by David Lester, General Manager

I think I am reading too many newspaper headlines and magazine articles lately that paint a bleak future for our world.  After a few hours of taking in this information, I find myself with a heightened heart rate, tightened muscles, and I begin to interact with people in a way that has barriers and not a lot of connection.  I’ve fallen victim to the new language of our day I like to call Bleakspeak.

Our co-op is weathering some difficult times right now.  With critical, external uncertainties like rising fuel and food costs, unpredictable issues around food safety and food politics, product supplies due to climate change and the general downward trajectory of the world economy, we have our work cut out for us in our little store.  The next year will definitely have its challenges, but the staff and I are constantly working on creating more opportunities for local producers and investing more in the community.  We are also trying to do more work to connect people with their food and getting back to the basics.  An example of this is our new basic cooking class series, “How to Boil Water.”  We have had an overwhelming response to these classes that teach people how to use basic cooking techniques to make easy, healthy dishes at home.

I hope you enjoy our Board President, Bill Pardee’s column this issue called, “A Profitable Cooperative?”  We are getting closer to a year when offering a patronage refund will be a reality for our Co-op.  We still have debt to pay, but the cooperative business model is such a sustainable one that should weather tougher economic times by investing our profits to our community and its members.  I read an intriguing article recently in the Des Moines Register about a new startup company in Des Moines.  The company uses a new high-tech process that saves polyethylene-lined containers that are used for milk, juices, etc. from the landfill by transforming them into wallboard and other building materials.  It is the only plant of its kind in the United States.  It is an amazing story of how one individual found a way to improve our world and follow his personal mantra of “People, Planet, Profit.”  Businesses like this and like ours which are committed to improving the world and finding solutions to some of the problems created by over-consumerism must lead the way into the future.

Some New Year resolutions that I intend to work on for the year range from the very small, like looking people in the eye when having a conversation and carefully listening to bigger challenges, like creating some space in my workday to get outside and raise my heartbeat in a beneficial way.

The future does look bleak indeed, but I still like my chances living in the Oneota Valley.  By no means are we insulated from what is going on in the rest of the world, but we have many options that connect us to the natural world and what it means to be human.  I like my chances living in a community that builds bike trails, maintains beautiful and inspiring parks and has the motivation to create a healthier community through wellness initiatives.  I like my chances living in a community that supports others when they’re down.  I have seen this done through fundraisers, the gift of homemade meals and repairing a home that needed fixing.  This community sings songs for people, cares about our way of life, and gives gifts of time and love for people.

Enough Bleakspeak.  Let’s speak more of the language that connects us to what it means to be human and live in such an inspiring place, and rise up to the challenges to keep it that way.