By Sarah Wentzel Fisher
Co-ops often hide in plain sight. They are all around us all over the world. The take the form of electric companies, agricultural businesses, sporting goods stores, media outlets, banks, breweries, bookstores, bike shops, and, of course, grocery stores. To the consumer, co-ops function like any other business. The fundamental difference between co-ops and privately or publicly owned corporations is who owns the business, where the money goes, and who sets the business priorities.
As a refresher, a co-op is owned and governed by its members. These individuals or groups of businesses all have an equal stake in governing the organization and they share in the profits. They are owned by and operated for the benefit of those using the co-ops services.
Because they wear their co-op model on their sleeve, natural foods co-ops like La Montanita often get their business model misinterpreted by the media. For example I often hear people say the co-op is a nonprofit, or the co-op is a member club. Our business is neither of these—it is a cooperative.
The co-op model has had more and less economic significance historically. The official designation the US government and the IRS recognize (www.sba.gov/content/cooperative) has its roots in the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers who formed a cooperative in Rochdale, England in 1844 to address the needs of textile workers not being paid adequately to afford basic staples. The founders articulated a set of guiding principles that most modern co-ops worldwide acknowledge as a baseline for their operations. (To read about other co-op principles, please visit www.lamontanita.coop/mission/.)
In modern times, as resources are increasingly unevenly distributed amongst the haves and have-nots, the cooperative model has grown in strength. What the cooperative model represents for many businesses is not just a distribution of wealth, but also a shift in focus from profits to a more mission driven business. For example this September the Centre for Human Ecology, a Glasgow-based academic institution will decide whether or not to restructure as a cooperative. According to an article by Dave Matthews published in the Times Higher Education, reorganizing as a coop represents a solution to financial woes, as well as greater democracy. At a time when academic institutions struggle to remain financially viable and students and researchers are increasingly asked to shoulder the financial burden, would restructuring as a coop provide a solution with its model of collective ownership and democratic governance?
The cooperative model also represents a method for starting business without one person needing to have significant start-up capital. This September a cash-poor, but social capital rich group opened the doors of one of very few cooperative breweries in Minneapolis. Fair State Brewery engaged over 350 members at $200 each for lifetime membership. The brewery leveraged the capital to open its doors, and founding members Evan Sallee, Niko Tonks and Matthew Hauck happily pour pints with the motto, “Drink like you own the place.”
Education plays an important role in making the cooperative model viable. Without a clear understanding and direct experience with how a coop works, considering it as a viable business model as an enterprising adult may seem challenging. Much of the work around cooperative youth leadership development in the US happens through the support and initiative of rural electric coops. This year the National Rural Electric Coop Association will celebrate fifty years of a Youth Leadership Council. Regional rural electric coops choose young leaders to learn the coop model, attend summer leadership camps, and visit DC to engage elected officials in dialogue about economics, politics, and service.
Cooperatives are growing, but coops only work and thrive when the membership actively participates in the business. Participation takes many different forms. At our co-op, members primarily participate by shopping, but members can also volunteer, vote in elections, and run for the board. Every level of participation is valuable an important to the health of the business. Next time you shop at the coop, consider what your purchases mean to the business? What does the business mean to the community? Then, consider sharing these thoughts with a friend.
By Liliana Castillo
At Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund (CVNMEF), we believe that protecting our environment starts with the people of New Mexico. Our vision is for a New Mexico where decision-makers and public policies represent the conservation values of our people.
We are working toward our vision by engaging the people of New Mexico in our long-standing shared values of protecting our air, land, water and the health of our communities. We do this by mobilizing people to advocate on policy, enhancing the voting process, encouraging people to vote, cultivating conservation leaders and amplifying the voices of those most affected by environmental injustice.
Conservation values run deep and are an entrenched part of history and culture in this state. Those values are at times not reflected in the decisions made by some rural New Mexican elected officials. Working closely with local residents and leaders from communities throughout rural New Mexico, CVNMEF engages communities in these areas around the environmental issues important to them.
