Thinking Strategically About Your Co-op’s Future

The Chico Natural Foods Co-op in Chico, California has experienced exponential growth in the past few years after a long period of time as a static business. It has been alternately exhilarating and challenging for the co-op to manage so much change, but when individuals step up with the necessary leadership, organizations can really go the distance. The food co-op and its community is reaping the benefits of their dedication to strategic planning.

The co-op started in 1972 as a buying club, and for the better part of three decades was housed as a nonprofit retail in a church basement. It was rather inaccessible to the community, and evolved very slowly, with sales topping out at $500,000 per year. Then in 2001 the membership voted to convert to a legal cooperative, and in 2004 completed the process with the state of California. Shortly thereafter, the co-op launched sales of $300 member equity shares to help finance a move out of the church basement.

They moved to a historic building downtown with 3,300 square foot retail and 16 parking spaces in 2006. Their sales for 2011 were $4.4 million, and the co-op is thriving. In addition to all the retail changes, the board also hired an effective general manager, adopted Policy Governance, wrote their Ends policies, revised their bylaws, and are now looking to switch from discounts to patronage dividends. The co-op is once again at a crossroads regarding the future. They believe they need to expand again.

According to Stephanie Elliott, the co-op’s board president, they are doing research to prepare for the switch to patronage dividends and doing an assessment of their current building and market. Whew! She described Chico as a very active community, and the co-op’s growth in sales and leadership is reflective of a town that wants to capitalize on such positive energy.

The board has a goals committee, made up of everyone on the board, that specifically focuses on what they want to do and what they want to achieve. They are going through practical steps, like making a board calendar that addresses issues throughout the year, ensuring things get done in a timely manner with accountability. Elliott said that their CBLD consultant Todd Wallace has been a great source of information. “He’s brought us a lot of resources that help us do this planning,” she said. “We all have a lot of passion for it,” Elliott said. “We’re strengthening things, no longer in survival mode. It’s a great time to take an active role in making long term plans.”

Visit Chico Natural Foods Co-op online at



2012 Awards for Excellence in the Food Co-op Community

The Howard Bowers Fund/CCMA awards for Cooperative Excellence are given for excellence in the food co-op community.  They are an opportunity for you to recognize outstanding food co-ops, your colleagues, your board members, and outstanding programs and systems developed by consumer cooperatives. Formerly known as the CCMA awards, the program is now under the sponsorship of the Cooperative Development Foundation through its Howard Bowers Fund for Consumer Cooperatives.

The deadline for nominations is April 20, 2012, and the awards will be presented during the banquet at CCMA. You are invited to submit nominations in the following categories:
Cooperative Excellence – In recognition of a food co-op that has made significant progress in meeting the needs of members through growth in net sales and earnings, initiation of new and innovative programs, and expansion of member services.
Cooperative Service – In recognition of dedicated leadership and exemplary service by an individual to a food co-op or co-op.
Cooperative innovation/Achievement – In recognition of the innovative application of the co-op business structure to a co-op, an innovative program or service, or outstanding achievement by a food co-op.
Cooperative Board Service – In recognition of outstanding dedication and leadership.

Awardees are selected by an awards committee made up of leaders in the food co-op community.

Fill out this form: Bowers award nomination form and send it to Ellen Quinn at



That’s the message students across the country will send to cafeteria giant Aramark on April 10th in response to attempts by the university contractor to shut down Real Food projects across the country.

After years of work by student leaders to connect their Aramark managers to local farms and fair food businesses, Aramark’s corporate office has now turned around and mandated that its employees cut all ties with students involved in Real Food Challenge.   No more meetings; no more local food dinners; no more student research into real food purchasing.

Our response?  “GET REAL, ARAMARK!”

Sign up for the April 10th Day of Action.  Tell Aramark to stop stonewalling students and work in good faith to get more real food on campus.

