New Pioneer Food Co-op started in Iowa City in 1971. Oneota Food Co-op began in Decorah in 1973. And Wheatsfield Food Co-op traces its roots in Ames back to 1974. Nearly 50 years later, all three of these food co-ops are still thriving. They have each grown and expanded over the years. But most importantly, all of them have become an integral part of the fabric of their respective communities. These stores are icons, not only in Iowa City, Decorah, and Ames, but also across the U.S. (Check out this picture of a New Pioneer T-shirt I found on display last summer at the Brattleboro Food Co-op in Vermont!)
Right now, people in Cedar Falls and the surrounding communities are joining together to build a similar legacy here, a business that’s owned by members of the community for the community. With each new member of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op, we get closer to opening the doors.
But when those doors open for the first time, the window of opportunity to become a Founding Member closes.
What’s a Founding Member?
To be clear, anyone can join as a member of the Co-op before or after we open the doors. But only those who join before the store opens will be designated as a Founding Member.
Think about it. Only the 1,000 or so members who join before opening day can say “I helped build that.” Only they can say they were “early adopters” who made a (financial) leap of faith, believing in the Co-op’s vision before there was a bricks-and-mortar space. They can look back years from now and proudly proclaim, “I was a Founding Member.”
Every member of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op is an equal owner of the Co-op, and thus has a say in how the business is run (through things like voting for board members). And while members who join after the Co-op opens will help guide and direct the cooperative, only Founding Members will truly be able to shape the Co-op.
Part of that shaping is currently underway, as members have recently completed a survey about their preferences for what they want to see in the final store. They’ve also provided opinions on key words that will be used to craft the Co-op’s core values, a statement that will guide a significant number of decisions in our final stage of development. They’ll also be able to run for the board this summer, and then later vote on candidates for the board. Between now and opening day there will be other opportunities for current Founding Members to help shape the future of the Co-op, and, by extension, the future of our community.
Leaving a Legacy
Cedar Falls resident Marlene Behn is a Founding Member of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op because she sees what Co-ops can do for the community. “I have always loved New Pioneer in Iowa City,” she writes. “I would be proud to have a similar offering in Cedar Falls.”
Waterloo resident and Founding Member Rosemary Peacher understands building a legacy. “I want to contribute to the health of the community for decades to come, even beyond my own lifetime,” she writes.
Becoming a Founding Member of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op is a way of investing in our community. It’s about looking into the future and declaring that the future can be better by our actions today. It’s well beyond the list of benefits of membership – it’s commitment to the local economy and the future of the Cedar Valley.
So, like the early pioneers in Iowa City, Decorah, and Ames, if you want to help shape the Co-op; if you want to help leave a legacy for generations to come; if you want to show your kids or grandkids your Founding Member name on a display in the store; or if you just want a cool tote bag; then join today to become a Founding Member before the opportunity is gone!
Have any questions about membership? Founding Members, want to provide more input on our direction? Then send me an email. I’d love to hear from you!