Weight, Eating Less Is Far More Important Than Exercising More”.  Keep that in mind as you design your new habits.  Here are some tips:

If you are an extrovert:Healthy-kid-food1

  1. Join a class or study group
  2. Join a food co-op
  3. Find a work-out buddy
  4. Join a lunch group that shares your new healthy habits

If you are an introvert:

  1. Look forward to your daily run as a way to think through an important project
  2. During your lunch break , watch some health-conscious YouTube videos
  3. Write a food or exercise blog (send it to us!)
  4. Avoid munching during commercials on TV

If you are motivated by others/external factors:

  1. Declare your health goals publicly and frequently
  2. Post your progress in the office for all to remark on
  3. Join an exercise class and try to keep up with the regulars
  4. Dress in gym clothes; odds are you’ll end up there by the end of the day

If you are motivated by goals/internal factors:

  1. Set an ultimate goal with interim goals to make sure you are on track
  2. Get a fitness tracker that frequently enforces your progress
  3. Replace your old good day or bad day rewards with healthier foods or exercise “treats”
  4. Have a “dream list” that you use to reward yourself for maintaining your goals

Lastly, keep reminding yourself what I have learned – progress, not perfection!  Your brain needs positive reinforcement, so design your health plan with this in mind.  Set easy goals first and then improve.  Set monthly goals, adding weekly goals as you go.  Design your journey so you can win!

-By Rob Olney (Owner #326)

Hi Neighbor–wish you were here!  A postcard from Wisconsin.

IMG_2043Since becoming an Owner in the Assabet Village Food Co-op, my travel prep has included referring to the Co-op Directory to see if any food co-ops are near my destination.  Not surprisingly then, on a recent trip to my hometown in Central Wisconsin I made a stop at the Stevens Point Area (SPA) Cooperative, a great little food co-op that has had a successful storefront since 1976.


The SPA Co-op is located just a short walk from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point and, with over 1,600 owners, is a fixture in the university community.  Focused on providing locally-produced and minimally processed foods, the market carries a nice selection of produce, dairy, bulk foods and grocery items.  The market’s Wellness and Body Care section boasts a large array of supplements as well as cruelty-free and biodegradable body care products.  The SPA Co-op is also the location of Earthcrust Bakery, an independent, owner-run bakery that turns IMG_2020out delicious breads, cookies, muffins and pastries daily in their solar-powered kitchen.


The Co-op’s employees couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly.  I chatted with a cashier about the Co-op’s history and why she’s loved working there throughout her years as a student at UW-SP.  She said that the sense of community and time spent with the great people that shop at the Co-op make it much more rewarding than the standard student job.  I also loved to see the bulletin boards that greeted customers as they entered the store.  They were full of helpful information about local CSA opportunities, posters for farmers markets, hand-outs for a summer camp that teaches kids about the importance of family farming, cooperative business, social justice and active citizenship, and flyers for an event at the neighborhood’s cooperative art gallery.

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I had a great visit, came away with a new SPA Co-op t-shirt and some healthy snacks, and a renewed enthusiasm for our mission in building the Assabet Village Food Co-op.  As owners and supporters, you know that we’re building much more than a grocery store.  We’re forming a community of people with unique talents and contributions.  We’re forming a community space where we can gather to shop, meet, learn and teach.  We’re forming a business that will strengthen our local economy as we partner with local producers, create fulfilling jobs and retain the profits within our community.  Let’s join together to make this a reality!

-by Nichole Felix, Board of Directors

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Summer 2015 Newsletter is Here!

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Hi Neighbor – Co-op Ownership is Growing!

Our Market Study is completed…all lights are green!   

Since our articles were written and added to the newsletter, our Ownership numbers have grown (yay)! Read all about this growth and our market study in our Summer 2015 Newsletter…

Also inside:
Latest status of owners – over 400! 
Outreach committee seeks volunteers
Board elections information
Events recap
Upcoming events

Farmers’ Point of View

Eric's PosterPart of the vision of the Assabet Village Food Cooperative is to empower our members to support the local economy and our local food producers. We hope to educate the public about the producers in our area and connect our Owners (some of whom are farmers) to where our food comes from and the people who grow it for us.

Bolton resident Jan Johnson, who is the former owner and operator of Gypsy Meadows Farm in Plainville, NH, along with two local business owners, Ben Schlosser of Earnest Farms in Bolton and Elena Colman of Crooked Row Fields in Concord, discussed the value of a food cooperative from a business owner’s point of view.

