Do you believe in signs?

It’s official in my book: Downtown Terre Haute is ready for a grocer co-op.

How do I know? Let me tell you.

At the crossroads of America we have, for the first time in my known history, a spontaneous public art project. Not only is this spontaneous public art, it’s crochet!

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We have been working so hard to bring a much-needed asset to the community. If this tiny yarn project can pull my heart strings, I can’t wait to see how a natural foods store impacts the lives of people in our community.

Who knew yarn delicately knotted around a tree trunk could speak so clearly to me?

Share this with your neighbors and loved ones so that they can experience our community, too. Oh, and if you know the creator behind the crochet, give them a shout out!

Considering sustainability

As we are looking at potential sites for the store, my mind has been flying in every direction trying to think of all of the possible amenities and layouts that Terre Foods could offer its member-owners and the community.

My initial thoughts were of sustainable construction practices. Then on to sustainable building systems. Then on to sustainable grocer practices.

In the entanglement of sustainability thoughts, I paused (but only slightly) to consider if the store should implement sustainable procedures and systems. My brain quickly smacked itself back to reality and remembered about an article written by Brandon Boyd called “sustainability is not a four letter word, it’s a fourteen letter word“. It’s definitely an ‘if not now, when?’ kind of message stating that we should embrace the concept of sustainability in all we do and to remember the bigger picture of the impact humans have on the earth.

Really, humans are not killing the earth. Humans are killing future generations of humans. The earth will rebound from every drop of manmade structure. Ever notice how destructive a plant in a sidewalk crack can be? Multiply that by a few thousand years and voila, earth has just hit the undo button from any human development.

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plastic floating in the ocean by Brandon Boyd

But why wait around to see that happen when we could choose to be smarter people right now, living through the concept of sustainability?

Something like any random square mile of ocean has nearly 50,000 pieces of plastic floating in it. What does that mean in regards to sustainability? It means that we need to be more conscious of consuming plastic. Grocery stores contain a lot of plastic. I would like to think Terre Foods could set some high standards to reduce the amount of plastics that come in and out of the store. How hard is it really to bring your own reusable grocery bag?

There is even a system available called an electrolyzed water system that can clean and sanitize any surface without the use of chemicals. It just changes the pH levels of water to do the job and it is completely safe for the environment. Just think of the impacts, or lack thereof, that an institution like Terre Foods can have by not putting chemicals into the earth. And how many less plastic bottles will not be needed to hold those unused chemicals!

When the history board is written for Terre Foods, it will state that the co-op was formed to fill a gap in the natural and whole foods market in the Terre Haute community. But, we have another chance to raise the bar. Let’s make history more robust and create something awesome that this community has never seen before through sustainable systems in a grocery store!

Needless to say, I am super excited about this project and can’t wait to show this community what it’s missing in more ways than just good food-

Terre Foods Policy Governance

Last year the Terre Foods board developed and put into place a framework for board governance and business operations based on a policy governance model. Policy governance is a well-established model used by many organizations and co-ops across the country. In policy governance the board sets policy, not operations, and works through committees to recommend actions by the board. The board focuses on ends (outcomes for which the co-op exists) but actively monitors operations through established metrics. Successfully implementing the principles of policy governance will provide accountability and define a clear delegation of authority.

The policy document includes four sections: Ends, Executive Limitations, Board Process, and Board-Management Relationship. More details about each section of our policy will be discussed in future blogs.

The Ends section gives the long-term perspective for the co-op and reiterates the mission and vision. Our ends statement reads:

Because Terre Foods Cooperative Market exists, people in the Wabash Valley will have:

  • A profitable business that is a model of sustainability
  • A market for local healthy food, offering trusted products and services that meet the needs of the community and producers
  • A strengthened local food system
  • Increased access to education that meets the needs of owners and the  greater Wabash Valley community

Owners will LOVE Terre Foods Cooperative Market for all we do!

How to Recruit New Member Owners

Why recruit new member owners to Terre Foods? Without at least 600 members we cannot take the next step to opening the store. It’s that simple. It’s imperative. It’s must-do. And why not do it now?

The absolute BEST way to get new member owners is for our current member owners to recruit their family, neighbors, friends and co-workers to join!

How To Recruit New Member Owners to Terre Foods:

 

  • Come to a training!  You’ll learn more information, have questions answered and learn how to respond to objections. March 28, 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1875 S. Fruitridge Ave., Terre Haute
  • Wear the buttons. They serve as great conversation starters!
  • Know your stuff.  Read information about Terre Foods and find an FAQ about the coop included in this toolkit or on the web at www.terrefoods.coop
  • Know the payment options. Remind them that it’s a one-time equity payment. No annual fees. We will likely invite them to make a member loan to provide necessary capital for the project but it’s optional.
  • Stock up on Membership Brochures and “Membership has Benefits!” discount info cards. Send email to info@terrefoods.org to request as many as you need!
  • Know your audience! Spend your energy talking to people who you think would be interested:
    • Foodies
    • Natural food/product people
    • New families, especially those with very young children
    • “Buy local!” supporters
    • Gardeners/farmers
    • Those worried about their health
    • Retirees and the elderly
  • Know that it will take multiple “asks” before they sign: A standard rule of thumb is to ask 6 times in 6 ways. So start now. In addition to your efforts, Terre Foods has an advertising awareness campaign going on now through April 30 to help bolster your message!
  • Use email. Tell your story about what prompted you to become an owner.
  • Use social media. “Like” Terre Foods on Facebook and follow us on Twitter then share our posts with your friends.
  • Have a party, invite a board member to come and informally talk to your guests about the coop. We love parties! Email to info@terrefoods.org
  • Work the Farmer’s Market. Help staff our table, Saturdays beginning in May. Contact Holly Hudson at hhudson40@gmail.com.
  • Invite friends to road trip. If you’re headed to Bloomington or Paoli, take a friend or family member along and stop at Bloomingfoods (3 locations www.bloomingfoods.coop) or Lost River Market and Deli in Paoli (www.lostrivercoop.com) and show them what it’s all about!

