Category: Events

Reflections on P6 Annual Meeting from Ozark Natural Foods

 

 

 

 

 

 

A version of this post by Pauline of Ozark Natural Foods first appeared on their website. Thanks to Pauline and everyone at ONF for all their work to host our Annual Meeting this year!

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At the end of May, we had the honor of hosting the Annual National P6 Board of Directors Meeting. Twenty representatives from the growing number of retail and wholesale cooperatives visited Northwest Arkansas to discuss the program, see how the program works in our store, and to vote on the board. This meeting was also historic as we got to elect the first official Board of Directors since the original members voted to become a member owned national cooperative in the spring of last year. We were so excited to host the meeting and meet amazing individuals from member co-ops including Sewards, Viroqua, Roanoke, Maple Valley, Farmer Direct, Three Rivers Market, Eastside, Menomonie, and CROPP, which most of you might know as Organic Valley along with Aaron Reser and Ruby Levine, the national program director and marketing assistant for P6.

The meeting was short and packed full of vibrant discussion on the values and logistics of cooperatively produced and distributed food, using the program to tell the story of P6 producers, the challenges and competition facing co-ops, and visions and directions for our new board. The meeting took place at Mt. Sequoyah, where our guests were lodged, and was catered by Ozark Natural Foods. Our northern friends seemed to particularly enjoy our house made biscuits and gravy. [Ed: can confirm.] The group mostly arrived on Wednesday night and started flying out Friday afternoon so their visit was mostly business, reports, intense idea sharing, and presentations. We did get to find time for some Fayetteville fun though! Some of the members along with myself and Ali, our Marketing Manager, met up the first night for a great dinner at Four Corners Kitchen where they got to enjoy all the local foods purchased and prepared in this wonderful new restaurant that is focused on the same thing we are in our kitchen here at ONF, using a menu that is built around seasonal local, and in our case, P6 farm offerings. (Special thanks to CROPP for taking us out!)

The next night was our turn and it was our delight to be able to take our guests and cooperative advocates out to dinner at Green House Grill with 2 of our own P6 producers, Tessa and Scott from White River Creamery and Mee McGill from Roots in Bloom. They, along with Genevieve Villines from Villines Family Farm, took time off their extremely busy farms to be a part of a workshop exercise and tell their story to the board and member representatives. Joining us for dinner, owner and operator Jerrmy Gawthrop, took time out to speak to members about the concept behind his restaurants and the driving force of locally sourced ingredients. A particularly moving moment for me was being able to share a meal with the people who both produced and prepared our ingredients and dishes while in the company of those who have done so much work on local and cooperative food systems. It is one of those times where I can literally see our food and cooperative movements strengthening, all over some goat cheese.

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After a half day of meeting on Friday and lunch at our store, they listened to a presentation of the P6 program in our store and then got to tour Appleseeds Garden next door where Farm Manager Cale stayed in town to go over the non-profit’s operations and crops. The biggest take away for me was gaining the understanding that P6 is not just a marketing campaign, in the words of Eric from CROPP, P6 is a supply-chain program. It deals with how food actually moves around our country from farmer to store to consumer and farm to wholesale avenues and distribution. This is what coops are seeking to take on to make the food that we have worked over the past 40 years just to provide to our communities through retail stores. We are now working together as a group to move that food from farmer to you in a way that further benefits the communities who have made a co-op. Cooperatives address the unique needs of the communities they are in and we have learned a lot from each other. I’m excited to be in a store that does this for my community and for us now to be a part of this larger network that is constantly geared at strengthening each of its members. We are especially thankful to the entire board, staff, members, producers, and chefs who took the time to make this amazing event occur. Go co-op, go local, go P6!

Viroqua Food Co-op P6 Tailgate Party

By Bjorn Bergman, Viroqua Food Co-op Outreach Coordinator

Outside the tentEvery March, Viroqua Food Co-op celebrates spring and its amazing P6 farmers and producers by hosting an Annual Principle Six (P6) Tailgate Party. The event is exactly what the word ‘tailgate’ invokes: a big party in a parking lot that includes eating grilled food. Instead of cheering for a favorite sports team, attendees learn about and sample products from a variety of P6 producers (local, co-op, and small) that supply the VFC with amazing food and products. This party is VFC’s way to showcase our P6 program by putting the spotlight on a number of P6 producers that are at the heart of what we do best at our Co-op.

