Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Self Responsibility: The Co-op Way

"Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility." -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

One of the underlying values of any cooperative is the importance of self responsibility. This is both an empowered and empowering movement because it relies on an expanded definition of ownership, which includes participation. Simply put, a cooperative is a group of people electing to work together to own a business that meets their needs and truly reflects their shared commitment and values. 

The Richmond Food Co-op was built on the premise that we couldn't wait around for somebody else to bring us the grocery store of our dreams, but rather, that the impetus was on us to make it happen.  Who is this "us"? It started with Susan and me. It grew to 15 steering committee members. It grew to 5 original board members and a core group of 25 volunteers. It has grown to 550 member/owners. It continues to grow every day. We are all equally responsible for getting our doors open. Owning a cooperative can be as transformative to the individual members as to the community at large - but it requires commitment and involvement. It requires you. 

Taking responsibility for your co-op is as rewarding as it is an act of patience and persistence. It can expand your network and friendships, and it can push you to have deeper conversations about what you value with those people you already know. It can give you a new application for your skills and expertise, and it can make you realize new hidden talents you never knew you had. It can be a thrilling realization that you are capable of making lasting change and connections, and it can be a daunting task to get to the finish line. You make all the difference in getting us there. Own your co-op. 


Interested in becoming a leader?
 
The Co-op is forming neighborhood cohorts and looking for leaders to help promote communication, plan get togethers, and generally facilitate member connections amongst Co-op neighbors. Email info@richmondfoodcoop.com to become a part of this leadership core.



Interested in expanding membership? Grow the Co-op in a fun and personal way - invite your friends and family over and have a member party. A Co-op representative will join you and help answer questions but most importantly you will have the opportunity to tell those you love why you love the Co-op! Email info@richmondfoodcoop.com to set up a date and time.


Not yet a member/owner? Own this Co-op today - join now!


-Michele Lord, Co-founder & Project Manager

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Know Your Board: Tom Karnes

This is me and my wife Susie at one of our traditional Thanksgiving celebrations. We have a group of friends from college who get together at our house each year along with whatever family happens to be in town. We meet at our house since I am the best cook of our group, although many assist. It is a real  "Big Chill"  weekend. Last year we came up with 29 dishes, mostly vegetarian. Susie, who makes the pies, would say that this is a bit "over the top" but what can I say, I am passionate about food and occasionally get carried away.

My interest in the Food Co-op comes from my passion for food. I love everything about food. I love growing it, preparing it, learning it, teaching  it, shopping for it, writing about it, serving it,  cooking it and of course eating it. My favorite dishes tend to be ethnic dishes like Thai and Indian dishes but I cook and have cooked just about everything including Norwegian Baccalau (salted cod and potato stew) shown in the picture below.



I wish I could say I have always been a natural healthy food guy but I have not. I have always loved fatty flavorful foods. As my interest in quality food has intensified, and I have been forced by age to pursue a more healthy diet and lifestyle, I have become nearly militant about avoiding overly processed food and have become a seeker of  vendors that I can trust to provide me with fresh  high quality and healthy foods at a fair price. Admittedly, this has become easier of late, except for the fair price part, because of the  movement toward healthier foods. I have been extremely troubled by the predominance of  over preserved, de-flavorized and nutritionally deficient food that is made available to us by high volume producers through our neighborhood supermarkets. I am appalled by the way foods are promoted as healthy in the media as "sugar free", "non fat",  "lite" and so on. The US FDA has done a good job with labeling for the most part, except for  things like genetically modified ingredients, and product ignorance prevails even for those who spend the time to read labels. The answer to this is local sourcing from responsible producers and that is what co-ops can do so well.   

Although affordable high quality food is the main issue for me, I have learned the Co-op is also about helping the community, volunteerism, social responsibility and a sense of belonging.


It is about maintaining the right balance between the economy and the ecosystem. These are all values your board is dedicated to. In this, my first year serving on your board, I have participated in a number of events and have found our members to be delightful people. I can assure you, our board is very competent,  fun to work with and focused on our common goal of opening a highly successful co-op as soon as possible.



-Tom Karnes, Co-op Board Member

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In Our Own Words: Member Testimonial (Cynthia S.)






You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
“Imagine” by John Lennon






I admit being an idealist and a dreamer, and I now know I am not the only one! Since joining the Richmond Food Cooperative, I have met and continue to meet others who are willing to commit to and invest in a shared dream. We are a diverse group, a collection of ages, races, ethnicities, yet we share a common vision of a new possibility. We envision a business centered not on maximizing profit, but on maximizing the benefits to the community in which we live. The Richmond Food Cooperative promises a new way of “doing business,” empowering and enriching our entire community both individually and communally. 

