Business After Hours a Sweet Success

Business After Hours a Sweet Success

bah signSome guests of the Yelm Co-op’s Business After Hours woke up with truffles on the brain. That’s not surprising, given the culinary tour de force put on by local chef Dawn Young, who created a variety of simple but unique appetizers for approximately 20 visitors from the Yelm Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday night.

“We are so amazed by the generosity of the Co-op and the support their members provide,” says Chamber Administrative Assistant Line Critchfield. “It’s impressive to see an event like this go off so smoothly and have such great turnout.”

Board President Bill Wyman was also happy with the event. “Everybody who was there had a really good time,” he says. “It’s great to be able to show how far we’ve come in such a short time. It’s been just eight years since we were in the parking lot in the Worm Farm.”

All of the appetizers were created using food from the Co-op’s shelves, and Dawn noticed a common reaction. “A lot of people were surprised to find out how easy and healthy things were, especially the desserts,” she says.*

Events like the Business After Hours are important for increasing awareness, says Bill. “Although a lot of the community knows us, a lot of local businesses don’t. We’ve grown consistently every single year since we started.”  

Guests went away with Co-op bags filled with a sampling of goodies the store carries – and a lingering memory. In the words of one wistful visitor, “Those truffles would have made a great breakfast.”

*Note: Recipes are still available through the Co-op.

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Yelm Co-op to Host Business After Hours

Yelm Co-op to Host Business After Hours

avocado trufflesAttention Yelm Chamber of Commerce members! The Yelm Food Cooperative is hosting a Business After Hours event this Thursday, May 21st. Grab this opportunity to explore Yelm’s only natural foods market, learn about the Yelm Farmers Market, and sample some delicious appetizers prepared by Dawn Young, formerly of Early Dawn’s Eatery.
When: Thursday, May 21st from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Where: The Yelm Food Cooperative, 308 E. Yelm Avenue
“It’s a chance to enjoy catered food, become a member of the Co-op, sample wines from The Wine Cellar, or become a donor,” says board member Terry Kaminski. “It’s a forum where everything is available.” Farmers Market Manager Karen Rae will also be on hand to answer questions and explain sponsorship opportunities.
“All of the appetizers will be created using products that come directly off the Co-op shelves and we’ll be providing little recipe cards if people want to go home and replicate them,” says Dawn. “Everything that we’re serving will have no cooking involved, just preparation, which makes them perfect for quick and easy summer serving, especially with graduations and all of the summer holidays coming up.” Note: these will include avocado truffles with cocoa and Himalayan salt, pictured above.
Terry adds that the event will also include several door prizes. Most importantly, she says, “This event is about expanding awareness. We want people to know what the Co-op has to offer.”  

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Tina Maggio is Beautifying Yelm, One Sign at a Time

Tina Maggio is Beautifying Yelm, One Sign at a Time

20150512_100843When you drive by the Yelm Food Co-op, probably the first thing that catches your eye is a sign – a beautifully lettered, colorful, hand-drawn creation advertising produce and wine. That sign and others like it, including the blackboard menu at Garden to Gourmet and posters for Standing Room Only productions at the Triad Theater, all come from one person: local artist Tina Maggio.   Tina regularly volunteers her time and talent at the Co-op.
Although she’s been shopping at the store since it opened, she first became a volunteer when the store changed locations. “It wasn’t a conscious decision,” she explains.  “I jumped in because I’d met some really cool people at the former little store. I thought, “They need help.”
Her first experience was painting the inside of the new building. “Carol Franks, Linda Shub and I were up on the scaffolding painting, laughing and having a good time. That’s what made it fun – the people I worked with,” she says.
That continues to hold true today. Tina also volunteers for the annual Gift of Gobble project, which provides over 100 Thanksgiving meals to families in need. “It’s my favorite thing to help with, because it’s the same people who started the project and they’re still there every year. We make it a fun day,” she says. Fun, she adds, is critical for volunteers.   “I have to be honest; If it weren’t for the people I enjoyed being with, I wouldn’t do it. We’re giving the time, so we might as well have a good time.”
One of her regular volunteer tasks is to create little signs for the produce. Because Tina is Tina, the signs are miniature works of art. “I want them to look beautiful,” she says. “It’s the same with the sign out front. I want to beautify the city, so people drive by and say, ‘Oh, that’s pretty.’ If it looks nice and makes the business more attractive, why not? I think Yelm could use a little beautifying.”
Remarkably, Tina is self-taught. “My dad was an artist and did some lettering,” she says. “I used to watch him.” In high school, she took a two week class in lettering and was hooked from then on. She got as many books as she could on the subject and learned as she went. “I was inspired,” she says.
Today, it’s the people at the Co-op that continue to inspire her. “I can go in almost any day, running in for milk or fruit, and there’s always someone I know or haven’t seen for a while. It’s this little hub, a meeting place which I really like,” she says.  “I love the atmosphere of the store as it is now – warm and inviting.”
If she could change one thing, it would be to increase community involvement, particularly in the area of volunteering.  “A lot of the same people are still doing the same things,” she says. “It seems like they’re still carrying it. It would be cool if there were more new people coming in.”
Aside from that, she hopes that awareness continues to grow in Yelm and surrounding areas.  “Everybody eats, everybody loves food,” she says.  “It would be great to see more people who live in the area shopping at the Co-op, rather than just saying, ‘Oh, I’ll go to Safeway. It’s cheaper.’ It’s about bringing people together over food.”

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Olykraut May Have You Rethinking Your Relationship with Sauerkraut

Olykraut May Have You Rethinking Your Relationship with Sauerkraut

olykraut1Multiple choice question. Which best describes your feelings about sauerkraut?

