The Cedar Falls Food Co-op Book Club: One Way Community Is Thriving with Your Co-op!

For the past year, various member-owners have been gathering monthly to discuss the latest CFFC Book Club read. The book choices are not necessarily food related, but are titles suggested and voted on by the group. For the past few months, the group has been meeting at Overman Park to enjoy the outdoors while connecting over the latest read. One of their first outdoor gatherings ended in this unique story as related to us from Sharon Silva, one of the book club attendees:

“The weather was perfect for a meeting outdoors at Overman Park. The Necklace by Cheryl Jarvis relates the true story of 13 women who went in together to buy a diamond necklace, how they decided how they would share it, and the ways it affected each one’s life. Prior to the entertaining discussion and keeping with the theme, the book club group of 11 women each brought the special story of a necklace which she wore. They shared many nods and smiles over each unique piece and remembrance. It turned out that one woman had not looked for her special necklace until the last moment, so she never found it. While she was looking, though, she found a long-forgotten tiny jeweled drawstring purse and brought it instead. When she hung it around her neck the group promptly accepted it as a creative, acceptable substitute. However, when she discovered three hundred-dollar bills tucked inside, also long-forgotten, cheers erupted. Who says procrastination doesn’t pay?!”

Spreading the Great News about the Co-op!

“There’s going to be a cooperative grocery store in or near downtown Cedar Falls? Sign me up!”

This was what was most often expressed several weeks ago at a Co-op gathering in the lobby of the 250 State Street building located in the heart of downtown Cedar Falls.

Hosted by Co-op member-owners Jim and LeAnne Sprau, who are residents of 250 State, attendees sampled delicious food and beverages the Spraus purchased from Second State Brewing and spoke with other member-owners along with Outreach Coordinator, Melanie Drake to learn more about this grassroots effort to bring a full-service locally-focused grocery store to the downtown area. While anyone can shop at the Co-op when it opens, there are many advantages to purchasing a member share and consequently becoming a member-owner, including having a vote and say in how this store will be run. Party attendees certainly realized these advantages, and we hit a record that night, signing up the most member-owners we have to date at a house party.

Are you ready to help your Co-op spread the word in this important way? Whether you want to host a small or large gathering, we are here to help. We will provide a co-op representative to present or just talk individually to attendees, such as we did at 250 State Street. Your gathering can be as informal as you wish; we just ask that at some point, we get a chance to provide information about this growing business and be able to take memberships from interested individuals.

And, if you are not into party-hosting, we can come to any regularly planned event you have whether a book club or other discussion group, present to an organization of which you are a part, or come to your work and do a lunch and learn. We have many ideas, so contact our outreach coordinator (Melanie Drake: and she can help you put your idea into action. Thanks to the many individuals who have already hosted house parties, and we look forward to many more successful events!

From the Coordinator: August 2018

Quick Quiz: Can You Name the Seven Cooperative Principles? Why are they so important?

The seven cooperative principles are what sets a cooperative business apart from other businesses. Many of us ensconced in the day-to-day work it takes to get our community-owned grocery store here live these principles, but we need to ensure that all of you, our readership, have a solid grasp of this unique foundation that creates one of the best business models available.


So, why are these principles so important? Co-ops must abide by them ultimately creating businesses that are honest, just, transparent, behave with integrity, and remain accountable in every way to one another and the community they serve.Continue reading

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!