Shortly after joining the Richmond co-op, I visited the Weaver Street Market Cooperative in Carrboro, NC (thank you, Tracy Citeroni, for telling me to do so!) Weaver Street Market (WSM) is over twenty-five years old and has more than 14,000 members with three locations. It is a model of what we might dream of being one day. While exploring the produce department, I found myself in conversation with Charles, a member/employee of WSM. He knew all about our nascent effort to create the Richmond Food Cooperative. He shared with me his passion about the power of cooperatives to change our economy. After a career in the Massachusetts legislature, Charles became convinced that cooperatives have the potential to bring greater positive change to our economic structure than any legislative efforts. 

Marjorie Kelly, Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute, voices a similar view of the power of cooperatives. She describes cooperatives as a piece of an emerging “generative economy.” An economy where “economic activity is no longer about squeezing every penny from something we imagine that we own. It’s about being interwoven with the world around us. It’s about a shift from dominion to community.” * 

If you are not yet part of our Richmond Food Cooperative community of five hundred dreamers, please come dream with us! If you are one who has already invested in the dream, keep spreading the word of what we can do together! 


-Cynthia Schmitz, Member/Owner

* “The Economy Under New Ownership: How Cooperatives are Leading the Way to Empowered Workers and Healthy Communities”, Yes! Magazine, Spring 2013

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Know Your Board: Tim Vidra


Coming clean on this post — before learning about the Richmond Food Co-op and becoming an owner I do not ever recall stepping foot into a cooperatively owned grocery store. Of course, that has changed and I have visited several in my travels over the past couple of years, growing to love and advocate for the Co-op concept here in Richmond.

So, what have a I learned serving on the board and becoming a part of this positive movement in Richmond? Well, quite a bit and I'm excited to share the major points that have resided with me:

1. Did you realize we are surrounded by Co-op's in Maryland, DC, North Carolina, and Virginia, but have yet to open one in Richmond? Yeah, we need to change that.


2. Co-op's are all about volunteering and working in the community! I can't tell you how much I've learned about Richmond and the new friends I've made through volunteering opportunities with the Co-op. Here's a favorite shot from the group of us volunteering at Feedmore's Community Kitchen and another from our visit to Shalom Farms here in Richmond:

Richmond Food Co-op volunteering at Feedmore

Dominic Barrett of Shalom Farms during the Co-op volunteer day

3. Co-ops are all about giving back to the community! One of my favorite holiday memories was having the opportunity to help cook a Thanksgiving meal for a family in need through the Co-op's efforts this past season:

2013 complete Thanksgiving meal donation

4. Co-op's are about working with local farmers so we know where are food comes from! I met Josiah and his family of Lockhart Farm through the Co-op — learn more about Josiah, another board member in this post.

Josiah, Jocelyn, and Alexander of Lockhart Family Farms

5. Member owned Co-op's are about educating and giving owners a voice in their grocery store. I couldn't be more excited for this opportunity in Richmond.

Richmond Food Co-op's first annual member meeting

Finally, and most importantly, the Richmond Food Co-op is about fellowship, open minded conversations and engagement surrounding our community, our local economy, and the local, seasonal, organic, and ethical means our farmers use to bring food to our store and ultimately the table for our families.

Co-op 2nd annual picnic

If you would like to be a part of this growing grocery here in RVA you can become a member here. You can also gift a membership (hint: Father's day is Sunday), or you can help with our indiegogo campaign by making a contribution or sharing it with your friends and family to help spread the word.

To stay in touch with the Richmond Food Co-op follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Tim Vidra Vice-Chair, Richmond Food Co-op

Friday, June 6, 2014

Crowdsource Us

The Co-op recently launched an IndieGoGo crowd with a goal of raising $10,000 to match the seed grant funding we received from the Food Co-op Initiative. 

Here's the rundown of why getting this funding, and ultimately getting the Co-op itself up and running, benefits us all.

Co-ops Are Great Because...

They offer a member-owner model that allows people to shop with their values and benefit from it. The Richmond Food Co-op is focused on making it easy to get healthy, sustainable and affordable food. Even better? The cooperative brings together an engaged community to make it happen. We are a truly community grown venture united by a common vision of creating a better food future for Richmond.
Simply put, we are working to open a full-service grocery store that stocks real food that you can trust. 
Bonus: 


  • There is a democratic process that governs the business which means each member has real impact.
  • Start-up co-ops that open are more likely to succeed than traditional businesses because there is already a loyal and invested customer base.

  • Food + Community = Co-op 

    The Richmond Food Co-op will be a 100% locally owned, 100% locally governed grocery store focused 100% on supporting our local farmers, economy and community; not to mention increasing affordability of good food through a member/owner model.

