The energy was palpable on Tuesday night as more than two dozen volunteers cheerfully set up for the 4th annual Fall Food Fest. Then local growers and producers began showing up with goodies to share. Doors opened, the music started, and people of all ages began streaming in. With local food samples from apples (Blueridge Orchard) and tomatoes (Kaiser Farms), to yogurt (Country View Dairy) and cheese (Hansen’s Dairy), to pork (Joia Food Farm) and Thai food (Chotto House/Ginger Thai), to pie (the Pie Lady) and spice demonstrations (Luann Alemao and Assoc./Frontier Co-op), to microgreens (CC Greens) and corn (Kerns Homegrown and Fitkin Popcorn), guests had plenty of opportunities to taste as well as talk to local producers and business people about their quality products. Good Neighbor and the UNI Local Foods Program also added to the education that evening. Children greeted (or sometimes hid from) Rooty the Co-op Carrot while waiting in line to have their faces painted (thanks, Hearst Center!). The musical duo, Fuzzy Logic, entertained the crowd. Lucky attendees walked away with fabulous door prizes including gift cards from many of the Co-op’s business partners plus knife sets from Rada Cutlery. Candidates in the upcoming Board elections mingled with guests, and people stopped by the membership table to pick up their Co-op bags, buy a T-shirt or sign up to become a member-owner. This year, two food trucks (La Calle and Kubo) added to the ambience by offering more delectable local treats outdoors. When the fun concluded, the volunteers who stayed after to clean up basked in the glow of what good community embodies.
Eight new members joined that night, bringing the membership numbers to more than 690! This is an incredible number – we have had a 26% increase in members since the beginning of June (545 at that time)! But member growth is only part of the tale of your Cedar Falls Food Co-op. While we don’t have a brick and mortar store yet, those of us working closely on this project often say that our Co-op is present in the community of people involved. Whether that is someone stopping by a booth to ask questions and learn more about our efforts, or someone engaged throughout the month in committee or board work, your Co-op is here and growing. Community-owned is an apt description of your Co-op and the grocery store it is becoming. We are almost 700 member-owners strong, and the momentum continues.
Three years ago, the first Fall Food Fest had a great turnout, and many joined to become the first member-owners. This year, new members included at least one person who is brand new to this community. This is not unusual, as we see again and again that people who are new to our community immediately begin making connections to the Cedar Valley via the Co-op. This is a positive sign. We are a co-op. We will be here for future generations, because we are taking steps to get this right and be sustainable for many decades to come. Thank you all for your continued support and enthusiasm.