News

Volunteer Recruitment Event [RECAP]

On Saturday, March 24th we invited the community out to hear about the Elk River Area Food Co-op and to promote volunteer opportunities available to help us grow.

  • We had 25+ people come out and enjoy the conversation and great food!
  • 10!!! NEW MEMBERS SIGNED UP
  • Potluck style with donations from Diamond City Bread and our partners at Pettit Pastures (co-op members receive 5% off pasture raised pork, beef and chicken) 
  • If you missed the event but would like to get involved please fill out our Volunteer Application and we will contact you with opportunities that fill your interest

As always, keep spreading the word! We could not do this without our community and we are so thankful for all the support and are overjoyed by the passion that was shown this weekend.

Lets double our member numbers so we can start looking for locations!

Up & Coming Co-op Conference Recap

 

We just got back from an amazing, insightful, energizing weekend spent in Milwaukee, WI at the Up & Coming Food Co-op Conference.

Up & Coming is a Conference that educates start-up food co-op's through workshops, open discussions and consulting work. It is a huge resource center to learn how we can better serve our community in order to provide the healthiest, cleanest food options. 

Here are the main messages we would like to share:

  • Vision: We were reminded how important Vision is in the process of opening a community-owned grocery store. We were asked to reflect on WHY we are putting in all this time and effort - and this is what we came up with. We want to create a space for neighbors and friends to come together, learn from each other and build a healthy, sustainable future for generations to come.
    • We are doing this by supporting local agriculture and creating an avenue for small-town farmers to provide their products.
    • We are doing this through our community education classes in order to build safe space to discover new ways of being and consuming.
    • We are doing this through outreach by providing updates and news to our community.
       
  • Democratically Owned: Co-op's are special because they are owned and operated by the people who use their services. 
    • BECOME A MEMBER - we can't stress this enough. Without members the co-op will never open.
    • As an owner you have a say in all the big decisions: where will we be located, what will we provide?
    • There is no hierarchy with the corporate business leader on top and all others below.
    • The money you spend stays in your community, strengthens your local economy
       
  • Community Driven: Again, co-op's are for the community. With that said, we need the communities help to build awareness and increase our membership numbers. We can not open our doors without a strong, loyal membership base that is willing to invest their time and money into developing the grocery store.
    • Get Involved: We need passionate people who care about health and wellness and are willing to volunteer their time and expertise.

 

We believe that healthy food means healthy communities and want to provide the space to cultivate a cohesive, trusted grocery store providing trustworthy, clean food. If you believe in our Vision, get involved today!

February 2018 Monthly Board Meeting Notes

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Elk River Area Food Co-op Development Meeting

Date: February 19, 2018
Time: 6:30p to 8:30p
Location: Down stairs meeting room Eagles Club
Meeting: 57

Attendees: Annie, Kari, Maria, Liz F, Liz T, Anna, Christina, and Alyssa 


Treasures Report:

  • $2000 purchase on card???
  • Liz T look into and send to board
  • Still looking to fill treasures position
  • Annie will call candidate
  • Need to be in it for long haul, banking info all changed over

Membership Approval:

  • 317 owners 😊
  • Anna will host house party in March will get in touch with Christina after her trip next week

Marketing Update:

  • Old Main Eatery
    3-inch circle
    Main message: support local, community owned
    Advertise for two years
    Alyssa make drafts and email out
    QR code (scan code) - link to website
     
  • Welcome email series for online signups
  • 5 days of emails (our story, partners, FAQ’s, etc)
  • Do tutorial for FB to be more effective
  • Use mail chimp more than FB
  • Landing page for website
  • Few links to guide
  • Need new flyers and make flyers for volunteer recruitment
  • First week of March YMCA lunch and learn - March 7th 11:30am
  • Main Focus for month recruitment for volunteers and board members along with FB live

Volunteer Recruitment:

  • Recruitment open to ALL volunteers
  • Looking for a board member and fill treasurer position
  • March 24th 11a to 1p Volunteer Recruitment and ER Library

Committee Reports:

  • Education and Outreach: Liz F and Anna
    Met with Alyssa
    Still need to get together for work plan
    Free classes just to educate (different crowd of people)
    Co-op pay instructor
    Last 4 said they would do for free
    Try remainder of class year (giving back)
    Sign up with partners at the event (get email list for all of our partners)
    Play games at events (Bingo, true or false ?’s)
     