    This Co-op is Great Because...

    This idea grew from two friends, to a group of 15 pioneering steering committee members, to a family of nearly 500 Member/Owners which continues to grow every day. We are half way to our goal of 1000 member/owners to open!

    There is momentum and interest fueling this venture forward - our roots are strong and we have a large social media following, earned media coverage, and recognition from the larger cooperative community.

    We are an organized and results driven group with 7 talented Board Members,a committed and passionate Project Manager and a dedicated volunteer force.


    Richmond is Ready!

    We have recently received a $10,000 seed grant to help fund our start up costs and we need your help to match the funds! 

    Help Fund THIS Campaign Because...

    This venture demonstrates that when self-responsibility and care for community come together great things happen. We urge you to lend your support and contribute to make this great thing happen.


    Plus there are some great things you can look forward to with your donation - from stylish Co-op wear to yummy dinners with Co-op Board members. 

    Like What You've Heard?

    Watch this quick video for even more compelling reasons to give.

    video

    Contribute today!


    Don't forget to tell your friends! Tell your family! Tell your neighbors! Shout it from the rooftops. Help us get out the word about the Co-op (and the campaign). It's a quick and easy way to help get the Richmond Food Co-op open. 

    Tuesday, May 27, 2014

    In Our Own Words: Member Testimonial (Inderdeep H.)


    I joined the Co-op because I love healthy food. I came across the Richmond Food Co-op at a First Friday a while back, where they had a booth. It sounded like a very interesting grass roots initiative. I signed up for their mailing list. I received emails about their events such as pot lucks, meet and greet happy hours and their efforts to grow the membership through such initiatives. I thought to myself – “hey these guys have very fun events”. So, I decided to go one of their information sessions. Susan and Michele made their pitch – and I was sold! I became the 300th member/owner and I am a proud card carrying member of the Co-op!

    I grew up in India – where it was not uncommon to go pick up fresh produce from the small market or a cart outside a local farm on a daily basis. The fruits and vegetables tasted delicious and distinct. The colors and the smells are so deeply ingrained. When I came to the US, and got vegetables from the grocery store – I wondered why the vegetables were so tasteless!

    I try to eat healthy and believe that local organic sustainable food is a key to that lifestyle. Food should not be transported thousand miles across the country. The key things about the Co-op that are very attractive to me is other than their mission to open a grocery store selling affordable and healthy food, is their entire supply chain – collaborating with local farms and other like-minded businesses. Additionally, the process is democratic and we are all co-owners. What more could you ask for?

    I really enjoy spending time with the members of the Co-op, they are engaged and informed and fun to be with. There is diversity in their backgrounds and a wide age range. The founders are passionate about the values of the Co-op and so are many of the members. I would strongly encourage non-members and fence sitters to take the plunge, so that we can have a community of a thousand members or more. We then will all be able to enjoy great affordable food from the Co-op and make some delicious meals!

    -Inderdeep Huja, Co-op Member/Owner

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

    Know Your Board: Kelsey Miller


    The reason the Co-op's vision resonates with me is simple: I see it as a way for Richmonders of all socioeconomic standings to get fresh, local produce onto their plates while keeping dollars in their wallets. If you’re on the receiving end of our monthly board updates and you attend our monthly meetings, then you know how we’re all working towards that common goal.  


    So how do we live our food values until opening day? Here are three ways that I’m using my dollar to vote for good food pre-Co-op.


    1. Put a Plant In It: There are few living situations that are completely devoid of growing opportunities. From Chia Pets to full-fledged raised garden beds, there’s a gardening method that’ll suit just about any house setup.

    The Problem: Alas, one cannot live on basil and tomatoes alone.

    The Solution:  The Co-op provides Mozzarella to make a caprese diet a little more manageable.


    2. Sharing is Caring: Richmond has so many great options when it comes to community shared agriculture, making this the perfect base around which to build meals.

    The Problem: The CSA calendar only gets us so far and then we’re left cold and hungry in the months of December, January and February.

    The Solution: Even when winter weather necessitates buying products that are a little more preserved than fresh veggies and fruits, the Co-op means we can continue to support local vendors.



    3. Breaking the Chain: Again with the Richmond love--we have so many options for restaurants that are locally sourced, making it easy to skip the chains and go local.

    The Problem: These local restaurants need to know that this is what their diners want if they’re going to keep moving closer and closer to being 100% locally sourced.

    The Solution: Supporting a thriving, successful Co-op--and moving away from Big Box stores--means that we as individuals and as a community can make our food values heard, continuing this move towards 100% local sourcing.

    To sum it all up, you are what you eat and I see the Co-op as making all of us member/owners local, sustainable and healthy.


    -Kelsey Miller, Board Treasurer