KFnet in T-Town

Oct. 6, 2009 at 7:18am

Tacoma Food Co-op's Annual Meeting Recap

The Tacoma Food Co-op had it's first ever annual meeting, general direction and board election last night. Their interim prez shared facts like that they have over 230 members which is more than double this time last year. Six committees have also formed to help with everything from technology (on which I'm a volunteer) to marketing. Overall, the organization is debt free with a net revenue of about $18K after about $10K in expenses for things like events, promotion, and legal work and consulting.

The biggest challenges mentioned were that there is, as of yet, no tangible store causing some understandable member unrest. Likewise, poor communication has engendered some frustration as well to which I can attest upon first trying to learn more about the group and finding their current website lacking in up-to-date info.

After the update, nominations opened for their first official board. The group of 9 will be elected starting last night and via email from members until mid-week. Board members will rotate out 3 at a time every 3 years. Nominees represented a range of passions and expertise from accounting and business to organic and sustainable food and social justice. <shameless plug> Libby even presented herself as a candidate to bring her perspective on co-op's she's studied and her impressive knowledge of all things sustainable food, wine, cheese, cured meats, olive oil gained via experiences from Napa Valley all the way to Parma, Italy and many points in between. </shameless plug> She as well as many of the other nominees will make fine members of a potentially impressive co-op board so if you're a member make sure you cast your votes!

Members were also given a "go/no go" option last night on whether or not the co-op should continue to exist and, if so, in which direction it should proceed. The options on the ballot were to create a buying club, co-locate with Neighborhood Market on 6th Ave, or continue straight in the direction of opening up a complete independent direction. The current steering committee recommended co-locating with the market mainly because only a straight 18% cut of sales would go to the store while there would be no other rent, utility, or staffing costs (save, perhaps, for a co-op manger to be hired). The major co-location benefit would be the org having a physical presence and generating revenue on a relatively short time scale. A UW school of business student study also showed that the costs of starting up a location from scratch could easily start at $500K or more which, without outside funding or grants, may be a hurdle the group isn't yet prepared to tackle. Another perceived bonus of the Neighborhood Market scenario is that the owner wants to retire and has in mind to see the co-op expand enough to take over the location.

Lots of info but the Tacoma Food Co-op is alive, well, and continues to move forward toward educating the community, empowering people and their choice of where their food comes from, and making this a reality in our City of Destiny.

Link to the Tacoma Food Co-op

So do you like the idea of a local food co-op? Where direction do you think they should go? Have you been a member of a co-op before? What was your experience?

comments [5]  |  posted under board, elections, food co-op, go local, meeting, organic, tacoma

Comments

by dolly varden on 10/6/2009 @ 10:54am
Thanks for the update -- sounds like good news to me. I think growing into the Sixth Ave. market makes A LOT of sense.

by wildcelticrose on 10/6/2009 @ 12:09pm
I went to one meeting, and came away with the impression that there hadn't been much forward movement or even a solid plan. Being asked "What do you want?" by leaders at a meeting after two years, did not instill confidence. (presenting a few plans/options would have been good) I wasn't ready to plunk down $200 based on what I saw and heard.

I think that the idea of a full service market is too aggressive right now, especially in this economy.

People need too see (better yet, touch or taste) something for this idea to become ?real? to them.

Many co-ops started in someone's garage and then grew from there.

I think that the co-op would best start out buying produce from the farmer's market or local farmers and distributing it from someone's garage to members.

Start with 4 or 5 items-produce and some staples.

Give people something to touch and taste (ah the power of a crispy red apple) and they'll be more likely to believe that this is actually going to happen.

The largest consumer owned co-op in the United States started with an ice axe. It later expanded to a shelf in a gas station.

Small deliberate steps instill confidence.

Having a plan instills confidence.

by Erik on 10/6/2009 @ 12:47pm
Many co-ops started in someone's garage and then grew from there/

Yes, the one in Bellingham started very small and grew from there. The Tacoma Food Co-op has plenty of people now to start something and have some sales just from their members. Now they need to start something substantive.

Being asked "What do you want?" by leaders at a meeting after two years, did not instill confidence.

Having a plan instills confidence.

Yes, leaders lead. The board needs to draw up a plan and request people follow after obtaining feedback. Otherwise, they are just going to continue to meander month after month.

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 10/6/2009 @ 2:13pm
Olympia, a much smaller town than Tacoma, has two co-ops with a 3d one on the way. They have had a co-op for something like 30 years. I say our local group should partner with them. No need to reinvent the wheel here. We want a co-op, we need a co-op, we should already have a co-op. A joint venture with the Olympia would make Olympia and Tacoma even stronger. More buying power, more selection, stronger member base. Time to defecate or get off the commode.

I think a 6th avenue location is swell but I suspect people would come down if we had such a thing downtown. A co-op is a destination so we could kill our two birds with one stone, get some food retailing downtown and have our co-op.

by KevinFreitas on 10/12/2009 @ 8:04am
Here's the newly elected Tacoma Food Co-op Board of Directors:

Molly Archer
Libby Clow
Amber Englund
Casandra Gorell
David Hanson
Corrinne Henderson
Anders Ibsen
Michelle Jones
John Toler

Congrats and good luck to them all!

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