  • Membership: Christina and Kari
    Finished work plan
    Need to meet with Alyssa
     
  • Operations: Annie and Maria
    Need to back up membership list
    $30 usb 128 gigs
    Clean up google docs
    Alyssa bring files to Up and Coming (Maria upload)
    Adding to live binder
    Finance tab empty
    Tax ID, we are C- corporation
    Make google doc for volunteer recruitment
    Healthy Eating Tuesday, February 20th 6p to 7p at ER library
     
  • Finance: need to get this committee going ASAP


Retreat Follow up and Strategic plan:

  • Currently in stage 2 (finished stage 1 last year)
    Stage 2A feasibility 450 owners (more realistic goal)
    Financial
    Revise business plan
    Seeing what we need (people)
    Get all work plans together

Board Policies:

Sign agreement next meeting
Annie sent email
Read and let know of any changes

Facebook Live:
Postponed

Update Google Docs Calendar:
Liz F update
Everyone have access
Email event to Liz F and she will add to calendar

Up and Coming Co-op Conference:

Alyssa and Maria going
Alyssa send info to Liz T for reimbursement
Paid for by grant
Need to budget can and one or two meals

March 19th next board meeting at Elk River Golf Course

 

Star News: Elk River Food Co-op Seeks to Grow Its Volunteer Base (2018)

Elk River Area Food Co-op Star News

Elk River Food Co-op Seeks to Grow Its Volunteer Base

Mar 8, 2018
by Joni Astrup
Associate Editor

Original Story

The Elk River Area Food Co-op will host a volunteer recruitment event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 24.

The event will be held at the Elk River Library, 13020 Orono Parkway.

“We are growing so much, we need extra help,” said Alyssa Johnson, the co-op’s marketing and outreach coordinator.

There are openings on four new committees: membership, finance, education and operations, and there will soon be an opening on the co-op’s board of directors.

Volunteers are also needed to staff a co-op booth at the Elk River farmers market and to help at other co-op summer events. General volunteer help is needed as well.

Johnson said the volunteer recruitment event will include an explanation of the co-op’s mission and vision and a chance for people to get their questions about the co-op answered. Snacks and beverages will be served, some of which are being donated by the co-op’s partners.

The co-op has 17 local partners offering products such as honey, free-range eggs, grass-fed beef, micro greens, therapeutic massage and handmade soap. All of the partners give discounts to Elk River Area Food Co-op members.

The Elk River Area Food Co-op is a start-up, member-owned, community grocery store dedicated to providing access to high quality, local, natural and organic food at a fair price, supporting local farmers, and contributing economically to the community.

The co-op’s membership has grown to 320. Johnson said the goal is to have 600 members to begin looking at locations for a retail store.

For more information, go to www.erafoodcoop.com. People interested in becoming a co-op volunteer are encouraged to fill out an application online, though it is not required.

To reach the co-op, email elkriverfoodcoop@gmail.com.

January Monthly Board Meeting Minutes

Elk River Area Good Co-op Monthly Meeting
Date: January 15,2018
Time: 6:30-8:30pm
Location: Downstairs meeting room, Eagles Club, 824 Railroad Dr. Elk River, MN 55330
Meeting #: 57
Attendees: Christina, Alyssa, Kari, Liz T, Annie, and Liz F
 



Treasurer’s Report:

  • $6,997.12
  • Four new members 😊

  • Haven’t received grant money, Liz T will send Stuart email

  • Received a new application for treasurer position

    • Still accepting applications for treasurer position

  • Will send one more email blast to see if any other applicants

Membership Approvals:

  • 315  members 😊

Marketing Updates:

  • Signing up for Farmers Market

    • June 7th to Oct 4th 2p to 7p

    • Alyssa will email Liz T application $125

  • February Plans:

    • FAQ’s posted on FB

    • Video blog campaign for spring (30 seconds, what’s important?)

  • I own it campaign for June

  • Partner Promos at harvest time

Committee Reports:

  • [Annie] Operations:

    • Will be making binder with tabs: legality of co-op, bylaws, contacts, FAQ's

    • Co-op start up guide, work plans, timeline, etc.

