We have new Wellness products at the Co-op!

In alignment with our commitment to providing access to safe, healthy, sustainably-produced products, as well as being conscious of social, ecological and economic impacts, Food Conspiracy is adding a few new product lines to our Wellness department.

Alaffia: Fair Trade Skin Care

Alaffia was founded as a way to empower communities in West Africa through the fair trade of shea butter. The Alaffia Shea Butter Cooperative in Togo, West Africa handcrafts the indigenous raw ingredients, and Alaffia Sustainable Skin Care in Olympia, Washington creates the finished products. Proceeds from sales of their products are then returned to communities in Togo to fund community empowerment and gender equity through school projects, women’s equality and health care, bicycles for education and reforestation. For more information please visit Alaffia’s website.

Nordic Naturals: Pure and Great Tasting Omega Oils

Nordic Naturals’ mission is to deliver pure and great-tasting omega fish oils that promote optimal health and wellness. Through sustainability, science + research, education, and social responsibility they initiate standards of integrity that apply not only to their product line but to all of their business practices worldwide. As an industry leader and innovator, Nordic Naturals strives to lead individuals to a better quality of life while maintaining a deep respect for the environment. For more information please visit Nordic Naturals’ website.

Trace Minerals Research (coming next month)

For over 35 years, Trace Minerals Research branded products have been recognized around the world as the pioneer of ionic trace mineral products that have supported consumers in living healthy lives. During that time, they have remained committed to six core values: quality, service, innovation + product development, education, leadership, and loyalty + fairness. They stand by these principles and believe they will help us improve the world we live in. For more information please visit Trace Minerals Research’s website.

Street Feast!

Community Food Bank’s Youth Farm Project:
Takin’ Food and Art to the Streets!

July 15th from 7-9pm, on 7th st. between 4th ave. and 5th ave.

A Community Celebration With:
~A unique and delectable Local Foods Dinner, supplied by local growers, and prepared by Café 54.
~Art Performances, Displays, and Presentations on Food Systems and Food Justice by the Youth Farm Project’s Street Team members.

The Youth Farm Project’s summer Street Team is a three week intensive program for youth ages 15-20. It is an in depth investigation into sustainable agriculture, food systems, and food justice. Street team members will be visiting many sites throughout Tucson and southern Arizona and using what they learn to create art that will entertain, enthrall, and educate our community. A delectable local foods dinner will be served in a community-style atmosphere in beautiful downtown Tucson. Dinner will be prepared by community chefs, using local ingredients which support and benefit our Arizona farmers. The art performances and exhibitions are free and open to anyone interested in celebrating youth empowerment and food in our community.

This celebration of food and art is brought to you by the Youth Farm project, a program of the Community Food Resource Center, a department of the Community Food Bank. Food Conspiracy Co-op is proud to be a partner in this event.

Dinner = $25
Art = Free!

Tickets Available At:

Antigone Books.
411 N 4th Ave
Tucson, AZ 85705

Or

Call the Youth Farm Project
520-820-4513

Street Feast Flyer

4th Avenue Merchants’ Sale

July 31st
Street-wide savings along 4th Avenue. At Food Conspiracy Co-op, buy one Avenue Deli item and get the second half off*
(*second item of equal or lesser value)

First Friday Sale

Join us for First Fridays this summer!
Members save 10% on all purchases. New members sign up and receive a $10 gift card. Plus, from 6 to 8 p.m. enjoy live music and free food from The Avenue Deli.

Featured artists
August 6: Salvador Duran
September 3: Balkan Spirit

2010 Election Results Announced

Long time members are probably used to an election cycle that begins with voting in January and ends with an election results announcement in the March newsletter. This year, we did things a bit differently in an effort to adhere more closely to the election schedule that our bylaws spell out.  For the 2010 election, balloting took place from February 1st through the Annual Meeting on March 6th. Election results were announced at the Annual Meeting and then published in the April newsletter.

This new schedule worked well for several reasons, the most important of which is that it increased voter turnout with 11 additional ballots cast at the Annual Meeting of owners. This year 70 ballots were cast making this the highest voter turnout election since our 2006 election when owners were asked to approve a switch to a patronage rebate system and increase the total equity investment for memberships.