We believe that as students–as tuition-payers, as (often captive) meal-plan holders, as members of our campus communities—we deserve to know where our food comes from. We deserve to have a voice in what types farms and food businesses our schools support.  We have always believed that real change  happens when everyone sits at the table together — from students and farmers to administrators, chefs and dining hall managers.

But, based on recent actions, we can only assume Aramark’s corporate leaders believe otherwise.

SIGN UP NOW, to let Aramark know it’s time to put respect on the menu.  Join the April 10th day of action.

As the student movement for real food grows, university presidents and big food service companies alike are taking bold steps to advance the work. Upon signing the Real Food Campus Commitment, University of Vermont interim president John Bramley commented:

UVM can play an important role not just in educating students or researching the issues but actually seeking to be part of the solution – by how we feed the 15,000 members of our community. I am proud of the part UVM and its food providers are playing – and of the leadership role our students have taken – in this important initiative and global challenge.

Meanwhile, companies like Bon Appétit and Sodexo have shown their willingness to listen to Real Food Challenge students as they work to develop new real food offerings.

Aramark is growing increasingly isolated. Shutting out students and ignoring the real food movement is simply not a winning business model.

Stay tuned,

The Real Food Admin Team

Grant Available for Training

For New and About-to-Open Food Co-ops
The Howard Bowers Fund of the Cooperative Development Foundation is pleased to announce that grants will be available for education and training for co-ops that are new (opened in 2011) or close to opening (will open in 2012).  Six grants for a maximum of $1,000 each will be awarded.  The deadline for applications is April 13, 2012 and grants will be announced in late May.  Please contact for an application.

Grants available:  Six, for a maximum of $1,000 each

For:  Management, staff, and board training and education for co-ops
that opened in 2011 or will open in 2012

Deadline:  April 13, 2012

As part of the annual October is Co-op Month observance, food co-ops around the country make donations of 1% of sales on a day of their choosing (“Howard Bowers Day”) or a flat donation to the Howard Bowers Fund in honor of Howard Bowers, a long-time leader in the food co-op community.  Since 2007, the funds raised for Howard Bowers Day have been used exclusively for the training and education needs of new and about-to-open food co-ops.  These grants are made possible through the generosity of the food co-op community.

For more information about the Cooperative Development Foundation and the Howard Bowers Fund, please see www.cdf.coopand/or contact

Coop Constitutional Convention

New Co-op Leaders Invited to Attend

Special Sessions for Startup Organizers at CCMA 2012: June 14-16, Philadelphia

Ready for a cooperative constitutional convention!? Come to Philadelphia for this year’s legendary assembly of food co-operators and let’s declare our independence from speculative investors with a rallying cry of WE OWN IT!

About the Event

The Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) Annual Conference unites leaders from food cooperatives around the country to improve operations, consumer education and marketing strategies. The CCMA conference is jointly sponsored by the National Cooperative Business Association and the University of Wisconsin Urban Cooperative Initiative. Hosted by Weavers Way Co-op

Food Co-op Initiative workshops for startup organizers will include:

  • Facilitated panel discussion for startup organizers
  • Case study panel featuring a newer (open) food co-op
  • Using internet technology to make organizing more effective (Jake Schlachter)
  • Save time and money by hiring a membership & marketing coordinator (Suzi Carter)
  • Mobile markets– an low capital option for supporting marginal markets (Micha Josephy)

Conference Registration:

Register online at
Early bird pricing (before 5/11):
$735 NCBA members and $815 nonmembers
Each year, approximately 20 people attend CCMA on scholarships from the Howard Bowers Fund. For scholarships to CCMA, contact

Check out all the conferece details at See you there!

NW Gathering at The Hub!

Sustainable Food Leaders Converge at Seattle’s “HUB” for Social Innovation


Seattle, Washington April 7, 2012 – The HUB Seattle will host student food leaders from across the Northwest for CoFED’s weekend convergence on April 7, 2012.

The HUB Seattle, a collaborative workspace for social entrepreneurs, has partnered with CoFED to host a one day meet-up with food activists from across the Pacific Northwest of the USA and Canada. CoFED – the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive, is a national cooperative network and training program committed to empowering students to create ethically-sourced, cooperatively-run food enterprises on college campuses.

