This year six Cedar Falls Food Co-op representatives were able to attend this year’s Up & Coming Food Co-op Conference, which was attended by over 60 start up food co-ops across the U.S. This annual conference is focused on helping communities start their own food co-ops. They offer workshops and resources from industry experts and other co-ops that have been successful. Between the six Cedar Falls Food Co-ops representatives, they were able to attend over 20 workshops. These included:
Achieving Racial Diversity
Capital Campaign Planning
Case Study: Clifton Market
Case Study: Green Top Grocery
Creative Funding Sources
Culture of the Co-op
Deli, Bakery, and Butcher: Which Service Departments Will You Choose?
Leveraging Events for Ownership State 2
Membership Growth 101
Mini and Micro Owner Campaigns
Relationship Building with Local Vendors
The Power of Rebranding
The Power of Vision
Using Social Media
And more, including a one-on-one consultation with Ben Sandel of CDS Consulting.
This conference is a not only a great resource because of the expert advice, but because it gives us the opportunity to learn from and connect with other co-ops that are in the various stages of start-up development. One of the main principles of Co-ops is P6 (Co-ops cooperate). Conferences like this help us to remember that we’re not working alone. As Outreach Coordinator Melanie Drake noted:
It did not matter if I was talking to a co-op in the Midwest with a similar community or a co-op in the inner city of D.C. with a very different set of challenges, we all abide by the co-op principles, most notably P6. I saw this repeatedly over the weekend from co-ops sharing successful member campaign models to co-ops pooling resources together to provide scholarship funds for other co-ops to attend next year’s conference. Even after the conference ended, we visited the host city co-op and received an impromptu tour from a staff member who recognized us as visitors from a fellow co-op. As I’ve worked with the Cedar Falls Food Co-op, I’ve been amazed at the community effort and involvement from people across the Cedar Valley, but I now know that this community expands across the United States.
Every time we have attended the conference we have been given the tools to help us succeed in the next phase of our development. Some of the workshops we attended served as a good refresher of some of the foundational processes of building a co-op, such as how to ensure that our finances are in order. Other workshops provided us with information about the considerations of running a co-op in the current grocery landscape and how to best succeed once we’re open. Every attendee came away from the conference with a renewed sense of passion for growing our co-op. It is amazing to seek so many like-minded people working together to provide our communities with access to locally grown, healthy foods and a business that prioritizes sustainability, fair wages, and serving our community.
You can read the full conference schedule here, including a complete description for each workshop.