From the Board President: More Myths About the Co-op

Before I jump into this month’s article, I want to take a moment to give a shout out to our peer food co-op Prairie Roots Food Co-op, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary. Congrats to another successful start-up food cooperative – one that’s provided a lot of support for our effort here in the Cedar Valley. (We love Cooperation among Co-ops!)

Speaking of starting a food co-op, did you know that the Cedar Falls Food Co-op is getting close to announcing a site location? If all goes well, we should have an announcement by the end of the month. Keep watching our Facebook page for details!

In the meantime, it’s time to revisit an article I wrote a few years ago, The Top 6 Myths About the Food Co-op. I think it’s time to expand that list. So, without further ado, here are 6 additional myths about food co-ops and the Cedar Falls Food Co-op:


Myth #7: The Cedar Falls Food Co-op is like the NewBo City Market

FACT: The NewBo City Market, located near the downtown in Cedar Rapids, is a space filled with separate businesses, operating much like a business incubator. In contrast, the Cedar Falls Food Co-op is one business—a grocery store, which will purchase goods from local growers and producers, and sell those on their behalf. A better picture of what the Co-op will look like is in this video.

Myth #8: Because of its name, the Cedar Falls Food Co-op will only be for Cedar Falls residents

FACT: Anyone can shop the Coo-op! In fact, my wife and I shop at food co-op across the country, often going out of our way to visit food co-ops for lunch or to grab some food for the journey. Not only will the Co-op serve the entire Cedar Valley, it will generate tourism dollars from other folks who stop by on their way through town. Also, don’t forget that unlike businesses like Costco, you don’t have to be a member (or really, owner) to shop the Co-op.

Myth #9: The Co-op will be bad for the farmers markets

FACT: On the contrary, the Co-op will be a boost for the farmers markets. Between promoting/advocating the value of purchasing locally and providing the farmers with yet another outlet to sell their wares, food co-ops across the country work in collaboration with their local farmers markets. One of my favorite examples is the Neighborhood Co-op (Carbondale, IL), which hosts their community’s farmers market in its parking lot. Talk about synergy!

Myth #10: The Co-op will benefit from numerous grants

FACT: While it’s true that cooperatives are sometimes eligible for grants, and that the Cedar Falls Food Co-op was the beneficiary of one such grant ($300 for to help cover expenses to attend the annual food co-op conference), the reality is that grant opportunities are few and far between, especially for us here in Iowa, which doesn’t have as robust a cooperative infrastructure as many other states. Don’t forget that cooperatives are not nonprofits (see previous article).

Myth #11: It will be expensive to shop at the Co-op

FACT: Prices at food co-ops are competitive with conventional grocery stores. Sure, it’s true that the Cedar Falls Food Co-op will pay workers more than conventional stores, and will give back more to the community (as a percentage of its profits). (And it’s true that our prices might be a bit higher during our first few years after opening.) But the Co-op also benefits from being a member of a national organization and supplier, which will help make some prices even lower than the competition. But even if the prices were a bit higher, wouldn’t that be worth it if you factor in how much money is kept locally, how much co-ops nurture community, and how much co-ops benefit the environment? I thought so.

Myth #12: Opening the doors of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op is inevitable

FACT: The Cedar Falls Food Co-op is close to announcing a location, but that doesn’t mean there’s not much work left to do. In fact, the final stage of opening a $2.5 million business requires a lot of hard work. Many thanks to all the volunteers who’ve helped with this process so far. However, there’s much left to be done – if you are interested in rolling up your sleeves to help with governance, marketing, finance, or events, please drop me a line at


Thanks so much for reading this month’s column. Please let me know if you have other ideas for future articles.

In cooperation,

Tom Wickersham


Do YOU Have What it Takes?

We are building a community-owned business. This is not something that happens every day. This is big news, and something to shout about.

And when we talk about a community-owned business, we’re not talking about a business that is run by a select group of shareholders. We’re talking about a business in which every owner has an equal vote. This is democracy at its finest (and one of the guiding principles of cooperatives).

Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. And the members do this primarily by electing representatives to serve on the board of directors. Are you board material?