    • Work plans done by end of January

  • [Liz F.] Education and Outreach:

    • Liz & Anna Met

    • Need to finalize charter and send to Annie

    • In the works: Facebook live parties, education and training

    • Committee Recruitment March 24th, 11-1 p.m. for community members

    • Start hosting movie showings to continue educating community

    • Class Updates:

      • Seafood class sold out- need to revise class structure and costs

  • [Kari & Christina] Membership:

    • To double our membership, we need to get 30 members/month

    • Christina updated members for newsletter list

    • Looking to reestablish house party volunteers

    • Start membership campaign


Volunteer Recruitment:

  • March 24th 9a to 1p

  • Alyssa will advertise on Facebook

  • Expectations to meet monthly no min. of hours

  • Alyssa will make applications

    • more formal

    • send application to Christina

  • No announcement until location is set [Library is confirmed for location


UPCOMING EVENTS:

Up and Coming Conference: Milwaukee Food Co-op Conference 

  • Fly vs driving

  • Alyssa, Maria, and Liz F?

  • March 16th and 17th in Milwaukee, Wisc.

  • $1500 grant to cover expense

  • January 29th will do phone conference to finalize 8p to 9p Annie send email

Meet and Greet January 22nd 6p to 6:45 at ER Library

    Liz F and Christina

Next board meeting February 19th

 

 

5 REASONS TO SUPPORT LOCAL

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO SUPPORT LOCAL? WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? AND HOW DOES SUPPORTING LOCAL IMPACT YOU AND YOUR COMMUNITY?

Hey everyone, my name is Alyssa Johnson, and I am the Marketing & Outreach Coordinator for the Elk River Area Food Co-op. Now-a-days you hear the favorite buzzwords 'support local' but what exactly does that mean to you and your community? I wanted to shed a little light on the reason I think supporting local is so important and the immense benefits you can gain, both on an individual level and on a communal level. 

Supporting local is not a new concept, it's not a trend or a fad that will fade with time. Supporting local is what our grandparents did, and their parents, and all that came before them. It's not a becoming, but rather a returning to the way things naturally were once upon a time. Supporting local is a movement that takes consumers away from large, impersonal big-box retailers in order to strengthen the local economy. Instead of filling a multi-million dollar bank account, when you support local, the small businesses you are purchasing from are real families with real passion behind their products. 

When an individual supports friends and neighbors, instead of faceless corporations, one can bask in many benefits you couldn't possibly gain shopping at national chains. Here are some top reasons to support your local food co-op and all the businesses we have partnered with:


1. Know & trust the people behind the product.

Every other week I have farm fresh eggs delivered to my door. Becky Walker, with Walker Farms, drives around in her blue car always pulling up with a huge smile on her face. When you personally know the people behind the products, you enjoy a connection you would not otherwise have. Becky has met our passive aggressive dog many times and knows the trick is to give him love. This sort of friendship and trust can not be found at a large box store like Walmart or Cub Foods. There is a sense of pride in everything our partners provide. If you haven't already, check out our growing list of local businesses that are committed to giving the best quality goods and service. 
 

2. Improve your family’s health.

When you buy directly from local farmers or through your town's farmers market, you have access to the freshest fruits and vegetables available in your community. You can get to know your farmers and find out their practices. What you'll notice is most small farmers and those that set up booths at the market are dedicated to providing chemical free produce and pasture-raised animals. Why is that important? Chemicals and toxins are undoubtedly detrimental to our health in large quantities (which is the truth behind most of the conventional products we eat today) and research is beginning to understand the negative implications. 
 

3. Lessen your carbon foot print

Peppers flown in from Holland. Bananas from Guatemala...... Our food travels A LONG way to get to our dinner table. Often these conveniences are overlooked and under appreciated. At a conventional grocery store your products are days (even weeks) old after sitting in a box and being shipped half way across the world or through state lines. Think about how much fuel, time and energy it takes for your favorites to make it on your plate. Buying local means the product is close to home and is definitely fresher than anything you can find at the grocery store. Plus, you are lessening emissions by negating the need to have your food travel long distances.
 

4. Improve the local economy.

When a consumer buys local, significantly more of that money stays in the community. In fact, one Chicago study found that for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 remained in the city while only $43 of each $100 spent at a chain retailer.

