Co-op owners, SAVE THE DATE- we're having our FIRST ANNUAL MEETING!
At this meeting you'll have your first opportunity to exercise your democratic right as owners. We'll vote to ratify the bylaws, as well as to approve the appointed board members.
We'll also hear a report from our Board President, Laura Mason, on the co-op's progress to date. Elliott Crowe, our Board Treasurer, will give a report on the co-op's finances to date.
Erbin Crowell from the Neighboring Food Co-op Association will give a presentation on our multi-stakeholder model, and field any questions that may come up.
We look forward to sharing this big step with you!
Starting a food co-op is an exciting process, but it takes a village! We'd love to invite you to join our organizing efforts. We are looking for folks who are potentially interested in becoming involved with the start-up process, including involvement with our board of directors. Only member-owners can serve on our board of directors, so if this interests you and you are not yet a member-owner, click here to join! If you aren't yet in a position to become a member-owner but would still like to be involved, we invite you to get in touch with us to find out how you can volunteer.
This is a critical time for the Co-op: We now have just over 200 member-owners and are well on our way to the 300 member-owner mark. This is the point at which most start-up co-ops consider commissioning their feasibility studies. In concert with getting the next 100 member-owners signed up, we'll be raising the funds to hire our consultants at Cooperative Development Services (CDS) to conduct a market feasibility study and financial pro-forma. With this consulting work in place, we can then move forward with the process of finding a location for the store, determining its size, and other basic elements involved with starting a food co-op.
The Board of Directors is the essential link between the Amherst community's dream of having its own full-service cooperative grocery store and the reality of building such a store. As a member of the Board, you will help guide this process.
The Amherst Community Co-op Board of Directors will have the following duties:
- Supervising the Co-op through its startup phase
- Helping to build the member-owner base
- Making the community at large aware of the co-op and its mission
- Using the consultants' study as the basis for identifying and securing a store
- Participating in negotiations to secure a location
- Monitoring the Co-op's governing policies
- Performing financial oversight of the Co-op
- Responding to shareholders' concerns
- Making decisions that can only be made by the Board as defined by the co-op's bylaws
- Ensuring that the purpose, mission, and principles of the co-op are part of every decision.
Board Member Expectations
- During the startup phase, Board members will be expected to attend monthly meetings
- Attend and participate in the Annual Member-owner Meeting and other meetings of member-owners
- Board members are expected to arrive on time for scheduled meetings and fulfill rotating duties, such as tabling at events.
Should You Run for the Board of Directors?
You should run for a seat on the Board of Directors if you care deeply about seeing to it that Amherst has a cooperative grocery store that is consistent with our community's values. The Amherst Community Co-op will be a worker and consumer owned full-service grocery store that is governed according to democratic and inclusive principles, providing wholesome, affordable, and locally-produced foods that reflect the diversity of our community.
You should consider getting involved if:
- You have experience in starting or running a business, preferably food-related
- You have experience as a community organizer
- You have experience with (or interest in) democratic management structures
- You have any other skills or experience that you believe would be of value to the Amherst Community Co-op
But more than anything…
You should join us if you are care about making the co-op a reality as a cornerstone for all members of the Amherst community and its surrounding areas.
The Amherst Community Co-op needs you!
We had a great time at our potluck at the Shutesbury Athletic Club on Saturday night- around 40 people came out to enjoy good food, and incredible music by Eric Lee and Friends. We had a lot of great conversations about the future of the co-op, and got to answer some thoughtful questions from the folks in the room. Enthusiasm was high, and it was exciting to hear the perspective of many community members who we hadn't previously been in touch with. Members of the Sirius Community invited us to come and speak about the co-op in the near future, which we're very excited about!
We want to thank everyone who came out for the event, and who made it possible- Julie Cunningham volunteered to photograph the event; Alex, Felicia, Elliott, Laura, and a few others brought delicious food; Eric Lee played some incredible bluegrass with his band; and member-owner April Stein booked the Shutesbury Athletic Club for the event. We look forward to holding events like this in the future, so stay tuned! If you've got any ideas for communities, organizations, or groups that we could bring our presentation to, please let us know.
[photo credit: Felicia Sevene]
[photo credit: Julie Cunningham]
Save the date: Saturday, March 12, 5-7 at the Shutesbury Athletic Club! Amherst Community Co-op is holding a fun membership event for Shutesbury, Leverett, and Pelham residents (and beyond). The event will feature music from bluegrass fiddler Eric Lee and Friends, food, fellowship, and everything that you need to know about the co-op.