And so, without further ado, we are very please to announce that this year, 67 owners voted to approve our new bylaws. This 96% approval rating means that the co-op is now officially operating under the updated version of our bylaws. These new bylaws can be viewed at the Co-op on the bulletin board next to the ramp that leads into the grocery and bulk areas of the store.

We are also very please to announce that Megan Hartman, Linda Laev, and Cody Witham have been elected to serve on the Co-op’s Board. All three of these individuals have shown great dedication to our Co-op and I know they will continue to provide leadership to our organization in the future.

At the Annual Meeting we also announced the results of the Co-op Community Fund grant elections. This year, we are proud to be able to support the following organizations with a CCF Grant: BICAS, Native Seeds/SEARCH, Sky Island Alliance, Tucson Village Farm and Watershed Management Group. Each of these deserving organizations received a check for $352. To learn more about any of them, please check out the February 2010 issue of Community News in our newsletter archive online at www.foodconspiracy.org/events/newsletters/.

Donating to the Cooperative Community Fund is a great way to stretch your dollars and make a long term difference. At the Annual Meeting, the Co-op’s General Manager Ben announced the George Milan Round Up, a new program that will allow shoppers to round up their purchases at the register and donate the change from each purchase to the Co-op Community Fund. During the month of April the Co-op will be matching any rounded up donations that come in so come on in and tell your cashier you’d like to “round up.”

Thanks so much to all the members who participated in this election process and to the volunteers who helped to count ballots. Co-ops thrive on community participation.

Bylaw Changes Proposed

[A copy of the proposed bylaws can be downloaded here and at the end of this article]

By Paula Wilk, Board President

The Co-op is on the move:

  • Sales over $3 million during the fiscal year ending last September 30th, up 9.5% from last year
  • Sales high enough to keep our discount from our primary grocery supplier for all 4 quarters of last year – a first!
  • More locally-produced products – including produce, olive oil, beans and raw milk
  • Sponsorship of local farm tours and testifying at a USDA hearing in support of local growers (see www.foodconspiracy.org)
  • Support of community sustainability efforts, including the City Chickens Coop Tour, Solar Rock, and regular contributions to Tucson non-profits.

The Co-op Board is proud of the hard work and successes of Co-op staff and volunteers. The progress made in the last few years confirms our potential to grow and be of greater service to our community.  This offers opportunities for Co-op owners who wish to participate.

Do you want to help shape your Co-op’s future? A Co-op election is right around the corner.  Not only are there several board vacancies, but this election owners will decide whether to make proposed changes to the current bylaws.

It has been a couple of years since the Co-op gave up its Arizona non-profit status to reincorporate as a Minnesota cooperative.  With the reincorporation came a new set of bylaws.   Now that the Co-op has had a chance to work with these bylaws, it is a good time to consider possible changes and clarifications and to simplify and add flexibility where feasible.

Over the summer a committee worked with the Co-op’s attorney to review the current bylaws. Initially the focus was on operational and administrative issues, but all bylaws were examined. In October the board voted to submit proposed bylaw amendments to the owners at the 2010 election.

In order to change the bylaws, at least 50 owners must vote on the bylaws and a majority of those voting must vote in favor of amending the bylaws.  This means that nothing happens unless owners make it happen.

Please read the proposed bylaw amendments and the accompanying explanations for each change. Then let us know if you have questions or think that something is unclear.  Please also remember to vote in the coming election.  Your vote can make a difference.

The proposed changes are primarily of a housekeeping nature. Some changes are intended to reflect and support some of the Co-op’s continuing practices.  Examples of these include:

  • Prohibiting illegal and arbitrary discrimination, while recognizing that an action claimed to be discriminatory may be permissible if legal and reasonable or necessary in the specific circumstances;
  • Reinforcing the Co-op’s practice of allowing owners to vote by mail and at the store, rather than limiting voting to persons who attend the annual meeting;
  • Clarifying that ownership participation is limited to members of a common household or those associated with an owner organization;
  • Requiring, in keeping with the Co-op’s current practice, appointed members of the board of directors to run for the board at the first annual meeting following appointment;

Other changes are intended to eliminate requirements which are not legally necessary and have proved inefficient or burdensome to administer.  Examples of these changes include:

  • Eliminating a thirty- day advance written notice requirement to suspend participation rights of an owner who fails to meet the share purchase obligation or patronage requirement.  Advance notice constitutes a significant administrative burden, and is unnecessary because an owner can regain full rights upon paying the amount an owner previously agreed upon or by resuming patronage at the store;
  • Eliminating stock certificates, a vestige of a bygone time.  In our digital age, stock certificates are cumbersome and an unnecessary cost; and
  • Eliminating allocation of net losses to owners, and instead requiring net losses to be carried back or forward in accordance with their patronage or nonpatronage character.

