Strength in Cooperative Numbers

By John Tashiro, General Manager and Faye Conte, Board Chair

We’re thankful for the intermittent rains, as I imagine our local farms are too, during this warm summer we’re having. This is one of our favorite times of year at the Co-op, as we’re able to taste the wide variety of locally grown produce. I’m guessing you all have your favorites - raspberries, blueberries, broccoli, beets, lettuce, corn and much more. What a bounty!

You may be aware that Vermont ranked first again for its commitment to raising and eating local food according to the Strolling of the Heifers 2018 Locavore Index. The index strives to spotlight local food trends throughout the country and encourage every state to spread the benefits of healthy local foods and strong local food systems. And with over 20 food co-ops in Vermont, the incredible network and efforts of our local farmers and vendors, and an engaged and well informed community, we can continue to grow our state’s economy and make local food more accessible to all.

Throughout history, cooperatives have been driven by long term results that benefit their Members and the greater community within the framework of democratic control. Over Onion River Co-op’s rich 45+ year history, we have collectively been able to support and become an integral part of the growth of a local, healthy and dynamic region. As a Co-op, we are as committed and motivated as ever to continue this work.

One important area where we are asking for your help and consideration is with our Member Loan Campaign. We in the final 3 weeks of the Campaign and have raised over $700,000 of the $1.5 million goal that keeps us at a manageable budget. We need your participation and hope you will consider an investment to help us reach our goal by August 27th! 

As we have shared before, our sales performance for the South End store and collectively across the Co-op continues to exceed our budget forecasts, which is truly exciting! Business is robust and while we initially struggled to hire enough staff due to a combination of low unemployment and being picky (yes, we deeply value cultural fit at the Co-op), we now have over 335 incredible staff. They work hard every day to serve you, our over 13,500 Members, customers and the broader community. 

In light of the Co-op’s strong sales performance, you may be wondering “why” and “why now” with the Member Loan Campaign. When we finalized our bank loan needed to begin construction of the South End store, we planned for a portion of the loan to be offset by Member loans. Being owned by you, our Members, we wanted to create an opportunity and mechanism to borrow and pay interest back to you rather than the bank.

While Member Loan Campaigns are typically completed before a project’s construction, our Board and leadership team had been discussing and preparing for expansion over many years while we explored a variety of potential locations. When we finally confirmed the current South End location, we were in a strong financial position to diligently and efficiently establish a unique agreement with the bank and move forward with the site purchase, store design and building construction. While we had planned for a Member Loan Campaign with a $1.5 million goal, the planning, permitting and actual construction of the store ended up taking up much more time and resources than anticipated. This delayed the communication and implementation of our Member Loan Campaign.

With 3 weeks to go, we are asking for your consideration and participation now to help us raise the remaining $800,000 in investments (from $2,500 to $100,000+ each) that will enable your Co-op to make the continued impact that we all seek. With your support, we’ll continue to strengthen the local food system through our significant farmer, producer and local business networks; offer fair purchasing prices and options for low or no cost loans; participate in statewide events like Open Farm Week; increase healthy food access within our community; and partner with a multitude of non-profit community organizations. Your partnership will allow your Co-op to create increased social value and ensure we continue to affect change across our community that builds a stable and vibrant democratic business with heart. Your energy, belief and effort will make this campaign as successful as our South End store!  Please call Allison Hope at 777-2667 or John Tashiro at 861-9754 to discuss your options and make an investment.

Thank you all for your consideration and incredible support throughout the years. We remain committed to listening to and best serving you, our Members, customers and the broader community. We wish you a wonderful rest of summer under continued sunny blue skies!