Amherst Community Co-op will be a full-service worker and community owned grocery store to be located in Amherst. We don't have a location yet, but we do have nearly 180 member-owners on our way to our first major milestone of 300. At that point, we will commission a market study and business plan in order to settle on the best location to serve the Amherst, Shutesbury, Leverett, Pelham, and surrounding communities.
Not to be confused with the late All Things Local, Amherst Community Co-op will offer one-stop grocery shopping. The business, which will be owned by the community and the people who work at the store, will be guided by principles of access to high-quality affordable food, social justice, living wages, and community engagement.
Food will be available at the event, but folks are welcome to bring a dish to share. Oh, and don't forget your checkbook if you haven't already joined. (Both members and non-members are welcome at the event!) Folks who sign up as member-owners at this event will receive a free Amherst Community Co-op canvas tote bag, made in the USA!
Please RSVP to AmherstCommunityCoop@gmail.com. Questions are always welcomed.
See you at the Shutesbury Athletic Club! (282 Wendell Rd, Shutesbury, MA 01072)
Laura's Food Co-op Roadtrip
At the beginning of this month, I took a road trip down to Asheville, NC and then up to Madison, WI. Along the way, I made it a point to stop at several different food co-ops. This is one of my favorite things to do in a new town or city- find the food co-op and get inspiration for our own! Here are a few highlights from the trip:
Mariposa Food Co-op
West Philadelphia, PA, est. 1971
Mariposa is one of the few examples of a hybrid food co-op, with a model similar to our own. They are a consumer- and worker-owned food co-op. "Our primary activity is running a food co-op owned by those who shop there, who actively participate in its governance and operations on an egalitarian consensus-seeking basis". This co-op recently expanded into a space 5 times the size of their old space, and had a great selection of products across the board. I liked this illustration of reusable container prices:
French Broad Food Co-op
Asheville, NC, est. 1975
This was a great co-op in downtown Asheville with an awesome selection of products across the board, but the best part of this co-op, as far as I'm concerned, was its massive bulk section! The entire back room of the co-op is dedicated to bulk goods, and you can find anything there. The wall of herbs was staggering, and there was a selection of herbalism books for shoppers to use to learn more about any herbs available to them, which is a great resource!
People's Food Co-op
Ann Arbor, Michigan, est. 1971
In the heart of Kerrytown in Ann Arbor is a great, bustling food co-op with an awesome cafe- Cafe Verde. You can really feel the sense of community in this co-op, with friends meeting up for coffee before doing a bit of grocery shopping. The staff was very friendly, and it was great to see the local products from the area highlighted with information about the producers. Members of the co-op also received 10% off all purchases at the book shop that's next door- what a great idea!
Regent Market Co-op
Madison, WI, est. 1998
Regent Market Co-op is a great, community-owned grocery store with a selection of products ranging from conventional to organic and fair-trade. The store opened in the 1920s as a sole-proprietorship, but was incorporated as a co-op in 1998. They are in the process of expanding their store, which is exciting! We had a good conversation about a policy that's in place at their co-op and several others, which is that non-owners are charged an additional 10% on their purchase. If you are a member of any other co-op, this 10% surcharge can be waived if you show your membership card. To me, this seems like it would alienate shoppers who aren't owners more than it would encourage them to become owners. They've heard a lot of feedback along these lines, and many would like to change the policy, but the board has yet to approve the change.
Do you have a favorite food co-op that you've visited? The next time you're traveling, see what food co-ops you can stop into. Send us a picture and let us know what you liked about the co-op, and we'll put it in our newsletter!
To All Members and Supporters of the Amherst Community Co-op:
In April of last year, the Amherst Community Co-op incorporated and began to build its membership base. Since that time, your steering committee has reached out across the community to explain the co-op’s goals and to get people to join us. We’ve been pretty successful in those efforts, and we now have 150 members, give or take.
Over the past year, we have been telling the community that, once we reach 150 members, we would commission a market feasibility study and business plan from our consultants, Cooperative Development Services (CDS). We made that plan on the basis of a commitment from our sister co-op, River Valley market in Northampton, to provide the co-op with a loan to finance the consulting work once we reached 150 members.
