Discover Local @ TMA and the “Local Adobe”

Good things are happening in the little adobe on Simpson Street in Barrio Viejo. We caught up with Mike Peel, Southern Arizona Director at Local First Arizona to learn more about the growing partnership between Local First Arizona and LeadLocal and all that it brings to the Old Pueblo.

FC: Local First Arizona and LeadLocal have a new budding partnership, tell us more.
Mike: A new partnership between Local First Arizona (LFA) and LeadLocal is focused on the creation of community development efforts for businesses and nonprofits in Southern Arizona. Joint opportunities include local leadership development and ongoing networking and professional trainings to develop social entrepreneurship projects and hone local innovation. LFA’s headquarters for Southern Arizona is now located downtown at LeadLocal in the historic Barrio Viejo neighborhood, where locally-owned businesses and budding entrepreneurs will be able to connect more easily to the events and trainings being offered by this dynamic partnership. The new downtown location for LFA in Southern Arizona lends itself to increased collaboration with community partners, from new businesses to nonprofits and other partners alike.

FC: What kinds of things can we expect from this new partnership?
Mike: Local First Arizona and LeadLocal are launching the Southern Arizona Localism and Sustainability Alliance (SALSA), a new initiative comprised of a signature event and training series for growing prosperity in the Tucson community, bringing together visionary leaders from around Arizona. LeadLocal, a think, learn, and DO tank, provides workshops and professional learning opportunities to expand possibilities for collaboration and community building in Tucson. SALSA’s inaugural signature event, Discover Local Day, connects community members of all ages to learn how to engage in localism through unique and exciting micro-workshops focused on topics related to sustainability, local food and more, and will be the kick-off event of this year’s TENWEST Festival.

FC: What is Discover Local Day? That sounds like something our readers would be interested in. Tell us more…
Mike: Discover Local Day will offer Tucsonans the opportunity to connect with local organizations through innovative hands-on activities that are educational as well as fun. Through these micro-workshop experiences, Discover Local attendees will be able to experience the power of Tucson’s local organizations. From water harvesting and earth works to compassionate leadership, desert gardening and urban arts culture, Discover Local Day will highlight ways to get involved with diverse organizations that strengthen the Tucson economy. The main goal is to connect the community to actions on localism and sustainability and understanding how the choices you make and the interactions you have each day affect the entire Tucson ecosystem. The event is Sunday, October 14th with details forthcoming about the workshop schedule, along with many other surprising features.

FC: What else is Local First up to with other partnerships?
Mike: New community programs launched in Southern Arizona by Local First Arizona this year include the Fuerza Local program and SCALE UP program. Fuerza Local, a Local First Arizona Foundation (the sister nonprofit organization to our business membership) program with the YWCA is now serving entrepreneurs in South Tucson, is a six-month training program offered at no cost to underserved Hispanic business owners and provides a structured business curriculum taught by experienced, bilingual professionals. During the program, entrepreneurs learn fundamentals to launch or develop their business, creating a firm foundation for their goals. Lessons on accounting, social media, marketing, and many others are taught completely in Spanish by industry professionals and experts. Food Conspiracy Co-op owners voted to fund three local nonprofits – including this program – through the Cooperative Community Fund. With the expansion of Fuerza Local in Tucson, the program is adding significant value to our local community.

FC: You mentioned SCALE UP, what is this new initiative about and what does SCALE UP stand for?
Mike: SCALE UP stands for Sustainable Communities Accessing Lending and Expertise Upon Performance, a Local First Arizona Foundation program that saves businesses money by lowering utility costs through sustainable business practices. Participating businesses develop and implement sustainability plans and, in addition to saving money, are able to access exclusive benefits. Participating businesses are issued a workbook that guides them in creating a plan to achieve at least a 10% reduction in one of four categories: energy use, water use, waste reduction, or transportation emissions. To help meet their sustainability goals, participating businesses may qualify for a short-term loan to invest in energy- and water-saving or other sustainability improvements from program partner and nonprofit lender Community Investment Corporation (CIC). Through CIC’s Social Impact Lending initiative, participating businesses will have access to loans between $500 and $10,000 at below-market interest rates from 3 to 5% as part of a larger revolving loan fund. CIC has also committed $10,000 in grant funding to incentivize SCALE UP business participants to invest in their sustainability plans. CIC will pair grants of up to 10% of the project costs with its low-interest loans exclusively for participants of the SCALE UP program.