Could you tell us a little bit about your business?

Jan Johnson: I operated Gypsy Meadows Farm in Plainville, NH for six years. We grew organic vegetables for The Food Co-op Stores in Hanover and Lebanon, NH, among other places. Some of our produce included zucchini, green beans, cucumbers, parsley, and kale.

Ben Schlosser: Earnest Farms is located in Bolton, MA and we have been there growing food sustainably since 2012. From June to October, we offer fresh salad and cooking greens as well as cherry tomatoes. Year round, we offer grass fed lamb, goat meat, pork, and chicken. These latter two animals are raised exclusively on soy-free, sprouted grain and housed exclusively in pasture (green grass). This system also produces eggs for us year round.

“Rainbow Veggies” from Crooked Row Fields

Elena Colman: My partner Karl and I began our vegetable farm business, Crooked Row Fields, in January 2013. We lease fields from Brigham Farm in Concord, where we had been working since 2005 and 2006, respectively. We grow and sell fresh vegetables beginning in mid-spring and ending in late-fall. We specialize in growing diverse greens and vegetable varieties that you won’t find at a large grocery store.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?

Schlosser: We have entered into the lifestyle of farming out of a commitment to clean, equitably produced food.  For us, it is providing this service that stimulates the most overwhelming joy.  Having a customer cold call me and relate a story about their children’s allergic reactions and restrictive dietary requirements is profoundly motivating to push the dream forward towards a future where everyone can access healthy foodstuffs without question.

Colman: We really enjoy growing exciting varieties that inspire customers to try more vegetables and cook more!

From the standpoint of a local business owner, what is appealing about working with a Food Co-op? 

Johnson: From an individual business perspective, since all of your expenses are upfront in farming, you can have tremendous losses. Because of the co-op that we worked with, we weren’t being forced to sell crops at a loss and it gave us more predictable revenue streams.

To give you an idea of how this worked, each year the vegetable farmers would have a January meeting with co-op’s produce manager and we would look at a list of what they purchased, from whom, and how much they paid us for our vegetables over the previous year.

Then a price would be established for the upcoming year’s crop. The co-op might say, “This is what we paid you last year for green beans. Would you like to grow them again this year for this amount per pound?” As farmers, we would then have a ballpark figure in January about how much to grow and how much seed to buy.

From the community perspective, the co-op kept a lot of the economy local. It hired its own employees and was a customer for the local businesses. We hired our own employees to farm the land. The region really branched out into a vibrant, healthy community.

One of our farmers announced one day that she had bought a used car from someone in town. She mentioned how the flow of money passed through four local hands: the co-op paid us for our produce, we paid her for her work, and she paid the person who sold the car. She triumphantly pointed out that if the seller of the car now shops at the co-op, the loop would be closed!

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Doelings at Earnest Farms.

Schlosser: Working with a local co-op is extremely attractive for us because it is a context into which consumers are already looking for foods that promote maximal health for people, planet, and local businesses, which is the nexus of sustainablility. A co-op also gives us the context to have some of the conversations about our products with a consumer who is expressly interested in supporting the three P’s of sustainability (people, planet, profit) without requiring the farmer’s presence for each connection.

Another very attractive part about a co-op is that it gives us the flexibility to be able to sell fresh meats as they are slaughtered since it can promote them weeks in advance and encourage consumers to reserve their product. This can eventually evolve into increased security for a small farm as consumers look forward a whole season or year and request meat volumes that allow the farm to scale its production to meet demand.

Colman: As a relatively new farmer in the area, it would be an incredible opportunity to sell produce to a food co-op that is less than 5 miles away! Food co-ops are generally small enough that they can work closely with small-scale farms like Crooked Row Fields, yet big enough to ensure a healthy market for larger, more regular deliveries than a local restaurant, or the weekly farmers’ market. Food co-ops open 5 to 7 days a week and are a great way to constantly provide the freshest vegetables possible to customers who aren’t able or can’t conveniently come to the farm itself. Also, co-ops are able to buy directly from the farmer instead of a distributor, ensuring a better price for the farmer, and allowing the farmer to make a livable wage. Local businesses supporting each other, making it easier for customers to buy fresh local products, short delivery distances: that’s what it’s all about!