River Valley Market remains committed to supporting Amherst Community Co-op, but experienced people in the food co-op world have counseled us to wait until we reach the 300-member mark. The steering committee agrees that it would be prudent to build a larger membership base before we go forward with the consulting work.
We would like to move forward as quickly as we can to get more people to join the co-op. That’s where you come in: For those of you that are owners, we need you to help ensure that your investment in the Amherst Community Co-op bears fruit. That’s why we are asking you and your fellow supporters to:
Become a founding member-owner of the co-op if you have not already done so - click here to print out your membership brochure, or follow the link and click "join online"
Tell your friends and neighbors about Amherst Community Co-op and encourage them to join
Hold a membership-building house party – members of your steering committee will be there to help in any way we can, including attending the party and talking about the co-op
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we need to enlarge and strengthen the steering committee itself. We need people with a variety of skills and, most urgently, we need community organizers. There is no question that Amherst is ready – indeed demands – a full-service cooperative grocery store. But we need people with roots in the community who are prepared to promote the co-op’s vision.
Please attend an open meeting on Thursday, July 23rd, at 7 p.m. at the Jones Library’s Woodbury Room downstairs. The meeting will be an opportunity for you to meet with the
members of the steering committee, to find out where the co-op project stands, and to offer your skills and passion to making the Amherst Community Co-op a reality.
We look forward to seeing you at the meeting!
Amherst Community Co-op Steering Committee
Laura Mason, Elliott Crowe, Alex Kent, Christina DiMarco-Crook, Josh Cohen, David Ahlfeld
Why Join The Co-op?
by Alex Kent
People often ask me, "What is the benefit of joining the co-op?" I would answer this way: At all too many of the places where we do our shopping (including the online shopping world), we customers are viewed as little more than consumers, and as consumers we have little say in how stores are run. Sure, we can take our business elsewhere, and savvy retailers will respond by changing the product mix, redesigning the store, and doing whatever else is necessary to make sure that customers keep on coming in to shop. The beauty of a co-op is that, from its creation, its construction, and its operation, members have both the right and the responsibility to speak up and say how the co-op ought to be run.
That sounds a lot like what it takes to be a good citizen.
David Ahlfeld, one of the earliest members of the Amherst Community Co-op and now our newest steering committee member, has said,
"We citizens need more practice at creating cooperative institutions. The Market has gotten very good at gauging needs and interests and then quickly creating products and services. The average citizen can live without ever engaging with their community to create something. It is all just provided, from afar, at a price. The culture is diminished as a result. What a great opportunity the co-op provides to practice these skills."
A cooperative is made up of the very community it serves and it is governed by representatives of that community. Its success is measured by the degree to which it is inclusive of all the members of the community. In short, a cooperative is an excellent place to practice that most basic duty of a citizen: individuals participating and working toward the greater good of their neighborhoods, their communities, and ultimately their country. The Amherst Community Co-op will give everyone in the community quite literally the chance to design our own market, and beyond that, it will be a priceless opportunity for people to develop the habits of citizenship.
By joining the Amherst Community Co-op, you cast your vote as a member of the community that wants more autonomy, more of a say in what our town's market sells. By joining, you are telling our prospective lenders -- the financial institutions and foundations that will play an indispensable role in actually building the store -- that our community really wants its own market and is prepared to support it. Let's join together to build a market that is truly representative of our community's values!
Very exciting news- we've hit 111 founding member-owners!! What an incredible feeling this is, and thank you to everyone who has supported us thus far.
As you know, we can't make this co-op dream a reality without our founding members. Because of this, every member brings us that much closer to opening our doors!
We need just 39 more members before we can have our feasibility study conducted, and that's when the REAL excitement begins! Spread the word, help us get there, and become a member-owner today!
Click here to head over to our membership sign-up page and for more information.
Shopping Co-op: A Gift Guide for the Holiday Season
This holiday season, we know you've got a lot of great local options when it comes to making your way through that gift list. The holidays are a great time to share your passions with your loved ones, and if you're like us you love co-ops! So why not shop local AND co-op, and spread a little bit of that co-op love?
Every October, co-ops everywhere celebrate by spreading the word about why co-ops rocks. We are working to make a real difference in our communities every day, and that's a huge part of the cooperative difference. Below are some great examples of the work that co-ops are doing in our own community!