Local business owners often have incentives to support other local businesses, patronizing local establishments for both business and personal reasons. Chain businesses, on the other hand, tend to get their supplies from corporate, as well as having store managers and employees that aren’t as personally invested in buying local. [Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/244839]
 

5. Keep that small town charm.

Local businesses give a community its flavor. Each small farm has it's own practices and personality. Each local merchant has a story behind their passion for providing handmade, custom products for their customers. On the other hand, most chain restaurants or big box stores are virtually the same with a little rearrangement depending on space and location. The Elk River Area is an old agriculture hub with history rooted in the first cooperative of farmers, the Grange, with Oliver H. Kelley of the Historic Kelley Farm. This area flourished because of the blue collar, hard workers who believed in their work. Let's keep our town quaint and celebrate those who make this area so beautiful.


Of course there are MANY other benefits of supporting local, but those are a few to start. The Elk River Area Food Co-op is dedicated to promoting these values and our vision of bringing the community together through health education and awareness. We believe in the power of consumer choice and strongly push the idea to 'put your money where your heart is'. All too often we forget how much we impact the communities we live in. Be empowered and support the people near you and all the love and passion they put into their products!



December 2017 - Meeting Minutes

Elk River Area Food Co-op Monthly Meeting
Date: December 18,2017
Time: 6:30p to 8:30p
Location: Eagles Club, Elk River
Meeting #: 56
Attendees:  Christina, Kari, Maria, Carla, Liz T, Annie, Angela, Alyssa, Liz F, and Anna by phone conference)

Treasurer’s Report:

$7,293.24
Sent grant application
Everything good
Receive check in a week
$4,000 out of $10,000 grant
Use it or lose it?
Ask for extension Liz T or Annie contact Stuart

Membership Approvals:
Three new owners
308 total owners 😊

Marketing Report:
Planning January posts
Classes, events, partnerships etc
Link to Mail Chimp and Facebook
Develop general focus for each month
Any ideas for Jan….want to hear from board

COMMITTEE RECRUITMENT MEETING:
January 13th Dunn Brothers, Zimmerman 10:00am to 1:30pm
Talk committees
Open to public at 11am

Employee Review:
Kari and Annie talked with Alyssa about current position
Keeps things up to date, raised awareness
Provide volunteer time, picking up slack
Need more organization and goals
We need Alyssa!!! 😊
Want to compliment skills while working on portfolio
$15/ hour current asking for a raise of $20

Misc:
February homeopathic class with Anglea
Tiffany Flatten Carla contact
Angela contact bakery in Anoka
Liz F and Alyssa meet to get classes and logo in community ed brochure
Kari make sure everyone on Google Docs and email it
Finance committee scholarship fund  


NEXT MEETING JANUARY 15TH, EAGLES CLUB ELK RIVER
6:30-7:30 P.M.
PLEASE E-MAIL ELKRIVERFOODCOOP@GMAIL.COM
IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS OR TO LET US KNOW YOU PLAN ON COMING.

WELCOME TO THE TEAM: Newly Elected Board of Directors

We are so excited to welcome our new Board of Directors. Congratulations Anna Harris, Angela Foster & Carla Mertz on becoming the newest leaders of our team. We look forward to utilizing your skills and expertise to move the co-op forward!


co-op Anna Harris 2 online.jpg

Meet Anna Harris

Please tell us why you are interested in serving on the Elk River Area Food Co-op Board of Directors.: I have a personal interest in seeing the ERA Food Co-op come to fruition. It is a resource that I value highly in a community, and I am interested in expanding access to fresh, local, & sustainably harvested food / products to my community. Having only lived in Elk River for a few weeks now, I am quickly discovering there is a lack of information about the benefits of locally sourced & sustainable products in this area. As a board member I would like to take an active role in the community education piece of this start up.

What skills and experiences would you bring to the board?: My husband and I own a residential painting company for which I am the sales and marketing coordinator. I have great people skills. I also have a masters degree in environmental education from Antioch University New England which is firmly rooted in sustainability (social, economic & environmental). In school I took an active role in community education programs and event planning. Where I may lack in experience, I have a network of alumni that I feel confident calling upon for advice and support.

 

Why do you think the Elk River Area needs a food co-op; how will it benefit our community?: Oh my gosh, Co-ops (and locally owned coffee shops - which we also need) are community centers. The Elk River Area desperately needs this co-op to serve as a role model for cooperatively driven business and as an education hub for the importance of sustainability. From what I can tell there is a lack in the systematic availability of fresh, local & sustainably harvested products, Elk River needs this co-op to drive the farm to table movement in this area.