 

Origins of our Tailgate Party

For years, Viroqua Food Co-op hosted a CSA Open House at our store every March. While the event was a great way for owners and shoppers meet the farmers supplying our store with produce and learn about area CSA farms, it didn’t generate much increased foot traffic or increased sales for our store. We wanted to have a bigger event with more producer and community involvement and connection to our Co-op’s mission. In the Fall of 2011, Viroqua Food Co-op began integrating P6 into our store. We recognized the value of P6 as a vehicle to communicate with owners and customers more than just how food was produced (i.e. local, organic). P6 allows us to showcase the ‘who’ behind the products in our Co-op (i.e. co-op, non-profit organization, small), which we feel help us better achieve our mission.

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After labeling P6 products in our store, we were looking for a way to kick off our P6 program and introduce it in a meaningful way to our owners and shoppers. We wanted to have a party that focused on our P6 program and brought more people into our store. At this party, we wanted to invite between 10-15 P6 producers to sample their food and products. Our small 4400 square foot store couldn’t hold that many sampling producers while allowing people to shop. A store vendor brought up the idea of setting up a tent in our parking lot for the producers to sample in. With all of these ideas colliding, we decided to host a P6 themed event in a tent in our parking lot that took the place of our annual CSA Open House. The only question that remained was what we should call the event? Since Viroqua Food Co-op is located in the heart of Wisconsin, our culture is immersed in consuming lots of cheese and brats while cheering on our favorite sports teams, which lends itself to the state pastime of Tailgating (having a party with your friends in a parking lot). Why not have a P6 Tailgate Party that celebrates our P6 producers and brings together our community?

Simply Bee Natural

Nuts and Bolts
raffleWe aim to have our P6 Tailgate Party on either the third or fourth Saturday each March from 10am-2pm. Our hope is that that all the snow will be melted and it will be at least 40°F outside by this time in Southwestern Wisconsin. Additionally, this is typically a slower time for community events in our town, so we hope to get a better turn out. We rent a heated 40×20 foot tent with sidewalls from our local rental center. Inside the tent, we have tables for 12-16 P6 producers to sample and talk with customers. We make sure we invite P6 producers from every department of our store (including CSA Farms) so that attendees can experience the many different types of P6 farmers/producers that supply our Co-op. A full list of the producers at our 2015 P6 Tailgate Party can be found here. We also have a number of prize drawings that attendees can enter. In 2015, we had a P6 Prize Basket full of P6 products you can find in our store and A Year’s Worth of Free Organic Valley Milk, which was donated by Organic Valley. In true tailgating fashion, the VFC Deli grills out during the event. Their menu features a variety of P6 foods like Wisconsin Meadows burgers and Organic Prairie hot dogs, and brats and deli sides like potato salad and coleslaw.

 

A Beneficial Community Event

Our P6 Tailgate Party is always a successful event for our Co-op, our community, and, most importantly, our P6 producers. The event increases foot traffic and sales at our Co-op. In 2015, our P6 Tailgate Party brought in 15% higher sales for our store as compared to a typical Saturday in March. Additionally, products that were sampled at our 2015 P6 Tailgate Party saw a collective 378% increase in sales when compared to sales of those same products the Saturday prior to the event.

2015 VFC Tailgate

Our owners and customers seek to attend the event and connect more with what P6 after attending. We prominently advertise our P6 Tailgate Party in the community, including on the front cover of our newsletter, in the local newspapers, on the radio, and on social media. Many community members make a point to attend to connect with and try samples from our local, co-op, and small producers. The event leads to more people understanding the P6 message. When we had our first P6 Tailgate Party in March of 2012, many attendees were being introduced to P6 for the first time. After three years of putting on the event, increasing the presence of P6 messaging in our store, and always featuring P6 in our Newsletter, customers and owners are really beginning to connect to what P6 means. One owner recently told me that she really appreciates seeing P6 labels in the store because it allows her to support producers that are helping create a more just, cooperative, and local food system in our future.

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Most importantly, the P6 Tailgate Party is a huge way to support our P6 producers, which are at the heart of our Co-op, working to create a more just and resilient local and cooperative food economy. Producers are extremely excited and thankful to get an opportunity to have a sampling and info table at the event. One of our 2015 P6 Producer attendees Tiffany Cade from Deep Rooted, our main tomato supplier commented, “It was so nice to meet some of the customers who buy our tomatoes at the co-op it was also so nice to hear so many great things about how people use them and are looking forward to them this year.” Now in our third year, prior to the event we get numerous requests from our P6 producers to sample at our Tailgate Party. We now aim to have a different set of P6 producers at the event each year so that new P6 Producers get an opportunity to attend the event each year.