 

This article first appeared as a feature of the Tucson Gems pieces in the Conspiracy News summer issue 2018.  Discover Local is partnered with the Museum of Art Second SundAZe Family Day @ TMA  on Sunday, October 14 for a day of exploration and learning as you Discover Local @ TMA – a TENWEST Festival event. Take part in hands-on activities that will immerse you in all things Tucson!

Local First Arizona Southern Arizona and LeadLocal can be reached at their joint headquarters, the “local adobe,” at 196 W. Simpson Street. For more information about Local First Arizona, visit www.localfirstaz.com. For more information about LeadLocal, visit
https://leadlocal.global/

Contact Michael Peel, Southern Arizona Director, Local First Arizona, at mike@localfirstaz.com for more information and to get involved.

What does local really mean?

What is Local? – Food Conspiracy defines local as grown by a farm or produced by a company located within 200 miles of the Co-op. We do not include produce grown in Mexico even though that would technically be within 200 miles.

Fresh & Farm Direct – One of the Co-op’s longtime farms, Local farm Forever Yong Farm, picks fresh and delivers to the co-op within 24 hours 2 to 3 times a week. The Co-op cooperates with local producers, for example, local Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) yellow squash from Forever Yong Farm is $1.99/lb and organic summer squash from Mexico is $1.99/lb.  Despite the equal pricing to its California counterparts, local is purchased direct from the farm to the Co-op versus through a distributor meaning the farmer gets more of each dollar than if purchased through a distributor. John Rueb explains, “You aren’t paying more for the same product. You are paying more for a fresher high quality product.” In other words, locally grown tomatoes aren’t the same product as organic tomatoes grown in California and transported to Tucson.

Is Local Organically Grown?  In some cases, the Co-op pays the same or more for organic, and it is the Certified Naturally Grown local, which supports selling both at the same price. In other cases, a lower margin is applied to local products to sell all products at a comparable price. Some might suggest that because the Co-op’s local produce is not Certified Organic like the imported or California grown produce, it should not be priced similar to organics. Locally grown produce sold at the Co-op is Certified Naturally Grown—a certification that our local growers choose and we require. It is a national farmer-to-farmer certification and the standards are comparable to the National Organic Standards which is more affordable, fosters local networks and knowledge sharing among farmer peers. It is all of the standards of Certified Organic but geared towards small scale farmers plus the added benefit is small farms are working with intact diverse ecosystems.

Diversity & Flavor – Another local producer Jaime de Zubeldia of Sun Apiaries suggests “our small scale results in very high quality food and lots of flavor, but it is very hands-on. To get flavor we need higher quality feed at a much higher cost, or alternatively, is much harder to source locally.” Crop diversity means unique and diverse varieties can be found in small markets that cannot be found elsewhere.

Why Buy Local? Aside from the freshness, diversity and safety of food grown locally, more of your money stays in the community.  This year alone over $55,000 of local farm produce has been purchased by the Food Conspiracy.  Buying local encourages smaller production and diversification of crops, keeping our topsoil rich, healthy and in place.  Knowing where your food comes from enriches our mealtime experience and connection to place.

 

 

Navigating Hemp-Derived CBD Laws by Zoe Rose Lambert

Hemp-derived CBD has recently gained a lot of attention, but there’s still a lingering cloud of uncertainty about the legal status of CBD products (tincture, topicals, etc). Hemp-derived CBD products can be shipped across state lines, to all 50 states and many countries. Businesses are having a hard time finding credit card processors that will work with them, because they are deemed high-risk. This has not stopped dozens of CBD companies popping up all over the country. A quick online search will offer many conflicting opinions on whether hemp extracts are legal to purchase in Arizona, in retail stores or online. This article is meant to be a brief overview on the legal status of CBD, and current legislation surrounding it.

