A recent encounter I had with a community member about the Cedar Falls Food Co-op reminded me that no matter how many conversations you have, how many social media posts are created, and how many presentations are made in front of civic groups, the idea of what the Co-op will be is still not clearly understood by many. So even though “Joe” knew about the Co-op, including what the cost of a membership is and that we were searching for a location, I could tell he was still uncertain about many of the details. When you get to the core of his questioning, it was basically this: How is the Co-op different than any other business that might operate in Cedar Falls? Continue reading
Before we get into this month’s column, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who helped make this year’s Fall Food Fest a smashing success! From the farmers, producers, and restaurateurs to the musicians, to the face painters, to all the volunteers who helped move tables and chairs, hung posters around town, and more. This is what it means to build community. This is what happens when people work together for a cause. It’s amazing to see. I can’t wait to see all the good things that happen after we open a store!
Now, on to our topic…Continue reading
We are thrilled to partner this October with FOUR! local producers who not only provided free samples and information at our fifth annual Fall Food Fest last month, but also have each generously offered approximately $20-worth of their fall bounty to help us grow more member-owners in October. If you are not yet a member-owner, this is a great month to become one. Join by the end of the day on Sunday, and you’ll be entered into the drawing for that week’s incentive. Already a member-owner? Encourage a friend to join and, if they write your name in regarding how they heard about the Co-op, you’ll also be entered into the drawing.
Have you ever served on a board of directors? If so, you probably attended regular meetings, reviewed annual budgets, and gave feedback on programs and marketing plans. All very important work. But your role was likely around continuing the work of the organization.
Right now, there’s a new opportunity you should consider: Serving on a board to help launch an organization. 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 of the store!
The deadline to submit applications to serve on the board of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op has been extended: The new deadline is Wednesday, Sept. 12. Complete details can be found here.
About the Board
One of the distinguishing aspects of your Co-op is the fact that any member can serve on the board of directors. The Co-op fully embraces Cooperative Principal #2, Democratic Governance, and wants you to know that if you’ve got the passion for bringing a full-service grocery story that focuses on local and healthy, and that is an investment in our community, then you should consider running for the Co-op’s board of directors. Each summer there are there positions open on the board, each serving a three-year term.
What does the Board Do?
The Board is responsible for ensuring organizational performance on behalf of all of the Co-op’s owners. Currently, the work of the Board of Directors is geared towards establishing a physical store. Once established, the work will shift to developing clearly stated expectations for the General Manager through written policies; delegating responsibility for, and authority over, the achievement of stated objectives; and monitoring GM compliance with written policies.
On a personal note, having served on the Co-op’s board has been a tremendous experience. In fact, I would say it’s one of the single most important experiences of my life. It has truly been a pleasure to serve our growing membership and help turn our dream into reality.
Please let me know if you have any questions about serving on the board – send me an email and I’ll get you some answers. Thanks for your consideration!
That’s an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often, and one that I urge you to consider.
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?!”
“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: firstname.lastname@example.org) 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!
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 email@example.com.
Thanks so much for reading this month’s column. Please let me know if you have other ideas for future articles.