CoFED provides retreats and resources, including regional organizers, to support and network student groups as they open and operate food co-ops on their campuses. Student food cooperatives working with CoFED in the Pacific Northwest will be arriving from as far as Vancouver, BC to Portland, OR to share resources, offer project support and connect to the greater food justice movement in the region.

“Our mission is to cultivate a more sustainable, community-oriented culture through college campuses. This pertains not only to individual campus communities, but the relationships among student groups elsewhere working in solidarity. It is crucial for groups in this movement to remember that we cannot build a sustainable food system in isolation. I’m inspired each day by the work these groups, and I am so excited to bring the students together to energize each others work on their campuses and in their communities,” says Amy Hess, CoFED’s Northwest Regional Organizer based in Vancouver, BC.

Anna Isaacs, CoFED’s Northwest Regional Organizer based in Olympia, WA adds that “the partnership between CoFED and the HUB Seattle is a perfect example of the culture of collaboration and exchange that can amplify the efforts of groups working toward social innovation.”

In the fall of 2010, CoFED launched nationally with support from Launch Committee members such as author Michael Pollan, founder Bill McKibben, and Slow Food USA President Josh Viertel. Since then, CoFED teams have raised over $110,000 for cooperative enterprises on over a dozen campuses.

This event will bring together the Northwest regional network of student organizers from the food justice and cooperative movements.  The event is titled: Pacific Northwest Student Food Co-op Gathering (hosted by CoFED).

Job Announcement: Building the Co-op Mvmt!

Development,     Sales,     and     Partnerships     Specialist  

About     TESA     
The Toolbox for Education and Social Action (TESA) is a worker-owned, next-generation publisher of participatory resources for social and economic change. TESA also provides services to support individuals and organizations developing and implementing their own educational materials, programs, and digital resources. TESA is a worker cooperative that is democratically owned and managed by its workers.
In our young history, TESA has worked on a number of causes and pioneered an array of exciting resources and programs. Our in-house projects include the incredibly successful Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives (, Cultivate.Coop (http://Cultivate.Coop), and more. We are currently working with the South Bronx Green Worker Cooperatives to build a co-op academy in New York City and with the National Cooperative Business Association to develop and implement a nation-wide Cooperative Teach-In program, to name a few recipients of our services. Our other work has addressed such topics as immigration solidarity, people’s history, and anti-war organizing. In addition, we have other projects that we are currently working to launch.

Job     Description  
TESA is looking to contract for a “Development, Sales, and Partnerships Specialist” that can take our efforts to the next level. This role will primarily focus on increasing sales of our products, fund-raising for our other initiatives, and developing partnerships between TESA and other organizations in order to launch innovative projects. This position will begin as an independent contractor, with the potential to develop into an employee, worker-owner position over time. (See below.) TESA often initiates great project ideas and then seeks out other organizations (non-profits, associations, other co-ops, etc.) to partner with in order to collaboratively fund-raise, develop content, and maximize impact.
Your responsibilities will include:
Fundraise and Partnerships:
• Find organizational partners and fund-raise (through crowd-funding, partnerships, and grant writing) for in development anti-war curricula as well as a social justice graphic novel, and other projects.
• Fundraise (through crowd-sourcing, partnerships, and grant writing) for an exciting and major expansion to Cultivate.Coop as well as for our national Cooperative Teach-In program.
• Focus sales of Co-opoly,  “10 Reasons Co-ops Rock” poster, and upcoming releases (curricula, posters, games, etc.) to retailers, individuals, and allied organizations. Development, sales, and partnerships would be your main focus.  However, within this broad range of responsibilities, we are willing to consider someone who is strong is one area (for example, sales and marketing) and willing to learn others, such as crowd-sourcing or grant-writing.