An AZ state appeals court recently ruled that cannabis concentrates are not protected under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. This means that medical dispensaries throughout the state are no longer allowed to sell concentrated cannabis products, which makes up roughly 40% of medical cannabis market. The ruling makes no mention of hemp or CBD directly, but focuses entirely on cannabis extracts in concentrated forms (shatters, vapes, hashish, and edibles). While this ruling is already being challenged, it has filled the community with confusion about what this means for the future of medical cannabis and for CBD.

A Future for Hemp
In regards to hemp, Governor Doug Ducey very recently signed a law allowing a hemp pilot program to launch in Arizona in 2019. Soon hemp will be legal to grow and process into CBD extracts. In addition to CBD, hemp can be made into textiles, building materials, food products, plastic replacements, and much more! The FDA also very recently approved a CBD-based pharmaceutical drug called Epidiolex, which helps treat rare forms of epilepsy. The hemp-CBD industry is unsure of what this will mean in the long run, but CBD may now be recognized as having medical value.

On the federal level, hemp is receiving overwhelming bipartisan support. Hemp legalization is a part of the 2018 farm bill, which is currently undergoing reconciliation between the house and senate. Hopefully, within the next few months we will see sweeping progress and the start of a hemp boom in the United States. This will open the doors for more than just the CBD industry, many can benefit from the many uses of hemp!

This is by no means legal advice, and it’s always a good idea to do your own research before you buy CBD products. If you want to stay up to-date with the latest hemp legislation, visit https://hempsupporter.com/.

Zoe Rose Lambert is a Tucson native who has been working in the health and wellness industry for almost a decade. In 2017 she started Sonoran Apothecary, a website dedicated to teaching others about the hemp­derived CBD industry. She currently makes CBD ­infused topicals which are available at the Co-op, and teaches workshops about the benefits of CBD. Zoe will be teaching CBD & All Levels Yoga classes as well as CBD Edibles classes in September.

Five Fresh Things to Look for at the Co-op this Fall!

1. New Fresh Conspiracy Kitchen Summer Salads

Conspiracy Kitchen has been working hard in the kitchen this summer to revitalize our menu with fresh new offerings in the grab-and-go case and beyond.  This includes our continuing our commitment to offering local and seasonal ingredients.  New summer salads are Hunan Broccoli with Rice Salad, Edamame Mint Salad, Broccoli Cashew, Honey Mustard Potato, and Chicken Tarragon and Apple Salad.  These salads and more will rotate in the grab-and-go case. There is a delicious and distinct flavor profile associated with each of these salads that are sure to please lunch time visitors or serve as a fine accompaniment as side dish for dinner.

2. California Rolls

Fresh California rolls are also new to our grab-and-go line up–both veggie and spicy tuna.  All the fresh rolls are made in-house with organic veggies with no food coloring or additives in the pickled ginger or wasabi.  Veggies include red bell pepper, carrots, sprouts, cucumber and avocado.  Simple, natural and delicious made especially for you by us in the Conspiracy Kitchen. Your purchase of grab-and-go is guilt-free too as our sushi trays are made from plants too! They are a cutting edge bioplastic made by transforming the carbon in plants to lactic acid and are certified for industrial composting.

 

3. Fresh In-House Made Conspiracy Juice

In other fresh department news, we now make Conspiracy Juice in-house by our produce staff using only organic ingredients.  We have a basic green juice recipe with kale, apple, celery, lime, etc. We have a carrot juice and ginger juice to which we added apple for an extra sweetness on top of the natural sweetness of the carrot.  Lastly, the watermelon juice has been a favorite and a simple juice that people love. It is also really refreshing like an agua fresca on a hot and humid summer day.  It is watermelon, fresh mint and lime.  This watermelon mint juice will be available as long as the organic watermelons are available.  The team then plans to add a seasonal offering following seasonal availability of produce.

