The Big Question From the GM

By: David Lester, General Manager

Customer Question: “I am originally from Cresco, Iowa and now live in Waverly, Iowa.  I have enjoyed the Oneota Co-op for a very long time and still bring family and friends to shop it when I come back to Decorah.  On a recent trip, I brought a friend who had never been to any kind of food co-op before and she was completely amazed by the quality and selection of organic food and produce that you carry.  We talked the whole way home about what a hit the Co-op would be in Waverly and how disappointed we are that there is nothing like this in the Cedar Valley.

The point of this email, besides thanking you for doing such an awesome job supplying people with organic and quality food, is to ask if you have ever thought of expanding or opening another location?  If so, I nominate Waverly!”

Thank you for your excellent question. Believe it or not, I have had three other communities asking me the same question in the last month! Food cooperatives are experiencing a substantial period of growth and expansion that hasn’t been seen since the early 1970s. There are more and more consumers wanting to buy what co-ops have to sell and value our product selection and business practices. Consumers are wary of the long-term effects of GMOs, antibiotics in their meat and dairy products, and the growing practices associated with non-organic produce.

The Oneota Co-op Board and I are currently in the middle of a strategic planning process that is focused on identifying two or three strategic initiatives for our Co-op in the next five years or so. In other words, what is Oneota’s next BIG thing? Will it be addressing the lack of good, quality food in some of the communities in northeast Iowa? Will it be participating in growing local food production and distribution? Will it mean better quality jobs for our staff? Will it mean expanding the existing store and services? Will it mean another store? I would encourage our members to let us know by email or drop us a note in our Customer Comment box at the Customer Service Desk if you have an idea that the Co-op could take advantage of in the next five years. These initiatives will be announced to our membership most likely in early 2014.

Currently, Dubuque is getting very close to opening their new co-op in the downtown warehouse district and communities like Cedar Falls (close to Waverly), Mason City, Grinnell and others are also in the early stages of creating a food co-op. Opening and managing a physical store location takes a lot of resources and a level of risk that takes a dedicated group of members and Board to see it through.

I would have to say that my favorite cooperative principle is “Cooperation Among Cooperatives.” This means that cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, regional, national and international structures. Oneota Community Food Co-op has been practicing this principle a lot lately, and we know that helping other communities form a co-op in their community will strengthen what we are doing here in Decorah.