Meet Angela Foster

Please tell us why you are interested in serving on the Elk River Area Food Co-op Board of Directors.: I find it so exciting that this community of people has been able to do so much in garnering memberships and followers. The geographical area is in desperate need of a Co-op. I spent most of my early 20s living in Minneapolis, with access to so many amazing Co-ops and I want to bring that experience to the Elk River area. The movement for better quality food is gaining so much traction and momentum, the time is now to get a brick and mortar store up and running. I am a working mom, who doesn't want to have to make the trek into Minneapolis every time I want to purchase reasonably priced sustainable food year round.

Do you have any specific goals you would like to accomplish as a board member? : One of my biggest goals would be to see the membership numbers increase so that we can start to lay plans for a physical store. I would love to assist in the designing and building of the store. I am a very social person and would enjoy being out in the community spreading the word about the co-op and all of its amazing benefits.

What skills and experiences would you bring to the board?: I currently serve on the board of directors for a small local non-profit called Ella's Halo (www.ellashalo.com) and have done so for the past 7 years. I assist in raising awareness for the non-profit by organizing donations and charity events. I spent many years in the restaurant industry as a corporate trainer and assisted in the opening brand new restaurants from the ground up. I now work as a corporate paralegal and would be able to bring my legal background to the table. I have a very strategic mind and I am able to step back and analyze the big picture.

Why do you think the Elk River Area needs a food co-op; how will it benefit our community?: This area is like a food desert in the sense that there is nothing other than big chain grocery stores, whose goal is to sell mass amounts of food, instead of quality products. I love what co-ops stand for and I believe that most people who run them and work at them take a lot of pride in the job they are doing. I would be so thrilled to not have to drive to Minneapolis to purchase high quality groceries at a reasonable price. I believe this co-op could help bring more organic and natural food selections to the area, jobs, and a sense of community by offering items sourced locally.

 

co-op Angela Foster online.jpg

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Meet Carla Mertz

Please tell us why you are interested in serving on the Elk River Area Food Co-op Board of Directors.: I am interested to serve on the board of directors to share a vision to bring good quality food to the residents of the Elk River Area, and promote healthy food options and locally sourced produce.

Do you have any specific goals you would like to accomplish as a board member? : To help promote the awareness of the co-op and to help grow membership.

What skills and experiences would you bring to the board?: I am a local farmer/producer. I have 15 years of business ownership experience, working with biz to biz networking. I am also an interior designer working in the restaraunt industry and hospitality. we sell currently to co-op producers. I have a strong business sense, great leadership and teamwork insight.

Please tell us about any prior or current civic involvement. : I have served on the board of directors for the elk river skating club. I currently am involved with shatuck st marys figure skating club to help raise funds for their private programming.

2016-2017 Annual Report

Please review our Annual Report to read about our 2016-2017 successes and to learn ways you can continue to help the co-op grow. 


Screenshot 2017-11-27 14.03.10.png

As you will see on the above graph, and our report, Word of Mouth and Social Media have been the two largest contributors to our success. We ask the community to keep spreading the word and help us build visibility and awareness throughout town!

We Hired Our First Staff (2016)

Please welcome our FIRST HIRE at the Elk River Area Food Co-op....

Alyssa Johnson grew up in Elk River and graduated from the University of Minnesota - Duluth with degrees in both marketing and finance. Her plan is to make the co-op more visible in the community and strengthen the relationship between supplier (local farmers) and consumers (YOU, our members!). She has always been interested in nutrition and sustainability and wants to share her passion with her hometown and surrounding areas. When she isn't working hard for the co-op she spends her time lost in the woods, relaxing at the lake, or in the kitchen finding new recipes. Alyssa believes co-ops are the way of the future and can't wait to shop at the ERA Food Co-Op!

To read the full story check out the Elk River Star News.

CCMA: International Food Co-op Conference

We just returned from a jam-packed weekend in Downtown Minneapolis. The Elk River Area Food Co-op went to CCMA 2017, an international food co-op conference filled with workshops, networking and tons of fun.

We are doing our best to build a strong leadership team in order to get the community working together and bring this co-op to town, sooner rather than later. We need our community to help us along the way through membership, volunteer work and sharing your skills and talents! Feel free to ask us any questions you have about the co-op business model and keep following our growth to see how much we’ve learned.

