Bloomingfoods and Me: Part 2

First, see this:

Bloomingfoods and Me

I notice that the successful and expanding Willie Street Co-op in Madison Wisconsin regularly refers to its members as Owners, and not only that, but they affix the adjective “active” in front of the word “Owner.” How do they know who is active? According to their by-laws, any Owner who has purchased at least one thing in the past year from their Co-op. What a concept! So simple! And if Bloomingfoods applied this rule, how many Active Owners would we actually have?

The answer matters, because according to existing Bloomingfoods By-Laws, in order to even plan to hold a special Member meeting we need a petition signed by 10% of the Members (See section 4.2). Then, the quorum for the meeting itself also needs to be 10% of the members (Section 4.6). See ByLaws:

But since, according to the Board President, we don’t know how many “active” members we have, how can we comply with the ByLaw requirements?

(In contrast, a special Member meeting of the Madison co-op requires 5% of the “owners in good standing” and a quorum of 50 at the meeting . Much less stringent, and since they know who their active owners are, even possible!)

Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing to think about our local situation and more and more, wonder how both local city and county government in conjunction with a re-visioned “Bloomingfoods Local” (the name is Tom Gallagher’s) could begin to actually support and train thousands of young farmers — imagine our suburban lawns, elementary, middle and high school campuses, IU and other large institutional campuses, parks, empty lots, everywhere, all repurposed to  grow local organic food! Imagine Bloomington blooming! into a horizontally based local and permacultural, organic food system that creates seed banks and distribution networks, creates and supports food education projects, plus networks and leverages all sorts of existing local food organizations — from the Farmer’s Market, to CSAs, to the Local Growers Guild, the Community Orchard, the Permaculture Guild,  the Center for Sustainable Living, the Master Gardeners Association, the Local Orchard Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard — and so on and on! It’s not impossible. In fact, it’s staring us in the face. And to do it we probably also need a physical place, an old warehouse somewhere that could be turned into Bloomingfoods Local Garden Center again — with a giant bulletin board! — and, for now, a skeletal volunteer staff.

The Garden Center at the Eastside store was the one part of Bloomingfoods that, until it closed, was decidedly local, unable to be imitated by Big Food stores, and very very valuable. I know one woman who stopped growing her own food because, when the Garden Center with its knowledgeable staff closed, she had no one to help her with her questions.

Let’s take our example from Maine:

What Small Farms Need to Compete with Corporate Food




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4 Responses to Bloomingfoods and Me: Part 2

  1. Ann Kreilkamp says:

    Laura Hagen, who was unable to post her comment to this post, asked me to place it here, as well as on the original post. It’s well worth reading, and her information was deep background for some of what I had to say. — A.K.

    Dear Ann,

    I’m a Member-Owner of a food co-op in upstate NY who used to live in Bloomington (and still shops there when in town.)

    There are national “corporitization” processes at play, being levied against locally-owned & operated food co-ops. Our co-op fell victim to this and it looks like Bloomingfoods may have, too.

    You wouldn’t know it, from the outside looking in – it is an invisible process if you’re not looking for it – until suddenly your co-op is in deep financial trouble, public meetings abound …and Member-Owners realize (worst case) their bylaws have been changed, a bunch of new “Shareholders” added to the co-operative corporation – as opposed to “Owners” or “Member-Owners” – and they no longer control or own their own local food co-op.

    I wrote a blogpost about Bloomingfoods and my co-op, comparing our situations. We are both about the same size, locally-owned and locally-operated, and both started 40 years ago. We both were started by groups of families who valued locally-produced, high-quality, fresh, real food (nowadays one must also include “organic”).

    Since I quoted your blog in my blog, it would be nice for your readers to know that!

    My blog is GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! and the post, GRASSROOTS ACTION Needed by Bloomingfoods Food Co-op Owners in Indiana, is here:

    Grassroots action, community action – families helping families – is saving our food co-op. I hope it can Bloomingfoods, too.

    PS I encourage your readers to read these three 2015 articles by a fellow food co-op Member-Owner from Vermont, Mimi Yahn:

    Losing Our Principles:

    Searching for Democracy at the Putney Co-op:

    Still Searching for Democracy at the Putney Food Co-op:

  2. Laura Bruno says:

    This same process has happened to our local co-op. I swear the “helpful” associations advising these local co-ops have been completely co-opted by corporate big food. Everything local seems to get rejected unless it’s GMO. Freakin’ bizarre. They’ve done away with all vegan vitamins, with organic toothpaste options, and with most vegan foods, except those processed by big companies who own the “organic” labels. We have given up on attending meetings, and two people recently resigned from the Board in protest of how much they are selling out.

    And selling out is the term. $100K gone in a poof in the past year under new management, which is now the third manager in a row the Board has royally messed up on. The previous manager lived three states away! The one before that falsely labeled items organic when they came from a can and were decidedly anything but organic. This management team drove out everyone who really cared about the co-op and natural foods. The only people left are down to the most minimal hours to maintain their discounts, and the ones who replaced them are bizarrely unfriendly, non-engaged with members, and not knowledgeable about products or issues.

    We are hoping it goes bust at this point, so that local people who truly do care about organic, local, clean foods can qualify to start our own co-op. Distributors won’t deliver to two co-ops in the same area — some kind of anti-competition rule — so we are ironically hoping for complete failure at this point, so that we can get our co-op back instead of the gas station it’s becoming. David still shops at the co-op on occasion to stock up on sale items, but by getting rid of all the unique aspects of a feel good co-op, they’ve set themselves up as a place to shop only for price. They lose out most of the time, and we actually prefer the staff at Whole Foods 45 minutes away, or at the new Martin’s Express, which at least seems to care about the people who shop there.

    Well done, infiltrators! The co-op is dead, long live the (new) co-op!

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