If elected to serve on the board, you will be part of the leadership of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op as it journeys through the single most important event in its history: The grand opening!

Take another step as an owner of the Cedar Food Co-op and submit an application for a position on our Board of Directors. This year three of nine seats are up for election. Ideal candidates share a passion for helping the Co-op achieve success. They have a clear understanding of what it means to participate as a member of a board. They bring skill sets from a variety of industries and other board or life experiences, combined with a strong desire to help the Co-op succeed.

So, will YOU become a candidate for the Board of Directors? Learn more about the role and responsibilities of board members here. And if you think you’re up for the challenge, submit a completed application by email by September 8. Be sure to brace yourself for an incredibly rich and rewarding experience!

Member Spotlight: Mark and Theresa Westbrock

Mark and Theresa Westbrock (rhymes with “rock”) moved to Iowa in August, 2017 from Las Cruces, New Mexico. Theresa is a librarian, and received her degree in library science from Wayne State University in Detroit. Mark received his undergrad degree in biology at UCSB, and his masters from Wake Forest. The two met while Mark was doing some teaching at the University of Michigan Biology Station where Theresa was the librarian, a position she held for six years.

Mark spent a great deal of time during his masters education living and studying at the Galapagos Islands. Mark lived in a tent for about a year and a half on the Galapagos while studying seabirds. Theresa’s work as a librarian took her from Michigan to New Mexico State University in 2006, where she worked until 2017.

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Board Happenings: June 2018

Take a minute to see what your Board has been up to!
– Did you make it to any one of our many events in June?! We had an excellent campaign and we’re so excited to be building the future with so many amazing members!
– Board elections are coming up soon! If you’re interested in running, keep an eye on our website at
– The Fall Food Fest will be here before you know it! If you’re interested in being a vendor, contact us at

New Business Partners: June 2018

Kickin Grass Lawn Care

This Cedar Falls business provides custom mowing, spring and fall cleanup, tree and brush trimming, power washing, painting, minor carpentry, trash removal, cleaning, recycling, gutter cleaning, and more. Owner Eric Myszka reports that they have flexible scheduling, and considers Kickin Grass to be a “boutique” lawn care company, built around an “on demand” business model. He is offering our member-owners 25% off of their first 2 mows! Thanks Eric!!

1938 Tremont Street, Cedar Falls


Ananda Holistic Movement Studio

This local business is aimed at providing “mind-body practices to move you”. Ananda offers a wide array of classes to choose from, including yoga, meditation, singing/chanting/drum circle, and Aya dancing. “We are Ananda, and our mission is simple: we want to help you feel better.” This is demonstrated by the name, Ananda, which means “joy, happiness, perfect bliss”. Ananda is offering 10% off all yoga, meditation & Aya classes to our lucky member-owners! Get feeling better today!

316 W. 3rd St., Waterloo, IA, 50701

From the Board President: Finding a Home for the Cedar Falls Food Co-op

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, you need a team.” – John Wooden


Last month, at an event I attended for my nonprofit day job, I was approached by someone who told me that he heard where the Cedar Falls Food Co-op will be located. “That’s news to me!” I exclaimed. Perhaps you’ve heard a rumor (or two?) as well.


Over the years, the Cedar Falls Food Co-op’s board has worked diligently, guiding our development towards the opening of a store much like this one. At each step in the Co-op’s growth, we’ve wrestled with countless issues and have made significant decisions including the name of the Co-op, the amount of a membership, and the qualifications we’ll require from potential general managers.

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July 2018 Co-op Events

Co-op Connections and Kayak Drawing

Thursday, July 12; 5 – 6:45 p.m. at Second State Brewing Co. (Cedar Falls)

Which member-owner will win the kayak from our June campaign? Find out by joining us at this casual event where the drawing will take place. Join the Co-op outreach coordinator and others to hear about Co-op updates, get your questions answered, and just enjoy the community vibe. Second State Brewing offers a discount to co-op member-owners, so bring your card. Not yet a member-owner? Join there. Questions? Contact


Co-op Book Club

Monday, July 23; 4:45 p.m. at Overman Park 

Our popular book club continues. This month, the book is Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. Check it out and come join the lively discussion! Questions? Contact

Co-op Potluck and Kickball

Tuesday, July 31; 6 – 8:30 p.m. at Washington Park

We’re combining our potluck with some kickball fun. Co-op members, bring a friend who would enjoy learning more about our efforts to bring a full-service grocery to Cedar Falls. This event is family-friendly and all are welcome. Bring a dish to share and your own tableware if possible so we can reduce landfill waste. We’ll have water and iced tea for everyone, but feel free to bring your own beverage if you prefer. Let’s finish the month together with some friendly competition and delicious food!