CBD Yoga and Mindy & Body Classes

At the Co-op, we believe along with a healthy food, whole health comes from care and attention to mind and body.  Some of the summer class offerings are by Zoe Rose Lambert of Sonoran Apothecary.  Zoe is a Tucson native who has been working in the health and wellness industry for almost a decade. Zoe’s yoga and hemp derived CBD class will combine all levels relaxed-pace yoga with a hemp derived CBD tincture that students will take internally.  She will also teach a CBD Edibles class where students will learn how to make CBD infused cooking oil to make their own edibles at home.  The Kadampa Meditation Center will offer a class on Healing Mind & Body Buddhist nun Gen Kelsang Lingpur will explain how we can take control of our own healing by relying on the special practices taught by Buddha.  Popular among locals, bread baker and Owner of Barrio Bread, Don Guerra will also teach a class on how purchasing Barrio Bread or making it at home supports a whole local ecosystem.  All classes are at the Co-op’s annex building on 7th Street in Historic Fourth Avenue. Tickets for classes can be purchased online or in the store on 4th Avenue.

5. Love Local – 10% off Local Produce, Grocery and Conspiracy Kitchen Made Foods

Food Conspiracy has made the commitment long ago to support local farmers and food producers from local honey to rangeland-fed beef and organic apples. We invest in the time it takes to order directly from many local businesses and have had relationships with farmers since the day one.  We also make great prepared foods with the same high quality organic ingredients you can find at the Co-op in our own kitchen.  We highlight all of these offerings at the height of the local summer harvest season with discounts for everyone on all locally grown produce, grocery and Conspiracy Kitchen made foods September 5-11.  Make your list and mark your calendar!

Food Conspiracy Co-op Helps Fund Fuerza Local in Tucson

It takes a village to help small local businesses succeed. In Tucson, the Food Conspiracy Co-op has stepped up to support Local First Arizona and Tucson’s local business community with a grant from the Cooperative Community Fund. Through the Cooperative Community Fund and other community-focused initiatives, the Food Conspiracy Co-op––a member-owned organic grocery store––will help fund the Fuerza Local business accelerator program, from which the first-ever South Tucson cohort will graduate at the end of June.

According to the Food Conspiracy Co-op, the Cooperative Community Fund “is the work of a collaborative effort initiated in the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation and forty food co-ops around the country.” Throughout the year, members, shoppers, and the co-op itself donates money to the Cooperative Community Fund to raise money for nonprofits in Tucson. In February, Food Conspiracy Co-op members voted to divide the funds between three local nonprofits – including Local First Arizona.

The Cooperative Community Fund is a testament to one of the Food Conspiracy Co-op’s main principles––Concern for Community––which states that, “We [Food Conspiracy Co-op] have a special responsibility to ensure the sustainable development of our community economically, socially, and culturally.” The money that Local First Arizona receives from this grant will help fund Fuerza Local, a Local First Arizona Foundation program now serving entrepreneurs in South Tucson that provides a structured business curriculum taught by experienced, bilingual professionals. “Graduates gain access to credit at fair market rates, which enables them to strengthen their businesses, sustain their families, and rebuild their neighborhoods,” says Southern Arizona Director Mike Peel.

The Fuerza Local Business Accelerator is a six-month training program offered at no cost to underserved Hispanic business owners. During the program, entrepreneurs learn some of the fundamentals to launch or develop their business, creating a firm foundation for their goals. Lessons on accounting, social media, marketing, and many others are taught completely in Spanish by industry professionals and experts. Fuerza Local now aims to create successful business owners in South Tucson, thus adding value to our local community and economy. “Fuerza Local” is a Spanish phrase that translates to “local strength,” referencing the idea that this program is meant to build community wealth and prosperity from the ground up. The program is graduating students in five communities across the state, now including Tucson. More than 260 business owners have already completed the program, and combined have generated more than $8.1 million in gross sales and borrowed more than $1.1 million.