Organic Valley

Now with our 3rd Annual P6 Tailgate Party on the books, I can honestly say that our P6 Tailgate Party is Viroqua Food Co-ops cornerstone event each year. Yes, this event could be put on with a ‘local’ theme, but I don’t think it would have the same impact. Having P6 be the main focus of our Tailgate helps us highlight more than local – it helps us recognize the importance of co-op, non-profits, and small producers in creating a more just and equitable food system. Since starting our P6 program, we are doing a much better job at telling the story of our work to create a more just and responsible food system.

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The Legacy of African Americans in Co-ops

Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard’s book Collective Courage was one of the most talked about books on cooperation last year. Dr. Gordon Nembhard broke new ground in both cooperative history and black history, drawing together dozens of sources and stories to paint a picture of the enduring history of black cooperation in the United States. LaDonna Redmond Sanders of Seward Co-op has a great post up expounding on some of the ideas in the book:

“Dr. Nembhard’s book is a continuation of the 1907 survey of African American cooperative efforts written by W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois discussed how African Americans used racial solidarity and economic cooperation in the face of discrimination and marginalization.

According to Dr. Nembhard, Du Bois differentiated cooperative economics from Black capitalism or buying Black. Du Bois focused on a “Black group economy” to insulate Blacks from continued segregation and marginalization. […]

Du Bois said that “we unwittingly stand at the crossroads—should we go the way of capitalism and try to become individually rich as capitalists, or should we go the way of cooperatives and economic cooperation where we and our whole community could be rich together?”

In this instance, Du Bois believed that economic cooperation could provide more than providers of goods or services, but also a philosophy or blueprint by which communities could be built or rebuilt.”

Read the whole article here, and if you’re in Minneapolis, make sure to sign up for LaDonna’s book group discussion of Collective Courage on Wednesday, 2/25.

 

P6 Launch at Fayetteville’s Midtown Music Launch

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The good people at Ozark Natural Foods are excited! Why? Because they just launched their very own P6 program. They invited in their community to join them and learn about the program at the Midtown Music Festival, an annual neighborhood party in Fayetteville, AR. There was a photo booth, face painting, balloon twisting, and even a bounce house! Every dollar spent at the festival went to benefit Apple Seeds, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching children how to grow their own food.

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One food truck handed out hot dogs for free, while the store provided tamales and black bean burgers. There was not only a raffle for gift cards to local businesses but also a dunk tank to sink local celebrities. The event got a ton of people to the store to come in and learn more about the P6 program. Congratulations on a great event!

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P6 Month Wrap-up

August 2014 was a great P6 month! At a national level, we hosted our #p6coops twitter conversation. We were really excited to hear about the great things our member co-ops have accomplished. Here’s some accomplishments at some of our co-ops:

Seward Community Co-op: Seward hosted a kickoff on August 2nd. Staff sampled P6 products including Equal Exchange chocolate and tea, Maple Valley maple lemonade, Ferndale poultry, and Kickapoo Coffee. There was a raffle to win a P6 goodie basket at the front of the store. The store’s photographer happened to catch a picture of the winner, Nancy Reeck:

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Seward set some high internal goals for raising P6 sales during P6 month. Regularly, P6 sales are around 37% of store sales. During P6 month, Seward set a goal of exceeding 45% P6 sales and actually hit 46.46%. Congrats, Seward! That’s a whole lot of money getting sent to small, local, and cooperative producers.

Viroqua Food Co-op: VFC hosted a P6 Square Dance and Grill Out on August 22nd. They served Wisco Pop! and food from a variety of P6 producers. Local musicians the Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers played so everyone could dance:

Usually at VFC, there will be two or even three P6 producers offering samples in the store. During P6 month, 15 different P6 producers came into the store to sample their products and talk with customers.

Eastside Food Co-op: Eastside brought in folks from Kadejan on August 30. The Kadejan farmers talked about their new GMO-free chicken feed mill, which fills a gap in the market to allow people who want to grow GMO-free chickens to do so.