There are some changes that extend or modify current provisions.  Examples of these are:

  • Providing notice of the kind of conduct that might be cause for expulsion;
  • Allowing the board of directors to change the fiscal year (currently running from October1, through September 30);
  • Preventing any significant action from being taken by a small number of owners without notice to all owners;
  • Eliminating “fullest extent” indemnification language, which might be subject to attempted misuse;
  • Clarifying how board meetings are called;
  • Providing that a minority of directors (3) may refer an action of potentially serious consequence to a vote of owners;
  • Requiring that all Co-op operations be combined into a single unit for purposes of allocating patronage rebates; and
  • Making deferred patronage rebate amounts subject to offset by assessments resulting from tax audit adjustments.

These are most, but not all of the changes. The bylaws with all proposed changes noted, together with an explanation for each change, are available in several locations:

  1. As a downloadable pdf;
  2. Posted on the bulletin board at the Co-op at the entry to the grocery section
  3. In the February 2010 Newsletter.

What if an owner has questions?  Questions may be submitted by email to Outreach Coordinator, Torey Ligon.  In addition, I will be at the Co-op on Sunday, Feb. 1st from 11 to 1 p.m. to answer questions about the bylaw changes. And questions may be brought to the Meet the Candidates Forum on Saturday, Feb. 6th from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association office at 434 E 9th St. (SW corner of 9th St. & 3rd Ave.) Please note that the Merchants Association office has moved and it is now several blocks south of the Co-op.

Again, please let us know if you have questions or want to discuss the proposed changes.  And, please vote – it’s an easy way that you can help your Co-op make good decisions, and we need your help.

Co-op Annual Meeting Celebration

Save the date…

The Co-op’s Annual Meeting Celebration will take place on Saturday, March 6th, from 2 to 5:30 pm.

The meeting will take place at St. Mark’s Church at 3809 E 3rd St (between Dodge and Alvernon).

A delicious organic dinner from the Avenue Deli will be served along with musical entertainment from The Out of Kilters, a keynote address by Kimber Lanning of Local First Arizona, an annual report from the Co-op’s Board and a presentation of the Co-op Community Fund grants.

This event is free for all Co-op members and members are enthusiastically encouraged to attend. Children are welcome and childcare will be provided from 2 p.m. until dinner.

Be one of the first 25 people to arrive and get a free heirloom tomato start. Arrive by 2:45 p.m. and get entered in a free raffle to win a solar oven ($300 value).

No Co-op Board Meeting

The regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Food Conspiracy Co-op Board is canceled this month to accommodate a national Co-op meeting taking place in Tucson on the same evening.

Meetings will resume with the March 3rd meeting.

Co-op Outreach Coordinator testifies before USDA panel

On October 15th, Co-op Outreach Coordinator, Torey Ligon testified before a USDA panel in opposition to a proposed new set of food safety protocols for leafy greens.

————————————————————————————-

Read about the trial in an article on Southwest Farm Press (an industry trade magazine):

http://southwestfarmpress.com/news_archive/leafy-greens-1105/

Read The Organic Consumer Association’s position:

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_19176.cfm

Read Ligon’s recap in the Co-op’s monthly newsletter:

Community Connections
By Torey Ligon

In October, I spent a day in Yuma, Arizona. In spite of the endless rows of lettuce and citrus trees, the strip malls, and the heat, my trip was quite interesting. I drove to Yuma to testify before a USDA panel about a proposed new national food safety standard for producers of leafy greens (a category that includes lettuce, spinach, arugula, cabbage, cilantro, kale, chard and more).

The proposal the USDA is considering, known as the National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, is based on standards that were voluntarily adopted by large growers of leafy greens in California and Arizona after the e-coli outbreak in spinach in 2006. To counter concerns from retailers and restaurants that leafy greens were unsafe, these growers established a series of metrics designed to provide some guarantee about the safety of their products. The new protocols included things like mandatory testing of soil and water between harvests, and buffer zones surrounding all crops. For large growers, these new standards were fairly easy to adopt and the cost of adoption could be spread over a large volume of product sales. It can also be argued that these standards did make conventionally grown, nationally distributed leafy greens safer.

