Friday, September 28, 2007

Progress Report

Hardly a week goes by without someone stopping to ask me how the co-op is going. My answer is sometimes complicated, sometimes simple, depending upon how much of the big picture I decide to share. Yet, as I have been thinking about the bigger picture, what needs to happen before our doors are open, I realized that I needed a visual way to see where we're at. Using the table of contents from the How to Start a Food Co-op manual, I'll illustrate where we are and where we need to go. Below you'll see the nine steps to starting a food co-op (with links to the relevant chapters in the manual, if you're curious).
II. From Talk to Food: Nine steps to starting a food co-op
1. Gather background
2. Organize
3. Research feasibility
4. Review findings and vote to incorporate
5. Recruit members
6. Planning and financing
7. Secure financing
8. Begin operations
9. Open the doors!

Currently, we're working on Step 3: Research Feasibility. To be honest, we've been working on step three since June when we began working on the community survey. Since then we have administered the survey (collecting data from over 315 participants!) and have been working on gathering data for our feasibility study. This work is time consuming and, in my opinion, not nearly as much fun as brainstorming what the co-op will look like and what it will carry once the doors are open. Yet it is necessary work. Without it, we cannot show you, the community and future co-op members, that the co-op will succeed when the doors are open.
We, the Steering Committee, set an ambitious goal of opening the co-op in 2008. To reach that goal we are going to need some help. Our Steering Committee is looking for a few additional members, three or four of you, to join us in envisioning what the Grassroots Community Co-op will look like and how it will function. We meet every other week for an hour to dialog and discuss what needs to get done. If you have a little space in your schedule and would like to share your time in this worthy pursuit, we'd love to hear from you.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Community Survey

We're very excited to announce that a group of individuals in the greater Holland area is opening the Grassroots Community Co-op in 2008. Cooperatives (co-ops) are member-owned and member-run non-profit organizations that are committed to serving their members as well as the general public. We are committed to bringing you local, natural, and organic foods at affordable prices while running a business that values the environment, local producers, and our community.

Please help us by spending a few minutes answering this brief questionnaire. It is important for us to have your input as we plan for the future. When you are finished, please forward this link along to your friends and family that live in the area. As our name implies, we can only accomplish the goal of creating a co-op through a grassroots effort.

Thank you for your time!

Monday, July 23, 2007


"In a world where we have lost complete touch with where our food comes from, it's good to get that connection back, that understanding of what it takes to grow and produce food responsibly. For some reason, food just tastes better when you appreciate it." (From the website)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Becoming a Locavore

Well, I'm doing my best to become a "locavore"; that is, I'm making an effort to eat only foods grown or harvested within a 100 mile radius of where I live. That means eating seasonally or canning for off-season, not indulging in some foods that Michigan/Indiana/Illinois soil does not provide (such as peanuts, olives and more), but mostly, it means enjoying every bit of food that goes in my mouth. Why is it so much more enjoyable? Here's the short list:
  • Good for the Earth: my food is not "made of fossil fuels", as in, they do not travel far to get to my plate. Also, because it does not have to travel as far, the farmers I get food from are using natural and/or organic processes: veggies from the CSA I joined are harvested the day I pick them up (or I harvest them myself) and the meat I eat is either picked up fresh the day it is processed, or frozen fresh for later.
  • Good for Me: I have had seasonal allergies for a long time. Eating food grown in our local foodshed means I'm essentially "self-immunizing" by putting some of the local pollens and allergens directly into my body - honey is especially good (perhaps Heather can shed more light on this aspect!).

    Also, I was one of those kids raised on processed foods, then college cafeteria food (yuck!). My mother thought corn and potatoes were vegetables and that meatloaf was a staple. Organic...what?!? We did grow our own tomatoes in the summer and boy were they good! I could eat them like apples. Anyway, I digress. What I mean to say is this is also an attempt at becoming healthier and retrain my body to LOVE food that will nourish it and keep it in balance.
  • Good for You: By supporting local farmers and growers, my [limited] funds are supporting the local economy, keeping jobs in MI and thereby making our community stronger (we don't want more people leaving Michigan because "the economy is bad" - how many times do you hear that a day!)