 

Don’t forget: For every member you recruit, you receive a $20 gift card to Terre Foods!

Birke Baehr – Birke on the farm

Birke Baehr is only twelve years old but is becoming a well known advocate for organic food and organic farming. His goal is to be an organic farmer, or as he calls it a “Future Lunatic Farmer” Check out his website.

http://www.birkeonthefarm.com/

He has written a book “Birke on the Farm: The Story of a Boy’s Search for Real Food” to spread the word one kid at a time.

I first saw his TED talk on youtube -“What’s Wrong With Our Food System? And How Can We Make A Difference?” The link for this is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7Id9caYw-Y

Better Health Wabash Valley

Businesses affiliated with the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, including Terre Foods, have targeted improving the health of people in our community as a top priority for the coming year. Its Better Health Wabash Valley (BHWV) initiative has undertaken a community health needs assessment and is developing a plan to improve health by specifically targeting obesity, tobacco use, and health disease. Terre Foods is an active participant in BHWV. I was asked by its chair, Ken Baker of AET, to share the Terre Foods perspective on this issue. Here is my response. Your feedback is most welcome!

“Terre Foods Cooperative Market (TFCM) is a member-owned cooperative grocery store devoted to natural products grown and produced locally and organically whenever possible. Our member owners have invested dollars and time to help get the store open. Why? They all believe in the value of advancing the availability of quality local food  for their own health and for the economic health of their communities. In order for TFCM to be successful, we must grow the supply of local foods and products and we must grow the population of people who share a belief in the  value of quality local food. 

 
The absence of quality local foods, I believe, is a significant factor driving obesity in our communities. The sad fact is that we are able to grow an abundance of food, nearly everything we need, in our part of the world yet more than 90% of the food we eat comes from more than 400 miles away. Our local farm land is primarily devoted to monoculture, industrial farming (corn and soybeans and large scale livestock production). Science is beginning to show the ill effects of too much corn additives such as high fructose corn syrup and the impact of antibiotic and growth hormone usage in livestock on our high incidence of obesity and diabetes. Convenience foods containing these food products are ubiquitous in the diets of most Americans and especially our children. Meanwhile, healthy fresh fruits and vegetables have grown too expensive for many families to purchase.
 
At the same time and not incidentally, we have an entire generation (maybe two) who have grown up without the skills to prepare food from scratch. I’ve spoken with leaders at the Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank who tell me that whole foods such as fresh vegetables are often the last items selected from food pantry shelves, selected only when the pre-packaged convenience items have been taken. While there are many barriers to preparing whole foods (time, tools, confidence), the simple skills necessary to prepare food are often a main reason for not making better choices. In many of our poorer rural and inner city neighborhoods, the lack of a grocery store within walking distance means that food is purchased from a convenience or Dollar store which rarely have fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins. Dinner is often a Hostess pie or a bag of chips.
 
So how does TFCM fit in? Right now, our primary focus is obtaining the number of member owners required to attract the financing necessary to open the store. Our plan, if implemented well, has us opening that store in 2014. Once we’ve achieved that goal, a significant marketing strategy for the success of the store is the promotion of the value of whole foods. Coops across the country have been very successful at holding cooking classes to teach basic skills. As a matter of fact, TFMC is likely to partner this year with the White Violet Center to conduct a series of basic cooking classes. I would anticipate this activity to increase as the store opens. Further, our members represent an army of people devoted to good health through natural and local foods and products. We could certainly enlist their help in undertaking community initiatives that would promote good health through whole foods.
 
Growing the number and quality of local growers and producers is vital to the success of TFCM and to the ability of our local school systems and social service agencies to serve better, more wholesome foods. Giving these growers a store front for the sale of their goods helps achieve that imperative.
 
Finally, better health habits are often peer driven and contagious. When I first moved to back to town in 1992, I received odd looks and catcalls when I would run through our city parks. Now there are dozens who join me. The founders of TFCM are college professors transplanted to Terre Haute after having lived in towns with food coops. This is a recruitment and retention issue for many of the talented people we’d like to recruit to come live here and for those who have chosen to come that we’d like to keep. Having a healthy food coop that drives a healthy local food economy is the sign of a progressive community. More and more it’s tough to attract healthy, active folks without these amenities in place. So we are left with recruiting a workforce less concerned about healthy eating than the growing number of us who are very concerned about healthy eating. When we change that ratio we will turn a significant corner.
 
In addition to TFCM, other organizations such as Our Green Valley Alliance for Sustainability, the ISU Institute for Community Sustainability, the Wabash Valley Food Hub and others are strong advocates for the local foods movement. We are a greatly intertwined group of organizations that can use its mass to help promote and impact change.”
 
Thoughts? Reactions?