Member/Owners – The Foundation of the Co-op

By: Nate Furler, Marketing and Outreach Manager

The Oneota Community Food Co-op is a consumer cooperative that is owned by more than 4,000 people in and around our community of NE Iowa. Each owner purchased a share in the Co-op, or is in the process of making payments. This ownership structure is part of what makes co-ops unique businesses that are highly responsive to the needs of the community they serve. The Bylaws of the Oneota Community Cooperative more deeply explain how ownership of the Co-op exists – with the issuing price of a member share of common stock being set at $140. It outlines that this $140 share may be purchased as a one-time payment, or in $20 installment payments over the course of seven years.

The Articles of Incorporation for Oneota Co-op go on to explain that these yearly installment payments toward a share purchase must be made by March 1st of each year in order for the member/owner to be considered “in good standing.”

Owning a share of a vibrant, community-owned, local business is an opportunity in and of itself. However, in addition, the Co-op extends special member/owner benefits such as voting privileges, member discounts (monthly and product-specific), senior discounts (5% every Monday if you are 60 or older) and volunteer opportunities. These member benefits last a lifetime when the full share of $140 is purchased, as well as during the installment plan when payments are made by March 1st, each year- until the $140 share is paid in its entirety and benefits become permanent.

Each year, during our Board election process, all member share purchases at the Co-op are evaluated and the standing of each member/owner is brought up-to-date in our systems. At that time, any shares that are being paid in installments and have yet to receive payment for that year are removed from our ballot mailing list as well as have their discount privileges removed from their share number in our Point of Sale (POS) system. Once a share payment schedule becomes current or the full $140 share investment has been reached, discounts, voting privileges and other member/owner benefits are reinstated.

As has always been the practice of the Oneota Co-op, share purchases are fully refundable and “a member may withdraw membership from the Cooperative at any time and obtain a refund of the amount the member has paid on his/her share of common stock….”

Membership notes you may be interested to know:

-Deceased Member/Owners – The Oneota Co-op does its best to notify the estate of deceased member/owners about the refundable nature of Co-op shares. However, we do not search out the names of deceased member/owners on a routine basis as we feel it is the responsibility of the member/owner and their family to contact the Co-op when seeking to refund a deceased member/owner’s share.  (If we do hear of the deceased status of a member/owner, we will respectfully send a letter to the estate of the deceased, as well as a Membership Withdrawal Form in the event that the estate or surviving heir would like to refund the membership.)

-Member/owner numbers at the Co-op cannot simply be transferred to the secondary member on any particular account – even if they are partners of the primary member/owner in the legal sense. Shares must be refunded to the estate (likely the legal heir) and a new member/owner share in the Co-op must be purchased by the living spouse/heir.  We have been advised that this is Iowa state law. Additionally, due to our current computer system, it is not possible to reuse previously used member/owner numbers.

-Only the primary member/owner listed on the official Member Share Purchase Agreement owns the share at the Co-op. Any secondary persons listed on the share agreement and in the computer system only have purchasing privileges due to their use of the same household kitchen space as the primary member/ owner.

For more information about member/ownership at the Oneota Co-op, our specific mission and Ends statements, a complete list of member/owner benefits, a list of current board members and specific buyers for each department, check out page 16 of the Scoop publication. You can also find this information on our website.

Thank you for your continued support of this local cooperative business.