While nearly everyone can agree that improving food safety for consumers is a worthwhile goal, there is disagreement about how these improvements should be approached. The proposal currently being considered by the USDA left me with some serious concerns. My primary objection to the proposal is that it does not adequately safeguard small farmers from onerous food safety protocols designed for large growing operations. Some of the current metrics being used in California also seem to be at odds with established organic farming techniques. The two metrics sited above, for example, are definitely geared toward large growers of conventional crops. For a farmer growing 1,000 acres of lettuce during the winter who then lets his fields lay fallow during the summer, soil and water testing between harvests is manageable. For a farmer practicing crop rotation on a small 30 acre field, harvests may be ongoing throughout the year, making testing between each harvest both time consumer and expensive. In addition, that small farmer is likely to plant several crops together or in close proximity to each other to take advantage of the beneficial insects and soil nutrients that one plant offers to another. Adding buffer zones between crops undermines a major tenet of many people’s organic growing philosophies. Similarly, many organic farmers have recognized benefit from allowing wildlife zones along the edges of their fields to attract beneficial birds and insects.

During my cross examination at the hearing, a member of the USDA panel asked me if I realized that this agreement was voluntary for growers and distributors. I do. My concern is that this ‘voluntary’ agreement may turn out to be a de facto order for farms once their distributors sign onto it. Under the proposal, any distributor of leafy greens who signs onto the agreement may only work with farms who have also signed onto the agreement and who are in compliance with the established metrics. While the very smallest of farms may get by selling directly to consumers, there is a category of mid-sized farmers that must work with distributors to have access to a large enough market, but who may not be able to meet the demands of these new standards. Food Conspiracy’s main produce distributor works primarily with small to mid-sized organic farms in California. If our distributor gets pressure from a larger retail account to sign onto this agreement, they might be forced to drop some of their smallest farms in favor of larger ones who can comply with the metrics. In this case, not only will small farmers lose, but so will our customers.

While small farms must concern themselves with food contamination, recent national food borne illness outbreaks did not originate on small farms or in small packaging facilities. This brings me to my fundamental objection to this agreement; these standards are most compatible with and may push farmers toward monoculture farming on large pieces of land using conventional growing methods. This style of farming relies on heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers to maximize yields of a particular crop during a specific season so that the same land may be used to grow the same crop the following year. In my opinion, these very growing techniques are not compatible with increased food safety and they are certainly not compatible with a sustainable farming philosophy.

The experience of testifying before the USDA was interesting for me in a number of ways. One of the important things that it highlighted for me, however, had nothing to do with food safety. As I drove home from Yuma, I felt grateful for our Co-op and for co-ops around the country who act not just as purchasers of food from small sustainable farmers, but also as advocates for them in a food system that is designed by and for large multi-national corporations. The reason that co-ops have chosen to be an advocate for small farmers, is that at the most fundamental level, a co-op acts as an agent for its membership and the members of food co-ops around this country have always been pioneers in the push toward a more healthy and sustainable food system. I am grateful to work for the members of Food Conspiracy Co-op because our members, collectively, are supporting an alternative food system that connects the smallest growers and producers with people in their region.

Read Ligon’s testimony to the USDA and other testimony presented at the hearing:

View Testimony

Profit over Organics: Nation’s Largest Dairy Marketer Sets Up Competing Market Category

Dean Foods Creates “Natural” Dairy Products Using Conventional Milk

From: The Cornucopia Institute

BOULDER, CO:  A division of Dean Foods, the organic industry’s largest
namebrand manufacturer, rocked the organic world this week when it was
reported that the agribusiness giant intended to create an entirely new,
lower-priced, product category, “natural dairy,” aimed squarely at pirating
away organic customers.  If successful Dean, the largest milk processor in
the United States, will add to the pain many organic farmers are feeling due
to slowing sales caused by the economic downturn.

For the first time the Horizon namebrand will market products that are not
certified organic.  Horizon has had the highest dollar volume of any organic
industry brand.