-Interviews conducted by Joe Cioni (Owner #12)

Here are the addresses of the two farms from the article if you’d like to visit them, or you can visit our Local Producers page to find out more about them:
Crooked Row Fields is located at 82 Fitchburg Tpke, Concord, Massachusetts 01742
Earnest Farms is located at 401 Main St, Bolton, MA 01740

Hi Neighbor! AVFCO Board of Directors Visit to Neighboring Food Co-ops

7:30 am, Sunday, June 7th: I’m sitting on my front steps watching as an SUV loaded with Board members pulls up.  Mark calls out, “Hi, neighbor!”, and so begins our fun-filled co-op field trip.

IMG_0524Several months ago it was suggested at a Board meeting that we take a group tour of some of the food co-ops in the region.  Individually, we often find ourselves taking a few minutes during family vacations and business trips to check out the local food co-ops, much to the delight of our travel companions.  However, this would be our first opportunity for the full board (almost – Jason wasn’t able to join us, and Tom had not yet joined the board) to tour together and we were looking forward to drawing inspiration and knowledge from the established co-ops and their years of experience.

As New England has an abundance of food co-ops, our first task was to choose a direction and schedule some visits.

IMG_0545We chose to head west and visit Leverett Village Co-op in Leverett, River Valley Market in Northampton, Old Creamery Co-op in Cummington, and Franklin Community Co-op’s McCusker’s Market in Shelburne Falls and Green Fields Market in Greenfield.

Our first stop was Leverett Village Co-op where we were greeted by Paul Rosenberg, the store’s General Manager for the last 16 years.  The co-op has been in existence for almost 30 years and began as a cooperative buying club.  With 800 active members, the Leverett Village Co-op plays a major role in the town; it’s actually the small town’s only business.  Customers are drawn to the location not just for their grocery selection but also for the made from scratch bakery and deli items that can be enjoyed in the store’s café.

A recent fundraising campaign also brought improved internet connectivity to the store to support a more sophisticated check-out system as well as high speed wi-fi for those who like to browse online while enjoying their freshly baked treats.  The Leverett Village Co-op does a lot with their relatively small location and is a great example of how a co-op can be equal parts grocery store and community center.

After doing a bit of shopping and sampling the baked goods (is there anything that we won’t do for research?) it was time for us to set off towards River Valley Market in Northampton.  River Valley Market just celebrated its 7th birthday and has over 7,000 owners.  Natasha Latour, Front End Manager, gave us a tour of the store which is about to undergo IMG_0574its first renovation to freshen it up, expand its bulk offerings and strive to meet the needs of its growing owner community.  This large store employs 120 people, 80% of which are full time.  40% of the store’s items are locally sourced and 66% of the owners consider the co-op to be a one-stop shopping location.  The store has a vast selection of products including a beautiful produce section, a wide variety of meats, cheeses, seafood and bakery items, many of which are made in store, and a GMO-free deli.  The store’s café also serves as a gallery space for owners that are artists—a great perk of ownership!

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After another round of shopping and snacking we were on our way to the Old Creamery Co-op in Cummington.  It was great to see such a range of food co-ops, from large to small, and how each is integral to their community.  Old Creamery Co-op was originally a privately owned grocery (and before that a creamery) that was converted to a co-op in 2012.  The original owners decided that it was time for a career change but the town valued the store too much to let it go.  There are now over 700 owners of the co-op, including two Poet Laureates and Rachel Maddow who has a sandwich in the store’s deli named after her.  We spent a lot of time in the car discussing Rachel Maddow after this visit as Kelly, Mark and I are fans; Heather thought we were talking about Walter Matthau but has since joined the Maddow bandwagon.

Old Creamery - Mike Kalagher (R), the Creamery’s General Manager, and Will Hastings (L), Board Treasurer.

Old Creamery – Mike Kalagher (R), the Creamery’s General Manager, and Will Hastings (L), Board Treasurer.

Old Creamery prepared food section and deli.

Old Creamery prepared food section and deli.

Mike Kalagher, the Creamery’s General Manager, and Will Hastings, Board Treasurer, gave us a tour and brief history of the store and treated us to a delicious lunch from the deli.  Over lunch we talked about the co-op’s progress to date and Mike stressed the importance of the co-op being “everybody’s store, to the best of our ability”.  This means listening to the customers, some of whom visit twice a day, and building the store around their needs.

Color Code to make food choice easier.

Color Code to make food choice easier.

About 35% of the co-op’s sales are prepared foods that, along with the bakery items, are made from scratch in the store’s kitchen.  Mike and Will explained that the store’s stocking philosophy is to educate but not dictate and that includes its use of color-coding to highlight the local and GMO-free products that it sells.