From the Coordinator: July 2018

Wow! This community really wants a food co-op. Here are just some of the ways we worked together for another record-breaking June, getting us closer to opening the doors…



There was a virtual revolving door at 250 State Street at a co-op party hosted by member-owners Jim and LeAnne Sprau. The buzz over the future food co-op around downtown Cedar Falls was electric. “Sign me up!” became the mantra that evening, which ended with 9 new member-owners! Huge thanks to Jim and LeAnne as well as other house-party hosts in June: Dianna LaPole Geiger, Glenn Keith and Michelle Jungers, and Ethan Wiechmann. More member-hosted gatherings, which are a great way to introduce new people to the Co-op, are in the works – let me know if you have an event planned or want help planning one.

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Watermelon, Cucumber & Feta Salad

Nothing says summer like a fresh cut watermelon. It’s fun to try new recipes and perfect when you find one and have all the ingredients on hand. So, the new tasty side dish was a yummy mixture of flavors and textures– sweet watermelon, juicy cucumbers, crisp red onions, salty feta cheese, raw honey, and tart lime juice. The blend of characters danced on the tongue after each bite of the sweet-savory salad. This dish is sure to be a hit at your next gathering. Find the recipe at The photo is of the actual dish made using this recipe. It was delicious! Continue reading

Events – June 2018

Upcoming Events


Coffee, The Co-op, and Cottonwood Canyon
Thursday, June 7 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Cottonwood Canyon “The House” (Cedar Falls)

All are welcome at this casual event. This is a Plus-one mixer, so we encourage member-owners to bring a friend who would benefit from discovering more about the Co-op. While you’re there, enjoy a beverage and one of the many delicious meal selections off of the Cottonwood Canyon menu. Don’t forget your membership card, as this business gives 10% off of your order if you are a member-owner. If you join that night, we’ll sweeten the deal for you with a complimentary gift. We hope to see you there!



Co-op Field Trip to Oneota Community Food Co-op in Decorah Iowa

Tuesday, June 12, departure time: 8:30 a.m. – Estimated return time: 2:00 p.m.

Do you want to see a cooperative grocery store in action? Join us on this trip to visit a store that is around the size and scope that we are looking for in our own co-op. We’ll get a tour of the store, have a chance to shop there and grab lunch there or elsewhere downtown Decorah, Iowa. If you are interested in attending, we’ll need a headcount to determine the number of cars for our carpool. Please RSVP by June 10 to


Sturgis Falls Parade

Saturday, June 23, 9:30 a.m. to noonish

Bring your energy and join your Co-op friends (including Rooty the Co-op Carrot) to march in the Cedar Falls Food Co-op Parade entry. We’ll gather at a to-be-specified location around 9:30 a.m. for the parade start at 10 a.m. Bring the family, and wear your Co-op t-shirt and good walking shoes. We always have tons of fun! If you plan to join us, please let us know by emailing


Co-op Book Club

Monday June 25, 4:45 p.m. Location TBA. Join the Facebook Group for details.

We are excited to continue our book club this month with How not to Die by Michael Greger, MD. Check it out and come join our lively discussion! Questions? Contact


Co-op Potluck

Tuesday, June 26, 6 – 8 p.m. at Second State Brewing (Cedar Falls)

Want to sample a variety of dishes while engaging in good conversation? All are welcome! Bring a dish to share and if possible, your own table ware. Our potlucks are family-friendly, and we encourage you to bring guests as well. Second State is a business partner, so don’t forget your card if you are a member-owner to get a discount on beer draws. Questions? Contact