By David Lester
This year is the Chinese year of the dragon. The United Nations has also declared this the “International Year of Cooperatives.” Is there a relationship here that we should be paying attention to? I’d like to think so!
For centuries in China, the dragon has been revered as a powerful king that was made from different parts of real creatures such as the tiger, fish, snake and eagle. It has been seen as a symbol of power, superiority and rule. People born in this year are said to possess power and wisdom.
Okay, maybe it is a stretch to say that cooperatives will become the most powerful force and business model in the world, but cooperatives are definitely seeing a rise in popularity worldwide. In Iowa, Tall Grass Grocery Co-op opened in Des Moines last year and Dubuque is poised to open a co-op in late 2012.
Food cooperatives are building better regional food systems based in community and democratic ownership. Member-owners at our co-op have been shaping the direction of our community’s connection to food for over thirty-eight years. Our member-owners have played a big role creating partnerships with organizations and individuals to create a more sustainable food economy right here in northeast Iowa.
The focus of this edition of the SCOOP is to explain the importance and benefits of becoming a member-owner of our Co-op. Here are just a few:
• Ownership in a locally-owned business that has positive impact on its community
• Create financial sustainability for our store. (Membership equity helps purchase needed equipment and other things to sell more of our products.)
• One –time monthly discount of 5% on a single trip
• Monthly member-only sales
• Special order discounts
• Special member appreciation day sales
• Future participation in patronage refunds when the store is profitable
I want to personally thank all of the 209 new member-owners that signed up in 2011 which brings our total membership to approximately 3,700. This speaks well for our Co-op and shows that a high percentage of the Decorah community are member-owners. As a member-owner of the Co-op, you directly support a local business that saw over 46% of total sales stay in our economy. That is over $1.74 million annually with over $790,000 going to local producers and over $950,000 to providing wages to 40 local individuals and families. These figures are in addition to numerous donations made by the Co-op to local and regional community organizations as well as the education and outreach our staff and member-owners provided this past year.
We are the Oneota COMMUNITY Co-op and we invite you to become a member-owner, especially during the month of March, and experience the benefits. I look forward to seeing you in the store and breathing a little fire this year!