Our final stops were at the two locations of the Franklin Community Co-op:  McCusker’s Market in Shelburne Falls and Green Fields Market in Greenfield.  The Franklin Community Co-op was established in the 70’s, first as a buying club, and now has two storefront locations supported by over 2,100 owners.  We didn’t have official tours at either market but by this point we were pretty at home wherever we went and poked around on our own.  McCusker’s market has a small, corner store atmosphere with a great coffee and sandwich bar.  It also has a large community space where they offer a variety of events and classes.  Green Fields is a much larger store that also features a significant amount of community space on its upper level.  Kim discovered a jazz band made up of owners playing the afternoon we visited and Siobain was thrilled to see the 7 Cooperative Principles displayed on colorful signs throughout the store. Green Fields had several bulletin boards packed with information on local suppliers as well as a handy map of the CSA opportunities available in the Pioneer Valley.

McCusker’s market

McCusker’s market

Green Fields

Green Fields – view from the upper balcony seating area and community space.

With our grocery bags, bellies and minds full we returned to the car and began our journey home.  On the way we discussed our favorite aspects of each store we had visited as well as the items that were now “must haves” on the list for our own co-op.  We also talked about how lucky we had been able to spend our day talking with talented and creative folks from our co-op neighbors.

We’ve already started thinking about where our next tour will bring us.  If you think a co-op field trip sounds like a perfect way to spend a Sunday, please check out our Board of Directors Application.  Board elections will occur at our October annual meeting and we’d be happy to have you join us in this fulfilling work!

– By Nichole Felix, Board of Directors

Pick a CSA map at Green Fields Market.

Pick a CSA map at Green Fields Market.

Let’s Celebrate!

Celebrate good times…we’ve reached 400 Owners in our community!

Meet-up at Erikson’s Ice Cream (12 Great Rd, Maynard) Saturday 7/11, at 1pm and let’s celebrate reaching 400 Owners.

I Own My Grocery StoreWe can talk about all we’ve accomplished, what is coming up – and of course eat ice cream!  Erikson’s only takes cash for payment, so please come prepared.  They have a delicious selection of homemade ice cream (a HUGE menu) that you can enjoy in a cup, cone, sundae, frappe, milk shake, and more!  They even have treats for your four-legged family member!  Walk, bike or drive – we hope to see you there!

Yay 400 Owners!

FOLLOW UP: We had a great turn out of Owners at Erikson’s today!  We even had a NEW Owner join!  Thanks to everyone who has joined up to this point.  Thanks to all that came out to celebrate together.  We hope you had a great time!

WooHoo all 404 Owners!

One year on the Co-op’s Board of Directors

While serving on the Co-op’s Board of Directors, I’m always thinking about what is coming next and how I can help move the Co-op forward.  However, I’d like to take a few minutes now to look back over the past year and reflect on what we (as a community) have accomplished.  I attended my first Co-op Board meeting on July 7, 2014.  I joined the Board shortly afterwards, and took over the role of Treasurer in August 2014.  During this time, I’ve had the pleasure to serve alongside the Co-op’s dedicated Board members and I’ve enjoyed getting to know many people in our community.  During the past year, our Co-op’s community has also grown significantly.  Our fiscal year ended a few days ago, on June 30th, and here’s a summary of how the Co-op has grown over the past year.

Number of Co-op Owners
July 1, 2014: 136 owners
July 1, 2015: 392 owners

Owner Equity
July 1, 2014: $23,800.42
July 1, 2015: $71,180.59

We’ve had a 288% increase in the number of owners, and a 299% increase in owner equity over the past fiscal year.  That’s amazing, and hopefully sets us on a nice trajectory of continued growth leading up to the opening of the Co-op.

OwnershipThe graph to the left shows our total ownership levels on a monthly basis, going back to October 2013, when the Co-op first began accepting owners.

Over the past 12 months, we’ve averaged 21 new owners each month.  Our single biggest month for new owners remains October 2013 (the first month people could join), with 75 new owners.  Our second largest month for new owners was September 2014, with 66 new owners.  Both of these months coincided with MaynardFest.  The relatively slow growth in ownership during the early portion of 2014 was a result of focusing on fundraising rather than focusing on ownership.  While few new owners joined the Co-op during that time period, the Co-op was successful in the fundraising efforts and obtained a $10,000 matching grant from the Food Co-op Initiative (FCI).  As the Co-op has continued to grow over the past year, we are now more capable of simultaneously focusing on fundraising and increasing our ownership.