So, I want to say "if I can do it, anybody can" because I was certainly not geared for this my whole life, but am excited by the challenge that it presents in my daily life. Looking through recipe books is now more fun than ever! So, I challenge you all to join me in becoming a locavore. Peace, Mandy Creighton

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Co-op as Community

This morning as my kids and I walked through the farmer's market, we chatted with several different friends who we ran into while we each gathered local produce and plants. I was reminded of how much our farmer's market has become a part of the local community structure during the months that it is open.

A few months ago, I read the following description of author Cecile Andrews' local grocery store that she wrote about in The Circle of Simplicity. It's the role that I hope the Grassroots Community Co-op will fill some day in our community on a daily basis.

"For many years we've lived in a neighborhood that has a little grocery store. It's a part of a larger co-op system, so it has lots of organic foods and bulk items. You know all the checkers by name and sometimes they even help coordinate your shopping. It was not unusual for my husband to stop by the store right after I had been there. The checker would tell him, "Oh, Cecile already got that." Or if I was in the store when Paul came in, they would get on the loudspeaker and announce, "Cecile, Paul's here in the store."

And you can walk to a neighborhood store. When you walk, you not only get exercise, save on pollution and car expenses, you also get to visit with neighbors along the way. Having a neighborhood store certainly improves my social life. I don't think I've ever made a trip to that little store without running into a friend. I can have a great social life on Saturday night just hanging out by the produce."

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Their history, our future

As I was looking for ideas for logos to accompany our new name, Grassroots Community Co-op, I came across a page on the history of the co-op my family was a part of starting in the late-70's.  What struck me was how similar their goals for starting the Linden Hills Co-op were to the goals that we have for wanting a storefront food co-op.

The co-op was the brainchild of long-time Linden Hills resident Carol Vaubel. In the mid-70s, she was the chairperson of the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council (LHiNC). "My impetus for doing this was two things: the community aspect of it and the foods—having less processed, less packaged, whole food available at a reasonable price," said Vaubel recently. After floating the idea and receiving positive feedback, Vaubel set about turning it into a reality. For approximately nine months leading up to March 1976, an enormous volunteer effort went into the opening of the co-op.

The rest of the article includes some interesting details regarding the amount of money that it took them to get going (about $2,000, but it was 1976), the fact that volunteers built all of the shelving and bins, and the fact that they now have nearly 4,000 members and annually take in about $7 million (yes, a true storefront food co-op making $7,000,000 a year!). 

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Calling all artists!

We're looking for some help in designing a logo for the co-op with our new name, Grassroots Community Co-op. If you have some time that you'd be willing to volunteer, please contact us.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What's in a name?

It's a question that my wife and I have been asking a lot lately as we prepare for the arrival of our third child in the coming weeks. It is also a question that the storefront co-op visionaries began to discuss at our meeting this past Tuesday.

We would like to have a name in place to help folks recognize us as we grow and evolve into a storefront food cooperative. I, personally, also feel that it would be good to get away from the word "Holland" in our current title to show that we would like to serve more of the surrounding areas as well.

The visionaries are looking for your ideas and feedback as well. Here's a list that we brainstormed so far. Many of us have "issues" with at least one of these, but for right now we're not crossing any off the list. If you have a name that you'd like to suggest, either e-mail us or leave a comment below and I'll add it to the list.
  • Mother Earth's Marketplace
  • The Earth's Marketplace
  • Full Circle Marketplace
  • Conscious Corners Marketplace
  • Macatawa Food Co-op
  • The Marketplace
  • Hollander's Co-op
  • People's Food Co-op
  • West Michigan Community Market
  • El Cooperativo
  • Grassroots Community Co-op

Monday, May 7, 2007

Cleaning Help Wanted

We're looking for cleaning help to transform this storage building at the former New Holland Brewery site into a distribution center for local buying clubs. We see this as a first step towards the creation of a storefront food co-op here in Holland.