Since 2005, CVNMEF has worked to effectively advocate for conservation by convening the Environmental Alliance of New Mexico (EANM), a coalition of two dozen organizations working to advance a common agenda of environmental priorities at the state legislature. EANM’s partner networks and membership represent over 50,000 New Mexicans statewide and cross-sector interests including public health, business, faith, sportsmen, clean energy, environmental justice and conservation interests. EANM serves as a primary way to unify and align the conservation community and demonstrate broad support for conservation policy.
CVNMEF provides a plethora of educational information and trainings to help people take action for environmental protection. Some of the activities that CVNMEF promotes are contacting our elected officials, writing letters to the editor, testifying at public meetings and hearings, and participating in town hall meetings. For more information, or to make a donation, go to www.CVNMEF.org.
BAG CREDIT DONATIONS: This month your bag credit donations will go to Conservation Voter of New Mexico Education Fund. In August, your bag credit donations totaling $2295.60 went to Camp Fire Kids Care Program. THANK YOU!
by Kent Swanson, Associate Planner, City of Albuquerque Open Space Division
Ours is a city of contrasting landscapes, with vast desert scrublands giving way to the lush river forest of the Rio Grande bosque, and piñon/juniper foothills leading to the majestic Sandia Mountains. These special places help to define who we are as a city.
Join the Open Space Division, the Open Space Alliance, REI, the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, and other local organizations for a variety of conservation projects that nurture and protect the bosque and river, including trail work, re-vegetation, and trash clean up. There will be activities appropriate for all ages.
Please arrive at the Rio Grande Nature Center, 2901 Candelaria NW, Albuquerque promptly at 8:30am on Saturday, October 18th to sign in and enjoy snacks provided by our other generous sponsors. At the end of the event, make sure to stick around for a fabulous prize drawing! Parking is limited so PLEASE CARPOOL! Bring gloves, sun protection, plenty of water, and a sack lunch. Free snacks will be provided during morning sign in.
REGISTER: Register online with REI at www.rei.com/albuquerque or by calling 247-1191. The first 80 people to pre-register will receive a free t-shirt the day of the event, courtesy of REI!
Organize your own clean up the day of the event. Do you live near the bosque? Or do you have a favorite area near the river? Open Space will provide trash bags and haul off the collected trash. Call 452-5216 or email email@example.com to sign up your group for your own cleanup.
Celebrating Local Food, Culture and Community
October 11 the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Pavilion
Enjoy a beautiful evening of delicious local food, honor fine local producers, and share the joy of community with the local agricultural community as you help generate vital operating funds for the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute’s farmer and community outreach programs. This year, the event has a special focus in that it is raising funds for the EBT Double Vale Program. Two local foundations will match donations for this important program that provides under-served members of the community with access to fresh, local food by doubling the value of their EBT dollars.
- Dinner made by an eclectic collection of Santa Fe’s top chefs using locally grown ingredients
- An awesome variety of Silent Auction Items
- An amazing collection of Live Action Items
- A Raffle drawing for your choice of live Auction Items
- An honoring of three beloved agricultural producers
For more information, to RSVP, or make a donation to support their programs, go to www.farmersmarketinstitute.org or contact Kierstan Pickens: firstname.lastname@example.org at 505-983-7726 ext105.
Jade McLellan, our Santa Fe Cheese Department head will continue her workshop series on cheese on the third Thursday of the month, for the next three months. While you won’t make cheese at these workshops, you will receive a coupon to make a purchase from the cheese department during the following weekend.
October 18, 6:30-8pm
- Say Chevre! – Explore more than cow’s milk! We’ll be talking about (and tasting) varieties of goat, sheep & buffalo milk cheeses.
November 20, 6:30-8pm
- Anatomy of the Cheese Plate – Learn the basics for assembling your own cheese plates, just in time for the holidays!
December 18, 6:30-8pm
- FUNdue! – Learn the basics for making your own fondue from scratch!
You must RSVP to attend.
- Seating is limited. Please fill out the form below to reserve your space, or call Jade at 505-984-2852