From rural Indiana to Japan, from Indonesia to Puget Sound, cooperatives are providing answers and a way forward in an environment of increasing challenges. Past issues of Cooperative Grocer have featured outstanding examples of such efforts, and the current one shows more:
- offering market opportunities that conventional channels discourage;
- providing relief for organic farmers hit hard by weather-related disasters;
- striving for continuing improvement in store services and systems;
- seeking allies and resources that deepen cooperatives’ economic and ecological impact;
- strengthening our abilities in self-governance and building cooperative capital.
Launching a new food co-op in the U.S. is still a grassroots effort, but now there is more system-wide support for startup efforts than was available previously. Members tell the story of Lost River Community Co-op in Paoli, Indiana, which opened in October, assisted by a neighboring co-op and our national network, including the Food Co-op 500 project.
More to the point for co-op retailers, once they are in operation, is merchandising to keep the store consistently attractive and informative. Most food co-ops are growing, despite an increasingly competitive natural/organic marketplace. Skagit Valley Food Co-op, located in northwest Washington, presents a summary of how they keep their successful store looking fresh.
Behind the scenes are co-op directors and managers looking at systems and budgets. Two articles cover operational aspects of planning for growth. Liz McMann of Mississippi Market reviews the complexities of installing new point of sale (POS) systems that improve co-op services and data management. For co-ops contemplating new construction, Christina Jepsen of Oneota Co-op covers some of the many design questions that arise in a planning context driven by heightened environmental concerns. And board of directors governance, crucial to sustaining the cooperative enterprise over years, must be based on its own good design foundation, including budgeting and leadership development, as discussed by Michael Healy in this issue.
Finally, three contributions highlight values and the global context of cooperative enterprise: Grace Cox reviews the ongoing development of Domestic Fair Trade standards. David Thompson reports on Japan, home to the world’s largest consumer cooperative sector. And your editor offers further observations on co-op values and the unfolding environmental and economic breakdowns.
What else would you like to see covered in these pages? Future editions have room for additional contributions, and your suggestions are always welcome.