April 2004

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Readers’ Write!

GM Report

Board Report

Deli News

Farming at the Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference

Juice Bar News

A Coffee Primer

Book News

JenEhr Family Farm: Oven-Roasted Chickens Hot & Fresh Nightly

Specials Information

Producer Profile: Just Coffee

Ask the Midwife: Healthy Teeth in Pregnancy & Infancy

Recipes & Drink Recommendations

The Earthen Courtyard Community Building Project

Barneveld Gets
a New Food Cooperative

Community Calendar


Board Report
Ann Waterhouse
WSGC Board Member

In my consulting work with food co-ops nationwide, I often have opportunities to visit other co-ops. I’ve recently been to Bloomington, Indiana, Iowa City and Bozeman, Montana, for example. It is always fun to see what others are doing to make quality, local food available to their members. Or to communicate with members about important issues affecting food and the co-op world. Or to design a meeting notice so that it becomes a work of art. Or to determine long-range priorities for the co-op that meet the members’ needs and fulfill their values.

In Montana, for example, the co-op is considering an investment in a chicken ranch to assure quality, hormone-free eggs and chicken. They seem to have the beef thing down in Montana. They also have a lot of local organic grains, but they have to import vegetables, even during the summer. In Iowa City, the co-op is concerned about how to pay down a big expansion loan without gouging the members on prices. In Bloomington, the board is concerned about how to make expansion a priority before the sales growth at the current store outstrips the store’s ability to serve members.

Returning to Shop
After being away and returning to shop at Willy Street Co-op once again, I always feel that “I’m coming home.” I trust all members feel that way when they shop at Willy Street Co-op because it’s familiar, we know where the products are (for the most part), we find the things we need and it’s part of our home base.

A Profound Sense of Pride
But lately, I have had a profound sense of pride in our Co-op that makes me happy to say, wherever I go, that I am a Board member of Willy Street Co-op in Madison, WI. I see the data that compares our Co-op to other co-ops of similar size nationally, and I see that we are operated efficiently, we pay competitive salaries, we keep overall prices reasonable and aggressively work to make basic food prices fair for all. At the same time, the Board and management staff are working to determine the best opportunities for growth to help keep Willy Street Co-op the best it can be for our members.

The Best Direction for Growth
By the time you read this article, the Board and management will have spent two days working on determining the best direction for growth over the next few years. You’ll be hearing more about those priorities in the coming weeks and months. I trust the careful deliberation process the Board will undertake to determine these priorities will result in good ideas. We look forward to testing them out on you, our members, through the newsletter articles, our new website, through member forums and the annual meeting on August 5.

Member Relations

This year, I’ve joined the Member Relations Committee, as I reported in a newsletter article several months ago. Assuring that member relations occurs is one of the important functions of the board. Although much of member relations work is delegated by the Board to Anya, our General Manager, the Board still retains an important role. As I see it, that role is to communicate with members about the long-range directions of the Co-op and about any legal issues that may need attention. One of the things we will be discussing at the Board planning session is possible changes to the Co-op’s bylaws or legal incorporating documents. I feel it is important for the Board to take a leadership role in communicating with you, our members, about any possible changes to our bylaws.

Coming Home

So, the end of this month, when I travel to Ukiah Natural Foods in Ukiah, California to facilitate their board training session, know that I take a big piece of Willy Street Co-op with me. And, I always look forward to coming home after the work is over.

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