Proximity to the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts is a major preference, but is not required. Our office is in Northampton, MA. We prefer someone who can be in the office, when needed. However, we are willing to consider someone that is based in other locations, such as New York or DC, if he or she is the right candidate.
An ideal candidate should have an interest in or basic knowledge about cooperatives and a desire to learn more.
● Sales and/or marketing experience
● Fundraising experience – grant writing, crowd-funding platforms
● Strong oral and written communication skills
● Basic social media skills
● Spanish skills are a bonus, but not required
● Interest in education
● Ability to collaborate and work well in groups
● Organized and self-motivated
● Dedication to social and economic justice
● Able to juggle more than one project at a time
● Fast learner and self-starter
● Ability to manage and develop projects
● Creative
● Ability to foster relationships with other organizations
This position will start out as a three month contractor position. If you are a good fit for TESA, the contract will be extended. A good fit for TESA grows sales with our established products, shows ability to fundraise for current projects, and is able to recruit and develop new partnerships. After 8 months as a contractor, upon review by TESA, you will become eligible to become an employee and worker-owner of TESA, and, upon mutual agreement, your independent contractor status will end. Payment: $2,000 – $2,300 a month. Possibly more, depending on experience. Keep in mind that this position is meant to boost our sales and fund-raising significantly, so if done right, this compensation will grow.

We are looking to hire someone to start as soon as possible, ideally no later than mid-April to mid-May. However, we are willing to consider alternative times for the right candidate.
To     Apply  
Send cover letter, resume, and at least two (2) references to contact AT toolboxfored DOT org. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until this position is filled, so we recommend getting your application in as soon as possible. Interviews will begin on April 2nd.

An informative co-op panel discussion…

 Fixing the Future: How Cooperative Businesses are Building a Better World

Cooperatives have long been putting people before profits and are more concerned with Main Street as opposed to Wall Street. Whether in a developing nation, or among a cooperative of dairy farmers in Wisconsin, or orange growers in Florida, when people are more concerned about human potential and communities, we all do better. It is no surprise that the United Nation General Assembly has declared 2012 as the Year of the Cooperative.

On March 29th, 2012, Ylse van der Schoot, Director Investor Relations, from Oikocredit International, Diana Crane, Director of Sustainability, PCC Natural Markets, and Debbie Wege, BECU Manager of Community Relations will share their views and stories about how cooperatives are building a better world. This free public educational event will be held at Bloedel Hall at Saint Mark’s Cathedral and is ideally suited for those that want to learn more about the cooperative movement that is creating more jobs, creating more opportunities, and helping others to realize their potential in the Puget Sound and across the world.

Event Details

When: March 29 2012, 6:30-8:30pm
Where: Bloedel Hall at Saint Mark’s Cathedral, 1245 10th Ave E, Seattle
Cost to Attend: Free. Refreshments and snacks provided. RSVP appreciated

For further information about this event please visit or call (206)-356-8811

About BECU
Governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, BECU is a not-for-profit credit union owned by the members. Profits are returned to the members in the form of better rates and fewer fees. With more than 750,000 members and more than $9.9 billion in assets, BECU is the largest credit union in Washington and one of the top five financial cooperatives in the country. BECU currently operates over 40 locations in the Puget Sound region. All Washington state residents are eligible to join.

About PCC Natural Markets

Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, PCC Natural Markets is a certified organic retail cooperative with annual sales of $158 million and an active membership of 46,000 households. PCC operates nine stores in the Seward Park, View Ridge, Greenlake, West Seattle, Fremont, Kirkland, Redmond, Edmonds and Issaquah neighborhoods.

About Oikocredit

Oikocredit Northwest was established to support the work of Oikocredit UA (Oikocredit), an international development cooperative, that through 900 partners (290 of which are cooperatives) helps poor and marginalized people by empowering them with credit. Our mission is to inform and educate our fellow citizens about microfinance in general and Oikocredit in specific. Our Board and committees are comprised of dedicated volunteers who are committed to helping spread the word about microfinance as a pathway out of poverty.

