When I first discovered the Iowa Food Co-op a few years ago, I had no idea it would be a life changing experience. Now I am Gary’s (our manager) right hand man at distributions and YIKES! – President of the Board…
Why do I do these things? Long story short – because I just love the co-op. Over the holidays I was able to say to my family, “You are eating this or that and I know who made it, grew it, or raised it.” I’ve said that countless times, and it felt great knowing we were eating local and responsibly produced goods from folks I actually know.
These days it is easy to feel a bit powerless in terms of food – our food system has grown so big and has so many layers…. Belonging to the co-op empowers me; my dollars go where I want them to go, and I am supporting good hard working people who are raising quality products in a responsible way. As I said – I love the Iowa Food Co-op!
Last year was a good one for IFC. We only had to move once, sales were up, and we added new members. For IFC to thrive, this trend needs to continue. In order to tackle this challenge we are implementing a few new strategies. We’d love to hear your thoughts on these because we collectively own IFC together.
New products – we have recently added dried beans, organic applesauce, and frozen corn, to name a few. We continue to look for new products, so keep us posted if you come across something that we don’t have that you think we should offer.
Our recent survey to determine what consumers want indicated that generally we need more dairy, fruit, and vegetables. Our producers received a summary of the survey results so that they can plan for the future. (Click here if you’d like to see these results.)
While we will always put our Iowa producers first, we also recognize that we need to be aware of our consumer desires. Occasionally we grant variances to our standards that only Iowa producers can sell products they’ve grown, raised, or made. The board carefully considers these decisions.
I mention this because we recently granted a one-year variance to Popsie Fish Company so that they can list their Alaskan salmon in 2014. There were several reasons for granting the variance. Popsie’s owner, Tony Neal, is a Des Moines Iowa native, and it is a family-owned small business. The salmon is of superior quality – just the kind of thing our members expect. But most importantly, the salmon is a sustainable alternative to farmed Altantic salmon that is the norm locally and that is so incredibly harmful to the environment. This last point – giving our members who buy salmon a sustainable alternative – was the clincher in granting this variance.
We are also pursuing the idea of looking beyond our borders for other products that our members want. For example, we’ll be purchasing some certified organic shallots from a small producer in Wisconsin to resell over the next few cycles to our customers. The reasons are: 1) we do not currently have shallots available, 2) we will be supporting a small producer from this part of the Midwest, and 3) we want to test how buying and reselling works (it may be the only way we will ever be able to sell milk). Call it an experiment, but it’s one that we think will have benefits with little downside.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any thoughts on these decisions. As well, we will ask for your feedback with a survey in the next few months to gauge our member’s opinions on these new approaches to achieving our mission.
Lastly, we have just launched a Services Directory on our website where our members can list services. We thought it would be a nice way to make connections in our IFC community. We have some amazing talents in our membership and we want to help spread the word. If you have a particular service you would like IFC members to know about, fill out the application form so your listing can be found by IFC members. A few examples – green energy, veterinary services, catering, photography – check it out!
I have to say something about volunteering. To our volunteer staff – you make distributions a pleasure. We could not do it without you. Many, many thanks and see you soon. If you haven’t yet volunteered, join the crew we have a good time. Sign up to volunteer by clicking here!