Up & Coming: $1,500 Grant

The Elk River Area Food Co-op is back home from the 2017 Up and Coming Food Co-op Conference held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We had the chance to meet, learn from, and share with dozens of other food co-op's. We are so happy to share the exciting news -- Not only did we leave with a priceless amount of new knowledge and insight to move forward, but we were chosen to return next year with a $1,500 GRANT!!!

The co-op is evolving and we are so thankful for all the folks helping along the path. Thank you to our board members and staff who attended the conference, thank you to Outpost Natural Foods Co-op for all your work, thank you to everyone at Food Co-op Initiative for all your time and expertise, thank you to all the sponsors who made the conference available and thank you to every start up co-op that took time to learn how to better their communities and push through the challenges. The future looks bright, keep on shining!!!
 

2016 - A year to celebrate in Elk River Area Food Co-op History

2016 was a monumental year for the ERA Food Co-op.

Our membership doubled since 2015! We now have over 160 committed community members investing their time and money into creating a convenient store that provides a one-stop-shop for healthy food and products.

We were awarded our SECOND $10,000 grant from the Food Co-op Initiative. That proves they believe in what we are doing and want to see a physical store created in our area! One out of twelve start-up’s are chosen in the entire nation, and we’ve been chosen two years in a row – that’s pretty amazing.

Our board of directors grew! We added two new positions for a total of eight members. By doing so we have extra hands, more ideas, and added hours to dedicate toward making the co-op a reality.

In November we hired our first staff, Alyssa Johnson will be our 2016-2017 Marketing and Outreach Specialist. She will be working hard towards building awareness and education on the co-op.

We’ve consistently held monthly classes and will continue to fill our calendar with opportunities to learn about healthy living while meeting other like-minded individuals in your community.

What does 2017 have in store?

We are working hard on building our membership base and hope to double our membership once again. Our goal is to increase our visibility in the community and create more life-long connections with our neighbors and farmers. We plan on building up our member benefits by adding business partnerships, strengthening our local economy.

Star News: Elk River Area Food Co-op Home Grown (2015)

Photos by Britt Aamodt Kari Froehlich hopes the co-op will be a one-stop shop for individuals and families interested in eating healthy food and supporting local farmers and communities. Here she is with her family, niece Lauren Holzem, holding Froehlich’s daughter, Paislee, and Froehlich’s son, Brecken.

Photos by Britt Aamodt Kari Froehlich hopes the co-op will be a one-stop shop for individuals and families interested in eating healthy food and supporting local farmers and communities. Here she is with her family, niece Lauren Holzem, holding Froehlich’s daughter, Paislee, and Froehlich’s son, Brecken.

Home grown

By ECM Publishers
Jul 13, 2015
Original Story

The Elk River Area Food Co-op will differentiate itself from other local food stores with its emphasis on fresh, healthy, organic, bulk and local foods.

Growing up, Kari Froehlich’s family ran a cattle farm. That was her early introduction to where food comes from.

by Britt Aamodt
Contributing Writer

Kari Froehlich was born and raised in Elk River. Now she’s raising her son and daughter here, in a community that has a lot more to do, a lot more places to go, than when she was a kid.

Yet it doesn’t have a food co-op.

Froehlich, along with 45 members and counting, is hoping to open one by 2017.

Every Thursday at the Elk River Farmers Market, she and her board members staff a booth.

“The two questions people always ask are when are you going to open and where are you going to be?” Froehlich said.

She’s found in these off-the-cuff conversations that a lot of people are interested in a one-stop fresh food shop that’s open year-round.

The idea hit Froehlich three years ago. She was a young working mom.

“I’d be rushing to all these stores, checking labels, trying to find food that was good for my family,” she remembered. “After a while, I started to settle.”

She’d pull into the closest, most convenient store and grab what she needed just so she could get home to her family.

But Froehlich was a farm girl. Her family still runs a cattle farm. She grew up understanding where good — and local — food came from.

Plus, she’d recently completed an online program through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. It reinforced her what she already suspected: That what we put in our mouths impacts our health.

She got home and started researching food co-ops. There were co-ops in Cambridge and Anoka. Why couldn’t her area have one, too? What would it take?

She and a friend attended a program put on by the Food Co-op Initiative. The group’s purpose is to help groups found co-ops in their towns. Froehlich was inspired and intimidated.