Join us:
Saturday, May 19, 2007
9:00 AM
205 Fairbanks Ave. (8th & Fairbanks)


Friday, April 13, 2007

Opinion: Whole Foods, we are not

All right, I'll admit it. I have a bumper sticker fetish. I am always interested in the way a bumper sticker can sum up a position in a few well-chosen words. In a word, they're simple. Last week I had an experience that found me writing a bumper sticker that I'll one day create.

I was traveling home from my visiting my parents in Green Bay, WI. I hit the north suburbs of Chicago about noon Central time (one o'clock, to my stomach) and the apple and gorp I had eaten a few hours earlier had worn off. I decided that I would hop off the Edens Expressway close to where my wife and I had gone to college. I knew there would be a few of the usual fast-food options, Mc D's, Subway, Starbucks (none of which appealed). Then I recalled that my family had mentioned that Whole Foods had just opened a new store in the neighborhood. Lo and behold, there it was right on the corner at the end of the exit ramp. I figured it would be a good opportunity to grab a healthier sandwich -- and check out the mainstream health food scene (I've sometimes described my favorite co-op as a miniature Whole Foods or what we are trying to establish as similar to Whole Foods).

I wasn't prepared for what I was about to enter. I hadn't been in a Whole Foods since we moved from Chicago about ten years ago. It was sensory overload to the extreme. Granted, it was beautiful. Black shelving and lots of stained wood trim, with stainless steel accents. Hand-lettered signs above beautiful produce. Any amazing natural product that you could imagine. After several minutes of weaving through the aisles looking for a simple sandwich (there were multiple deli/grill areas, each with its own specialty), I was headed to the checkout with a $6.49 sandwich, of which a half portion would have been plenty.

While I waited at the checkout (where I could peruse the latest in thick, glossy "green" magazines or CDs from several top alternative music artists), I watched a thirty-something couple check out in front of me. They had a basic assortment of 15-20 items, certainly not a week's worth of groceries or stocking up on kitchen staples. The total for their two or three bags of groceries (after a coupon for a free dozen organic eggs) came to $96.

While I watched the guy swipe his credit card, I almost found myself getting angry. And I wrote my next bumper sticker:

Healthy food is a right, not a privilege.

Maybe that is why I am so committed to starting a storefront food co-op. I see it as a way for folks to get the healthiest of food at the lowest cost. I see it as a way for us to connect to our food in the most direct way possible, without all of the in between transportation or packaging. I see it as one way to solve many of the problems that are ailing our society.

So I'll keep on working to make this vision a reality.

And I'll stop describing a storefront food co-op as a miniature Whole Foods.

Monday, April 9, 2007


As you've seen from our meeting minutes, online resources are a huge help to us as we move towards our goal of establishing a storefront food co-op. To make it easier for all us to access those resources, you'll notice a new column on the right entitled "Links we've referenced." It links to the co-op's account with the tagged links we've referenced. Feel free to share any other links that you think would be helpful.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Stay Informed!

What is one of the best ways to start living the 'local' lifestyle? Stay informed!
One easy way is to read this blog and attend the monthly co-op meetings.

Here are some relevant articles/links to check out this week:

Stay tuned for my thoughts on a '4 phase' plan. Please let us know what you are looking for so that we know which phase(s) to focus our efforts on.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What is a co-op?

What is a co-op you ask? Read this page from the Twin Cities Natural Food Co-ops to learn more.


Welcome to the blog of the Holland Storefront Food Co-op Visionaries. We hope to use this space to share relevant news of our work towards the creation of a storefront food co-op here in Holland, MI.

For more information, to read minutes from past meetings, or to join our mailing list, please check out our Google Group.