Friday, October 10, 2014

Co-op Cohorts: Northside Report

My name is Brenna Wade and my boyfriend, Ken, and I joined the Richmond Food Co-op because we believe in really being a part of our community.  We are big supporters of small business and would find ourselves traveling here and there to stores and farmer’s markets for local bread, eggs, and different types of produce.  Both back in graduate school and busy with work and other activities, we found ourselves wishing there was a one stop shop full of local foods and that supported and gave back to the community in a way that convenient big box stores do not.  Needless to say, when we heard about the Richmond Food Co-op we joined right away! 

While we moved to the Northside neighborhood of Bellevue for a number of reasons, what really sold us was the deep-rooted bond between neighbors and active community.  As the neighborhood cohort for members north of Laburnum in Bellevue, Ginter Park, Rosedale, and Lakeside, I will be working hard to ensure that your voices are heard and am excited to bounce ideas off of you on how to root the Co-op deeper into our own communities.  I am excited to meet with all of my Northside neighbor co-owners and with those who simply want to learn more about it.  I will be working with the Bellevue Merchant’s Association and will be planning monthly events aimed at bringing the Co-op and the Northside together.

Now it’s your turn!  Get involved and work with fellow co-owners however you can and most importantly spread the word to those neighbors who haven’t heard of the Co-op yet.  We get closer to opening our doors with every new member that joins in our community.  If you would like to become more involved in any way or to become a Cohort for your individual neighborhood, contact Michele and let her know!  Hope to see all of you Northsiders at our first meet and greet on October 26th! 

-Brenna Wade, Co-op Member/Owner & NoLa Northside Neighborhood Cohort Leader

Monday, September 22, 2014

Co-op Cohorts: Museum District Report

Co-op Cohorts are a new initiative of small neighborhood communities amongst our Co-op membership base. As we near 600 member/owners we want to ensure that you still have the opportunity to create meaningful relationships and networks amongst your fellow members. Our leadership team is growing with 5 Cohorts formed and planning their initial get togethers. Each month we will take the opportunity to introduce you to the leaders and neighborhoods who make up our larger Co-op community. We are still looking for representation in a few pockets of town so email us if you're interested in getting involved! 

I recently moved from Church Hill and now make the Museum District my home. I look forward to not only meeting my new neighbors, but also my fellow Richmond Food Co-op members who live nearby.  I met recently with my new neighbor, and fellow member, Kristin Klein who is helping to lead our neighborhood cohort.  We are planning some events for this year as well as the next, in hopes that we can create a stronger bond amongst our members while exploring new ways to recruit others.  Our first event will take place next month at the VMFA.  We hope to bring our members together for a picnic in the sculpture garden. The invite will be coming soon! 

In November we hope to have a follow up at the VMFA, with a food related art tour that is part of the upcoming Flour and Fork event.  I highly encourage everyone to further explore the upcoming Fire, Flour and Fork event.  It is a weekend food event like no other Richmond has seen, that blends the best of Richmond’s culinary scene through lectures, dinners, tours and demonstrations. We are blessed to have so many festivals, award winning restaurants, parks, breweries, and markets in which we can all find time to gather and share new ideas for making our Co-op the best that it can be.  

We are so very fortunate to be living in a city that is part of a culinary revolution.  Our local establishments are receiving an unprecedented amount of national and international acclaim.  Let’s make our Co-op part of this momentum.  Meet with your fellow members, form new friendships, spread the word about how much better our city can be once we are able to walk through those doors and have the local bounty at our finger tips!

-Brett Hunnicutt, Co-op Member/Owner & Cohort Leader

Friday, September 12, 2014

Community Forums Are Back!

Have you heard the word? Community Forums are making their fall debut next Wednesday, September 17th at 6:30pm! This month we will meet at Gather (409 E. Main Street). The forums are free, open to the public, and the best way to get in the know about Richmond's food future. If you're not a member yet come join us (and join us!) for an overview of cooperative principals, the benefits to having a co-op in Richmond, and the reason that membership = ownership.

If you are a member help us spread the word - our Community Forums are the best way to grow our membership because once people know about the Co-op how can they not want to join?! Invite your friends to become a part of the movement.

Also, any existing members who want to get involved can join us at the same time and place for a Co-op Cohort Ambassador meeting. It's time to get back to your Co-op!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In Our Own Words: Member Testimonial (Kristen K.)

As a Richmond transplant, setting down roots and finding my place within the community is an ongoing process. Finding good food options has been the same. That is why when I saw the Co-op booth at the Boulevard Pumpkin Festival last fall, joining was a no brainer. 

Let me give you a little background. I came to Richmond via Durham via New York City via Southern California. All of those places have especially developed food scenes and a passion for fresh, local produce. It was a combination of caring about what was going into my body, about the effects of producing that food on the environment, and reducing my overall carbon footprint that led me to the cooperative concept in NYC. 

What a great idea! A member-owned grocery store: a democratic approach to the food that we are putting into our bellies. A way to see first-hand the decisions that go into how food gets into the aisles: from working with farmers, to being able to provide produce in the off-season, to operating efficiently so that your doors can remain open. A way to be involved in the food process, and not just by what foods I choose to buy at the farmer’s market or grocery store.

And so when I saw that there was going to be a co-op starting in Richmond, I knew that I had to be a part of it. I signed up immediately after receiving the brochure. And now the hardest part is waiting for the rest of Richmond to realize how incredible a co-op is for the community and JOIN THE MOVEMENT! Because I want a storefront today!

-Kristin Klein, Co-op Member/Owner

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 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 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