Thanks to continued efforts made by the Food Conspiracy Co-op, Local First Arizona has more means to build a strong and vibrant local economy.

originally posted on the Local First Arizona blog, June 25th:

www.localfirstaz.com/news/food-conspiracy-co-op-helps-fund-fuerza-local-in-tucson 

2018 Elections Results Report

2018 Election Results Report

By John Glennon, Interim General Manager

Election results team 2018:

John Glennon, Chair

Kelly Watters

Tina Millette

Total Votes

194 total votes were cast during the month of March

Board of Directors Election Results:

Guru Das Bach finished the 2018 election with the most votes and will receive a 3 year term. Laura Klass and Kevin Hendricks finished the 2018 election in a tie. The Board assigned Kevin a 3 year term and Laura a 1 year term. All three Board candidates received very strong support.

Propositions Election Results:

Bylaw 8.4: Require approval to defer owner patronage rebates—Passes

Bylaw 4.3: Reduce Board candidate application submittal requirement—Passes

Bylaw 2.4: Maintain full ownership rights—Passes

Cooperative Community Fund Election Results:

These are the top three organizations, starting with the highest vote count:

BICAS

Northern Jaguar Project

Local First Arizona

 

Round Up Election Results:

These are the top three organizations, starting with the highest vote count:

Humane Borders

Native Seeds/SEARCH

Mariposas Sin Fronteras

The Results are In!

by Michael DeSantis, Board President

The Food Conspiracy Board of Directors set ambitious goals for this election cycle: celebrate more, include staff and empower members. We also made innovative changes to improve the process, collaborated closely with management and created a system to better plan, budget and implement next year’s election cycle. We reached out to our members and you responded – loud and clear. I’ll share some statistics with you in a moment, but since the annual meeting, I’ve asked staff, members and board members what they most enjoyed, personally. A pattern emerged: It was the celebration of everything we stand for and have worked towards for all these years, and the way we included our hard working staff in that celebration.

Of course, when you try new things, not all of them work out and we have quite a list of “lessons learned” to incorporate into next year’s event planning. I would like to share just one example here. Having never paid close attention to how many kids come to the Annual General Meeting, we were unsure if it would be worth making arrangements with “Playformance” (next door to Borderlands) for special fun for the kids. This year we did pay attention, and 17 kids showed up. So, some kind of special activities for the kids will be part of our future Annual General Meeting planning!

Personally, the most meaningful statistic here is that while two propositions received strong 2 to 1 support, one stood out with 3.5 to 1 support. It was the proposition addressing a potential barrier to running for a seat on the Food Conspiracy Board of Directors. I deeply want to be part of a functioning democracy, where all voices are heard, and our owner controlled co-op has always been a beacon of light for me, even when I’m disheartened by world events. This one statistic, along with the renewed strength and collaboration within our Co-op, gives me what I need to carry on with the good work of building democracy, right here in my own community. Thanks for making your voice heard!


The following is a summary. Thank you again for participating in the governance of your Food Conspiracy Co-op.

Total votes and attendance

194 total votes were cast during the month of March and 184 people attended our Annual General Meeting. (Looking at our 5 year average, the 2018 election cycle and annual meeting was a great success! It was #1 in votes cast and #2 in attendance.)

Board Candidate Results

All three candidates for Board of Directors received very strong support, with each receiving approximately 90% of all votes cast for candidates.

Proposition Results

  • Bylaw 8.4: Require approval to defer owner patronage rebates – Passes 2 to 1
  • Bylaw 4.3: Reduce Board candidate application submittal requirement – Passes 3.5 to 1
  • Bylaw 2.4: Maintain full ownership rights – Passes 2 to 1

Cooperative Community Fund Results

These are the top three organizations, starting with the highest vote count:

  1. BICAS
  2. Northern Jaguar Project
  3. Local First Arizona

Round Up Results

These are the top three organizations, starting with the highest vote count:

  1. Humane Borders
  2. Native Seeds/SEARCH
  3. Mariposas Sin Fronteras

 

 

 

 

 

Covilli Brand Organics: 100% Organic AND 100% Fair Trade

Covilli farm is located in the Empalme Valley near Guaymas, Sonora.