Opportunities with Real Food Challenge

Opportunities with The Real Food Challenge – Food System Organizing Fellowship for Post-Baccalaureates

Real Food Challenge<> (RFC) is looking for committed food activists to join our team as Field Organizer Fellows.  This is a 14-month, part-time, stipended fellowship opportunity.
Apply now for our 2012-2013 Field Organizer Fellowship.<>  The Early Selection Deadline
for applications is Friday, March 16, 2012.  The regular deadline is April 6, 2012.  Applications will be considered as received, so early applications are encouraged.

Real Food Challenge<> (RFC) is a national,
student-driven campaign to create a more just and sustainable food system.
We harness the purchasing power of colleges and universities to support
local farmers, fair trade cooperative and sustainable businesses-what we
call “real food.”  Since 2008, RFC has united and trained over 5,000 of
young food activists and has succeeded in shifting over $50 million of
university spending to support a just and sustainable food economy.  In the
2012-2013 school year we will advance our Get Real!
Campaign<> – an effort to win pledges of
support from university presidents and dining operators around the country.
Fellowship Overview

The Real Food Challenge Field Organizer Fellowship Program is a unique
opportunity for recent college graduates to get first hand experience as
part-time organizers and food movement leaders.  Through this 14-month
program, Fellows engage in intensive student organizing projects on a
regional and national level while also honing their leadership skills and
food systems knowledge through our participatory learning curriculum and
engaged Fellow community.

Fellows come away with direct campaign experience, new professional and
movement networks and a toolbox of relevant non-profit, food movement and
grassroots organizing skills.  At the same time, they support important
student-led efforts to shift millions of university dollars away from
industrial agriculture and toward just, sustainable food enterprises.


*   Ability to work 15 hrs a week for Real Food Challenge
*   In-depth knowledge of the politics and practice of student activism
and/or student-run groups, preferred
*   Commitment to economic justice, anti-racism, student power and social
*   Experience with group facilitation, teaching, public speaking, and
*   In-depth knowledge of university food systems, issues surrounding
small farms, fair trade cooperatives, regional distributional or similar
issues a plus
*   Recent college graduates preferred
*   Familiarity with Word, Googledocs, Facebook, and other online and
social media tools, preferred

For a full fellowship description and to apply, visit or contact<>

Real Food Challenge is an independent, self-funded program of The Food

See what young people are doing to create a just and sustainable food

Hey look at what is happening in our region…

The University of Oregon is hosting the International Sustainable Campus Network’s 6th annual conference in Eugene June 19-21.  They come together annually to build relationships, develop strategies, and share stories.   This year’s theme is “Power of Partnerships.”  Speakers include:

Dr. David Orr – Leader of Oberlin project, author of numerous influential books and articles
Dr. David Korten – author of “Agenda for a New Economy”
Dr. Eric Siegel – An expert in Predictive Analytics – who will help us understand how to identify potential champions on our campuses
Dr. Mark Alfano – A philosopher re-thinking our root motivations to be and do good
Dale Mikkelsen – Director of UniverCity – an internationally recognized model sustainable community built by Simon Frasier University in Vancouver, BC.
Dr. Kai Liu – An architect and expert on Chinese sustainable campus development from Huazhong Univ. of Technology –  currently a visiting fellow at M.I.T.
Dr. G. Poyyamoli – An expert on Indian sustainable campus development from Pondicherry University
Dr. Eugenio Morello – An expert in Urban Design, leading an initiative to transform a Milan campus neighborhood
Dr. Riri Fitri Sari – Director, University of Indonesia’s GreenMetric Ranking of World Universities
Mark Orlowski – Founder and Director of Sustainable Endowments Institute and Billion Dollar Green Challenge
Leith Sharp – Founder of Harvard’s Green Campus program

This is the first time ISCN’s conference will be in the States.  It’s a nice opportunity to meet international colleagues, explore new partnerships, and learn from others.    I hope you’ll strongly consider attending.  You can learn more about the conference and click to the registration page by going to