Cooperatively Baked in Madison

Nature’s Bakery in downtown Madison, WI, makes bread, granola, trail mix, pita, veggie burgers, calzones, and something more. They make an example of what a cooperative business that enriches its surrounding community can look like. They make eight good jobs for their worker-owners. They make an opportunity for people to participate in a local food system, right in their own neighborhood.

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I spoke with Nate Olson, one of eight worker-owners at Nature’s Bakery. In a worker cooperative like Nature’s Bakery, the business is entirely owned by its employees, who each own an equal share. Potential new members apprentice for six months before being voted in by the existing members. Nature’s Bakery has been around for 44 years and all the original founders have moved on. The most senior worker-owner has been there for 20 years. Nate joined four years ago. The co-op operates on consensus decision-making. Each worker-owner knows how to do everything from deliveries to making each product to packaging. There’s some division of labor — Nate is the Marketing Coordinator — but in general, the worker-owners help each other out and can cover for each other if needed. (more…)