Food Conspiracy is happy to announce a new collaboration with Covilli Brand Organics, a produce farm that is both 100% organic AND 100% Fair Trade Certified.  We are currently carrying Covilli heirloom tomatoes, green beans, and Brussel sprouts in our produce section and plan to provide additional Covilli products in the future.

What is Fair Trade and why is it important that our Co-op carry Fair Trade products? As Covilli President, Alex Madrigal, explains in his informative YouTube presentation, Fair Trade is a system with its focus on the employee. He goes on to explain that Fair Trade has two main tenants:

  1. Fair Trade USA certifies that workers receive proper training and that the company fosters an atmosphere and culture of safety. It also guarantees workers’ rights so everyone in the operation understands that they are working fair hours and being paid a fair wage. Fair Trade USA also verifies that there are no child labor laws being compromised.
  2. Empowerment – information, resources, and decision making authority. We all know that the products we buy are connected to the livelihoods of others. Fair Trade provides us a way to support responsible companies and empower farmers and workers via the Fair Trade Premium, money earned that goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use – as they see fit – to improve their social, economic, and environmental conditions.

Covilli makes its own 100% organic compost, using a state-of-the-art worm house. Produce is grown from non-GMO, organic seeds.

Many produce shippers offer both Fair Trade and non-Fair Trade products. The consumer then decides where to spend the money and which to support.  But Covilli workers decided that it was in their best interest as a group to certify their entire line of products. Why? Madrigal explained, “It’s the right thing to do. There is no reason to apply Fair Trade to some of our products and not to others when we can bring more benefits, faster, to our workers and bring awareness to consumers on how we are all key players in creating a more fair food system. We vote with our dollar.” Covilli took a chance, having faith that the consumer would not “opt out” in favor on non-Fair Trade products. And it’s paid off. In the first 20 months after becoming Fair Trade Certified, Covilli received over half a million dollars in Premiums, now being invested in four projects for its work force: a medical transportation unit, health center, meal service and dining facility, and day care.

Covilli worker empowerment is guided by its Fair Trade Committee, called Nuchi Sansekan or “All Together” in Nahuatl indigenous language. It’s a democratic system allowing the workers themselves to elect their representatives and have a direct say in how its Premiums are invested.  The workers have control of the bank account containing the Premiums, not the company. It is the workers, after all, who know best what is needed in their community.

When we think of Fair Trade, we might think of coffee, tea, chocolate, or bananas, products that come to us via a long distribution line. In this case, we have an opportunity to impact the global food economy by buying food grown by a community in neighboring Sonora, Mexico with certified organic distribution warehouses in Southern Arizona.

More information on Covilli, its products, and initiatives can be found at its website www.covilli.com.  You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Their YouTube page has some great videos and their website lists suggested recipes that use their produce!

Learn more about Fair Trade Certification at www.fairtradecertified.org.

Sown Together, Grown Together: a self-guided School Garden Tour

According to a recent State of Tucson’s Food System report by the UA’s Center for Regional Food Studies, there are currently 57 school gardens across the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) out of 86 TUSD school sites. These gardens have far-reaching impacts on the educational experiences of the thousands of TUSD school children.  One student from the Tucson High School club says “for me, Garden Club is the safest place in the whole school, as well as my favorite place to be. High school is extremely stressful. The garden allows me to escape, I can’t stress about how much homework I have when I’m outside digging, chasing chickens and eating carrots with my friends.”