“A lot of the groups there had already been working on their co-ops for two or three years,” she said.

Now the Elk River Area Food Co-op is where those groups were then. This year, they received a $10,000 grant from the Food Co-op Initiative to be used, in part, to fund a feasibility study. The catch is that the co-op must match the funds.

And what that boils down to is members. The co-op needs to have at least 300, and better yet 400, to match the funds and start talking to banks about loans.

But what is a food co-op? Froehlich gets this question, too.

A food co-op is a member-owned business. Members have a vote in what happens. At the end of the year, if there is a profit, they vote on what to do with the money.

How a co-op differs from other area stores is in its focus on healthy, organic (but not always), bulk and especially local foods. A handful of Princeton farms have already pitched in their support.

“If it’s not our area local, then it’s Minnesota local. If it’s not Minnesota, then it’s the United States,” Froehlich explained.

Ideally, the co-op would have good access to parking. The dream plan is to have space for cooking classes, public events (indoor and outdoor) and a small deli with food and coffee.

But to make any of this happen by 2017, the co-op needs to make its membership goal by Jan. 1. They’re taking memberships by mail, online and at the farmers market. Members pay a one-time fee of $100. Anyone can shop at the co-op but members get a discount on every purchase.

“If a community doesn’t support the startup effort, then it won’t support the store when it opens,” said Froehlich. “We need to show lenders that our community supports this.”

Elk River Area Food Co-op
P.O. Box 64 Elk River
erafoodcoop.com
Membership: $100

 

Co-op 1 of 12 in nation to win seed grant (2015)

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Co-op 1 of 12 in nation to win seed grant

By Jim Boyle
Editor
Jul 13, 2015
ORINGINAL STORY

An effort to develop an Elk River food co-op has gotten a boost from a national movement to increase the number of food co-ops across the nation.

Food Co-op Initiative, a national nonprofit dedicated to not only increasing the number of food coops but also helping them achieve success and sustainability, awarded  12 “Seed Grants” to new retail food co-ops organizing across the United States.

“The public interest in food co-ops is at an all-time high,” reported Stuart Reid, Food Coop Initiative executive director. “By owning and controlling their own cooperative store, communities are able to ensure stable access to healthy food, provide meaningful jobs, and support local producers.

“Food co-ops can become both an economic anchor and a social hub for the community.”

Award winners were selected based on the strength of their leadership, quality of business planning, potential for successful operations and potential impact made by the grant funds.

The awards will be used to help pay for professional business development, market studies and membership recruitment. Co-op organizers will raise matching funds in their community and collaborate with Food Co-op Initiative throughout their development process.

This marks the sixth round of Food Co-op Initiative Seed Grants since the program began in 2005. Since then, $560,000 in startup support has been awarded to 68 food co-ops. Newly opened cooperative groceries are expected to generate over $500 million in revenue over the next five years.

“This is a very select group,” Reid said. “We are working with over 140 communities that are actively engaged in starting a food co-op.”

The national initiative’s aim is to deliver access to healthy food in diverse communities across this country. It provides information, training and technical assistance, as well as seed capital, and engages in research to blaze, maintain and improve the development path for new food coops.

“Although we were only able to provide funding to a limited number of co-ops, we provide free resources, training and advice to all food co-ops using a Web-based approach, which allows easy access on demand and provides personalized services through mentoring, live training events and a lot of email,” Reid said.

Food Co-op Initiative is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) created to encourage and support new food co-op development. The Seed Grant program is made possible through a USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant and major funding from the Blooming Prairie Foundation, National Cooperative Bank, National Co-op Grocers, and the food co-op community.

2015 Seed Grant Award Recipients:
•Clipper City Co-op, Manitowoc, Wis.
•Elk River Area Food Co-op, Elk River, Minn.
•Friends and Farmers Co-op, State College, Pa.
•Little Falls Food Co-op, Little Falls, Minn.
•Sitka Food Co-op, Sitka, Alaska
•West Chester Food Co-op, West Chester, Pa.
•Long Beach Grocery Cooperative, Long Beach, Calif.
•Montavilla Food Co-op, Portland, Ore.
•Prairie Food Co-op, Lombard, Ill.
•The Renaissance Community Co-op, Greensboro, N.C.
•Local Motive Silverton Co-op, Silverton, Ore.
•Prairie Roots Food Co-op, Fargo, N.D.