Star News: FOOD CO-OP DOUBLES MEMBERSHIP, MEETS GOAL
by Joni Astrup - Associate Editor
The Elk River Area Food Co-op has doubled its membership in the last year as it works toward opening a retail store.
The co-op has added more than 140 members since November 2016. Its membership now stands at 303, according to Annie Felix-Gerth, co-op president.
“We are building a lot of momentum and we are achieving our goals,” Felix-Gerth said during the co-op’s annual meeting Nov. 16 at the Elk River Library.
Goals for 2018 include doubling membership again to 600, improving board operations and establishing committees, she said.
Once membership hits 500 to 600, Felix-Gerth said the co-op can begin looking for a store location. The co-op is operating under the assumption that the store would be 10,000 square feet in size and 1,000 to 1,200 members would be needed before opening a store of that size, she said. A smaller store would require fewer members to open.
She said the co-op needs to continue to build awareness.
Twenty-six percent of new memberships came via social media while 22 percent were from word-of-mouth.
Felix-Gerth said they have been doing outreach by attending community events such as parades and festivals in the summer and offering classes and other events in the winter.
Alyssa Johnson was hired as the co-op’s marketing and outreach director one year ago, which Felix-Gerth said has been key.
The co-op is a member-owned organization dedicated to providing access to high quality local and natural food at a fair price, supporting local farmers and contributing economically to the community, according to the co-op’s 2017 annual report.
Three new board members elected
During the annual meeting, three new members were elected to the co-op’s board of directors. They are Anna Harris, Angela Foster and Carla Mertz.
Harris is a native of Syracuse, New York, where she grew up on a hobby farm. She and her husband bought a house in Elk River recently after moving to Minnesota from Colorado. She has a master’s degree in environmental education.
Foster and her family have lived in Ramsey for five years after residing in Minneapolis for many years. She works as a paralegal.
Mertz is the owner of Iron Shoe Farm in Princeton, which is one of the Elk River Area Food Co-op’s partners that offer discounts to members. Iron Shoe Farm offers member discounts on micro greens, beef, chicken and pork.
Felix-Gerth and Kari Froehlich, the co-op’s vice president, were re-elected to the board.
Other board members are Christina Hackenmueller (secretary), Liz Tveite (treasurer), Maria Rehland and Liz Frink.
Four co-op partners also spoke at the annual meeting. They were Andy Walker of Walker Farms in Princeton, Jake Pettit of Pettit Pastures in Milaca, Brandon Grochow of My Alaska Seafood Connection and LuAnne Moe of Moe Therapeutic Massage.
Walker Farms offers pork, beef, chicken and eggs. Pettit Pastures raises grass-fed beef it delivers locally and also supplies to restaurants. Grochow used to live in Alaska and uses his contacts there to bring seafood directly from Alaska to the Elk River area. Moe is located in Elk River’s Martin Plaza, across from the Dairy Queen, and has been in business since 1998.
Upcoming co-op classes include:
•Nov. 29: Microgreens Make & Take
•Dec. 14: Introduction to Fermenting
•Dec. 19: Mindful Movement for Holiday Stress Relief
•Jan. 9: Sushi Tasting
Event details can be found under the “Event” tab on Facebook or at www.erafoodcoop.com/calendar.