The growth that the Co-op has seen over the past year has not occurred in a vacuum.  Rather, it is the direct result of hard work and countless hours spent from my fellow Board members and all of the people volunteering for the Co-op in one capacity or another.  While all of the time and effort spent to date has been volunteered, we do have operating expenses (such as Directors & Officers liability insurance, registration fees for events, promotional materials, postage, etc) that add up quickly.

At the end of the last fiscal year, the balance in our checking account is $1,289.28.  We use our checking account for all of our operating expenses, because our plan continues to be to save the owner equity to use as capital to help secure loans and open the store in the future.  As the Co-op is not yet open, the money for our operating expenses currently comes entirely from donations, fundraisers, and grants.  Thanks to the efforts of many dedicated people, we’ve had some very successful fundraisers in the past six months or so, here are some of the highlights:

– Square Foot Gardening Class – Fundraiser in February 2015
– Introduction to Foraging for Mushrooms – Fundraiser in April 2015
Fundraiser/gathering at Serendipity Cafe – May 2015
Brian Clark’s Pop-up Restaurant Dinner – Fundraiser in June 2015
Lawn Sign Fundraiser – April 2015 through the present (ongoing)

These events have helped bring our community together, help to increase awareness of the Co-op, and have brought in over $3,300 combined.  These fundraisers have also brought in enough money for us to cover many of our anticipated costs for the remainder of the calendar year.  However, we are planning to continue our fundraising efforts alongside our ownership drives so that we can continue (and increase) our outreach and presence in the larger community, and continue to work towards the vision of opening up our Food Co-op.

In June 2015, we were also able to send one of our Board members, Heather Nickle, to the Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) conference in Boise, Idaho.  We were able to get Heather there (and back) entirely through a combination of three grants.  We received two separate grants specifically to attend the CCMA conference, from the following organizations:
Howard Bowers Fund of the Cooperative Development Foundation
Ralph K. Morris Foundation

In addition to those funds, we used a (very small) portion of the $10,000 matching grant that we had previously obtained from FCI to cover the remaining costs.  As a result, Heather was able to attend the conference, bring back a wealth of knowledge to share with all of us, and we did not have to use any funds from our small operating budget.

After spending these few minutes reflecting on the past year, I hope to continue to work collaboratively with so many enthusiastic people with a common vision of opening the Co-op store front, and hope to be able to continue to share positive news regarding the Co-op’s growth and the concrete steps that are being taken to realize that vision.

Collaboratively Yours,
– Jason Sobel, Board of Directors

Celebrate Democracy

Top Down image of Co-op

Traditional business structure (left) compared to a cooperative business structure (right). Consumers matter in a co-op, they are not a means to an end, but are the governing body and the direct recipient of profit and determining policy.

On July 4th, our nation’s day to celebrate democracy and independence, we wanted to remind you about the cooperative business model and its connection to democracy and independence.

A co-op is a community-owned and democratically-governed business. Co-ops exist across all sectors of business (banks, clothing, utility, dairy, workers, food). Cooperation is a powerful tool to help communities meet local needs.  In our case, the need for a grocery store. Food co-ops are formed by a group of people working together for better food, stronger communities, and a healthier world. Although anyone can shop at a co-op, owners receive a number of benefits, and they have a say in how the business is run.

As the most democratic of businesses, co-ops are committed to ethical business practices, to sustainability, and, in the case of a food co-op, to providing fresh, locally grown food. Co-ops often serve as centers for the community, and they are committed to making a difference in the communities that they serve. That’s what we’re hoping to do, and we hope you’ll join us!

Cooperatives the world-over follow seven principals:

1. Voluntary and Open Membership Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the rights and responsibilities of membership, without discrimination.

2. Democratic Member Control Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative, and who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. One member = one vote.

all-posters-13. Members’ Economic Participation Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. Profits are distributed back to members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.

4. Autonomy and Independence Cooperatives are autonomous organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, they do so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintain the cooperative’s autonomy.

5. Education, Training and Information Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. They also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.

6. Cooperation among Cooperatives Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together.

7. Concern for Community While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.

As you enjoy your celebrations today, consider these 7 principles and how having a business based on them will benefit your family and your community. Exercise your voice and say YES to wanting a grocery store where the people and food matter.

Happy July 4th! Be safe and enjoy the day!Happy-Fourth-of-July-icon