Across 24 low-income schools and 3 community gardens in Tucson, the University of Arizona Community School and Garden Program (CSGP) harnesses the teaching potential of a garden by placing undergraduate and graduate students training in the basics of sustainable agriculture as interns. The interns support the installation, maintenance, and enhancement of these public gardens, and assist site coordinators, teachers, and K-12 students in the use of these outdoor spaces as an extension of the classroom. You are invited to a self-guided tour of these school gardens sponsored in partnership with the Food Conspiracy Co-op, Tucson’s community-owned grocery store open to the public featuring local, organic and natural foods and celebrating 47 years serving the Tucson community.  Conspiracy Garden at the Co-op is newly activated outdoor space in partnership with TUSD’s Community Transition Program and neighboring exceptional education students from Tucson High School.  Mark Reynolds, a teacher on staff says, “Community Transition Programs is grateful to have been invited to work with the Conspiracy Garden to help teach our students employability skills through gardening and an appreciation for ecology.”

On Saturday, March 3rd, from 9am – 12pm, CSGP and the Food Conspiracy Co-op are partnering to host the Sown Together, Grown Together School Garden Tour. For this self-guided tour, experience firsthand the diversity and richness of school and community gardens across the city. Come enjoy exciting new developments such as the cutting-edge agrivoltaic installations (gardens developed under the solar panels) at Manzo Elementary and Rincon University High School, the new greenhouse at J.B. Wright Elementary, and aquaponics system at Manzo Elementary.  Tickets are $5-20 a person on sliding scale with proceeds benefitting the CSGP.  Purchase tickets here.    Come let the students be your guide to these 12 exciting and innovative spaces while supporting the CSGP!

The Food Conspiracy Looks Back, Leaps Forward

The Food Conspiracy Looks Back, Leaps Forward
Michael DeSantis – President of FC Board of Directors

Your co-op has experienced a lot of change in the last year, and it has been invigorating! We have new members and leadership on both the management team and our board of directors, and we are working together in new, exciting ways. We are solving vexing problems and answering burning questions such as: “Is the Co-op relocating?” – No, and “Can we make healthy and organic food more convenient?” – Absolutely. To understand and be part of the renewal that is happening at the Food Conspiracy right now, we invite you to take another good look at your co-op, where it came from and where it is going. The Food Conspiracy is a great food store, and it is truly exceptional, too.

What makes our coop different from our competitors is our mission. It does not include maximizing profits. What it does include is a deep commitment to our members, community and to the values we share. Unlike our more conventional corporate counterparts in the natural foods community, we exist as a member-owned Co-operative Corporation. Our members not only own the co-op, but they also have the power to control its direction. This allows us tremendous freedoms and the ability to affect real change in our community. Along with providing whole, organic foods in an environment that is humane and fulfilling to both work and shop in, our core values include:

• Social justice – throughout our community and all the way down to the farmer in the field
• Diversity and human rights – openness and integrity in all of our relationships
• Healthy, sustainable ecology – through a peaceful, cooperative effort

Don’t forget we started as a political group. The Food Conspiracy name is not a marketing angle. To quote Paul Rubin, a FCC founder, we moved into a store occupied by a group “that fought for decent housing, accessible and affordable health care, empowering of youth, access to healthy food, and counseling for draft resisters to the Vietnam War” and The Food Conspiracy was founded “so people did not have to rely on profit driven supermarkets and their less than healthy food options”. That was 46 years ago. We don’t print pamphlets in the back anymore, but we are still in that store on 4th Avenue, and we are still passionate about our mission.

The Food Conspiracy leadership is re-committing to all that we stand for, we are fully staffed and energized, and we are developing our long-term vision of what the Food Conspiracy will be in the years to come. You own this co-op and we plan to provide convenient, meaningful opportunities to make your voice heard.

Here are a few ways you, as a member, can help guide the co-op in the right direction:

• Participate in a member engagement workshop – work with other members to let us know what you envision for the Food Conspiracy going forward.
• Attend Board of Directors meetings – see how it works, run for a seat, help develop the vision and make it reality.
• Attend the Annual Meeting – meet the new candidates and current Board of Directors, vote, participate and let us hear your voice, and most importantly, come celebrate with us!

This spring’s Annual Meeting promises to be a powerful opportunity to get engaged, and it will be a great party, too. Everything you need to know will be on our website and in our newsletter. Come be part of your community. Join us, and help the Food Conspiracy thrive, now and into the future.