Dean’s WhiteWave-Morningstar division, which controls the Horizon, Organic Cow, Silk, and other specialty brands and is based in Longmont, Colorado, has launched their “alternative to the organic label” at a time when sales in the industry have flattened after averaging 20% per year growth rates for more than a decade.  Recent articles in the New York Times, Boston Globe, and the Associated Press have profiled falling prices and production caps now being placed on farms producing organic milk-with many of these family farmers now facing financial ruin.

“This move by Dean Foods comes at a time when organic dairy farmers around the country are in financial crisis due to a glut of milk,” said Mark A.
Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute. “Responsible participants in this industry are using their marketing
strength to ramp up organic demand.  Dean has instead chosen to profiteer at the expense of the hard-working family farmers who have built this
industry.”

This move comes on the heels of the recent decision by Dean/WhiteWave to
switch almost the entire product offerings of their Silk soymilk line to
“natural” (conventional) soybeans.  Many consumers and retailers have
expressed outrage when the switch to conventional soybeans was quietly made in Silk products without lowering the price.  Industry critics have referred to the move as “sheer profiteering.”

“They are handling the introduction of natural products under the Horizon
label a little bit differently than they handled their switch to conventional soybeans sourcing in Silk,” Kastel stated.  “With their soy products the appearance of their packaging and UPC product codes remained the same.”

Many retailers and consumers around the country, who had been longtime loyal customers, were outraged to find that their favorite organic brand had been switched to conventional, somewhat clandestinely.  This has caused some retailers to now drop the Silk products.

Sara Loveday, a marketing communications manager at WhiteWave told the
Natural Foods Merchandiser, an industry trade publication:  “We’ve only been organic in the past and the majority of our business will remain organic. These are our first natural offerings in the marketplace, and Horizon always tries to provide great-tasting products for moms and for families.”

The Dean/WhiteWave spokesperson continued by saying the natural Horizon products would be “easier on the pocketbook.”

“Many consumers do not understand green terminology,” said Suzanne Shelton, whose firm, the Shelton Group, just released a national survey examining consumer perception about food labeling.  “They prefer the word ‘natural’ over the term ‘organic,’ thinking organic is more of an unregulated
marketing buzzword that means the product is more expensive.  In reality,
the opposite is true: ‘Natural’ is the unregulated word. Organic foods must
meet government standards to be certified as such,” Shelton concluded.

“It is apparent to us that moves toward “natural” dairy products offerings
will have a negative impact on the organic category,” said Jack Lazor a
certified organic dairy farmer from Westfield, Vermont.  “It is now more
important than ever that consumers of organic dairy products understand the benefits of organic foods and farming.  We need to cultivate meaningful
relationships with our customers so that we can cut through the veil of
corporate greed where natural is easily mistaken for organic.”

Lazor and his wife, Anne, widely respected as one of the first organic dairy
farmers in the United States, founded Butterworks Yogurt in 1984, a leading
organic brand in the Northeast.

Organic food has grown from a small niche to a successful $24 billion market category fueled by consumers desire for a safer and more nutritious food supply.

“When the first Horizon natural products are introduced-a yogurt aimed at
children and single-serve milk-they will promote them as being without
growth hormones.  But Dean Foods will not be able to mention that the
products are produced without pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and other
drugs, and genetically modified feed crops, or that the cows are required to
graze in pastures rather than confined to factory farm feedlots.  These are
all factors that truly differentiate organic production from natural/conventional agricultural and livestock production,” explained
Kastel.

In a letter today to Dean Foods’ chairman Greg Engel, The Cornucopia
Institute, widely recognized as the nation’s preeminent organic farming
industry watchdog, suggested that in order to preserve the integrity and
shareholder value in two of the nation’s leading organic brands, Horizon and
Silk, that the corporation reconsider its new tactical direction.  It questioned why a company, after substantial investments, would want to
alienate a market demographic that has proven, over the years, to be highly
dedicated and passionate.

“Dean Foods has just declared war on the organic industry.  Although the
first shot has been fired it will not be the last,” Kastel lamented.  We
hope they will reevaluate this ill-advised product launch.”

———————————
The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit farm policy research
group, is dedicated to the fight for economic justice for the family-scale
farming community.  Their Organic Integrity Project acts as a corporate and
governmental watchdog assuring that no compromises to the credibility of
organic farming methods and the food it produces are made in the pursuit of
profit.  The majority of its funding comes from individual members, mostly
family-scale organic farmers.