Thursday, June 27, 2013

Principal #7

"For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people's love and concern for each other." -Millard Fuller

If you haven't brushed up lately on your Cooperative Principals, I recommend it. They lay out the framework for who we are as a Co-op community, and what we aspire to be. In past blog entires I have focused on the concept that Co-op = Community; this concept derives from Principal #7 - Concern for Community. This week we are focusing on putting this principal into action in a very tangible way. Last Sunday's 1st Annual Picnic was a huge success on many levels and speaks to the joyfulness that we can tap into by coming together as a community. 

This weekend I invite you to join us yet again, this time to participate in a volunteer day at Shalom Farms. Shalom Farms is an awesome non-profit community farm project with the overarching goal of increasing food security in the Richmond region, particularly in low-income urban neighborhoods. It is an organization worthy of our attention, support and shared action. By spending the day together with dirt on our hands and the sun on our back we have the opportunity to put our values into practice. Slow Food RVa will be partnering with us to make this day happen so it will also be a great time to expand our network with those who support good, clean and fair food in the greater Richmond area. Details and pre-registration for Saturday are available here. Pre-registration is encouraged but not required - we hope to see you on the farm!

This volunteer day launches the start of what we would like to see as a regularly occurring opportunity for the Co-op to contribute to our community. If you are interested in helping to plan and organize our volunteer days, or have an organization that you think we should support please email

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Report from Austin

This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in CCMA (the Consumer Cooperative Management Association)'s national conference in Austin, Texas. I would like to offer a great big thank you to CCMA and the Bowers Fund for supporting our startup venture and providing the Richmond Food Co-op with a scholarship to attend!

Taking a tour of our host Wheatsville Food Co-op 

There were roughly 450 people in attendance, representing over 100 co-ops from all over the country. I met representatives from other startups. I met managers of small stores turning million dollar sales out of spaces less than 3000 square feet. I met board members of large co-ops serving tens of thousands of members, with annual profits of over $30 million. I met those who have successfully been through the process of gathering a community together with the shared vision of opening a store. I met others whose communities have a longstanding history of co-ops; whose issues, concerns and successes we are many years away from knowing. There were co-ops for us to aspire to be, and those who can teach us from their lessons learned.

The breadth and scope of this conference speaks to the larger community that we, together, have joined. When you become a member/owner of the Richmond Food Co-op you are making a stand to support our neighborhoods, city and region; you are also becoming a participant in a larger movement. We have been welcomed with open arms into a community dedicated to supporting each other's growth and impact on a larger scale. During Mark Winne's keynote speech he stated, "It's not enough to be good food consumers, you need to be good food citizens." Together this call to action becomes feasible.

A key takeaway for me was that co-ops don't "sell" memberships - they invite people to take action around shared values. There is an authenticity to the cooperative model. Co-ops start - and succeed - because of participation. As member/owners we have an open invitation to participate in a transformative experience. I invite all of you to join the 200+ member/owners of the Richmond Food Co-op in our shared action.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I do! Do you?

June is Membership Month here at the Co-op!

What does that mean? 

It means we want to take a minute and say a great big thank you to the 200+ amazing Founding and Pioneering Member/Owners who have taken a leap of faith and said YES! Sign me up! I believe in this Co-op! I believe in this city! I believe in my community!

It also means the time has come to commit. 

Maybe you've had a secret crush on the Co-op for a while. You dream about your future together, strolling down the aisle of fresh beautiful food. You long for that grocery love you can call your own. But for now you watch from the sidelines, not wanting to be the one to make the first move.

Maybe you've been flirting with the Co-op for a while. You've had a few drinks, checked out our Facebook page, liked a few pictures. But you've been keeping your cool, knowing you'll join when you're ready.

Maybe the Co-op is almost everything you've ever wanted - so close to that ideal you've been waiting for all your life. But you worry that it requires compromise to make it work.

Maybe you've just met the Co-op and you feel a flutter with feeling. But you're worried that it all seems so fast.

Well the time has come. The C word. This is one relationship you want to be in for the long haul because your Co-op loves you back. We are committed to caring for you, growing with you and creating memories together.  But here's a little secret - this relationship is reciprocal and your Co-op needs you. If everyone who likes our Facebook page, follows us on Twitter and reads this blog joined today we would have more than enough members to open tomorrow. If every existing Member/Owner referred just one friend we would be half way there. 

We are all in. We are popping the question. We sure hope you say yes. Let's start our food future together.

It's time.