  1. Love it!
  2. I enjoy it during Oktoberfest, accompanied by a large stein
  3. I know it’s really healthy, but . . . no thanks
  4. Sauerkraut?

Whichever category you fall into, get ready for a new experience. Olympia-based Olykraut has developed its own line of locally sourced, certified organic sauerkraut with year-round flavors like Spicy Garlic, Smoke & Kale and Eastern European. Additionally, they have seasonal flavors like Curry, Nettle, Sea Greens, and Cumin Jalapeno that are in high demand. “We get a lot of messages wondering when our seasonal flavors are going to be ready,” says Marketing and Communications Manager Carley Mattern.

Recently, the company won a 2015 Good Food Award.  The winners were chosen from 1,462 entries in a blind taste test by 182 judges. Good Food Awards describes the winners as being at “the forefront of American craft food, making products that are delicious, respectful of the environment, and connected to communities and cultural traditions.” In Mattern’s words, Olykraut is “working to grow our local food system, support our local farmers, and increase access to fresh local foods for consumers. We also try to be as environmentally sustainable as we can in our

The Olykraut team.

The Olykraut team.


That’s not surprising, given the company’s origins. Sash Sunday, one of the founders, has an MBA in Sustainable Systems and studied Food, Fermentation and Sustainable Agriculture at the Evergreen State College. “Sash wants to get people excited about eating delicious and nutritious fermented foods,” says Mattern.

Nutritious is right. Sauerkraut functions as a natural probiotic and is rich in vitamin C, which is why in bygone days sailors, including Captain Cook, took it on long sea voyages to prevent scurvy. With the variety of flavors that Olykraut offers, eating healthy just got a little more appetizing.

Olykraut products are available at the Yelm Food Cooperative in the refrigerator near the herbs and teas.

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New Kids’ Program Comes to Farmers Market

New Kids’ Program Comes to Farmers Market

child with vegetableGood news, parents! Your kids will have a whole new reason to get excited about the Yelm Farmers Market this season. Don’t be surprised if they develop a passion for vegetables and start shopping without you. Other side effects may include financial literacy, a sudden interest in gardening and newfound haggling skills.

The source of all this excitement is a program called The Power of Produce, which was originally developed by The Oregon City Farmers Market four years ago. “It was so successful that markets all around the country are now taking it on,” says Market Manager Karen Rae. “The idea is to introduce children to vegetables and fruit by having a kids’ club at the market.”

Children ages 5 to 12 can join the free club, at which point they’re given a badge and a small shopping bag. “When they come back every week and register, they get two dollars of market tokens that they get to spend on fruit or vegetables or a plant that grows food,” Karen explains. “They get to choose.”

Although the original purpose of the club was to empower kids to make healthy food choices, the benefits have proven to be much greater. “They’ve found that the kids become much more involved in the market,” says Karen. “It’s no longer just mom and dad going to the market with the kids dragged along behind, it’s now their shopping experience as well. They are getting to interact with the farmers directly and try all these new things. Parents are just thrilled with what’s happening, because kids are driving the purchase of vegetables and fruit and eating differently.”

 Another benefit is financial literacy. “The groups who are monitoring the success of the program are seeing kids saving their tokens for several weeks or pooling with their siblings,” she says. “They’re not spending their money that week, but saving for plants or bigger items. In this day and age I don’t know how many kids get to deal with actual currency.”Karen is currently accepting sponsors for the program, which she hopes will run during all 22 Sunday markets. “What other markets have found is that as long as they have enough sponsorship to get off the ground, the community sees the value of the program and no one wants it to stop because it’s run out of funding,” she says.

If you’re interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, contact Karen Rae at 360-894-1164 or  Sponsorship and donation information is also directly available on the website

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Practical Ideas for Co-op Meals From Chef Blu

Practical Ideas for Co-op Meals From Chef Blu

pasta1Several weeks ago, Manager Debbie Burgan stated a goal: for more customers and members to shop first at the Co-op, and look elsewhere only if they couldn’t find what they were looking for. So how does that translate into regular meals for everyone from vegetarians to people who are new at trying to eat healthy? We asked chef Blu Helida to take a look at what the Co-op offers and consider the issue from a meal-planning perspective.

In her eyes, the store has the right inventory for a diverse group of shoppers.  “The Co-op offers so much to choose from for everyone from vegans to people who want roast dinners,” she says. “There’s everything from the simple to the exotic.”

She looked at potential meals according to which type of customer would be doing the shopping. “If you’re gluten-free,vegan, or vegetarian, there are a lot of options for you,” she says. “For people who are new to the Co-op, look for things that are similar to what you normally buy. It’s all there. If you’re going to make pasta, it’s all the same ingredients, but the penne might be gluten-free, the tomato sauce is probably organic and you can use a substitute for meat if you want to.”

Meat lovers who care about locally-sourced food can find pork sausage that goes well with Olykraut sauerkraut or whole chicken that can be roasted with vegetables.  “They could also do curries, many different beef dishes or roasts,” she says. Those who are feeling more adventurous can find the ingredients for Asian chicken noodle soup, fajitas and a variety of other less common fare.

Vegetarians also have a lot options. “They can use locally made sauces, dressings and salsa or buy fresh ingredients and make their own.  If you’re looking for ways to add flavor or spice, there are plenty of choices for you to create your own fusion dish,” says Blu.

She is a global traveler who’s had the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of cuisines from far-flung places, including Japan, Sri Lanka, Morocco and many more. She has also participated in the organic food movement as both chef and gardener, and she knows what it’s like trying to shop for specific diet preferences. Her conclusion: “There’s enough at the Co-op that you can make the meal that you want, whatever your tastes.”

We hope this encourages you to plan your next breakfasts, lunches and dinners with the Co-op in mind. Thank you Chef Blu!

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Patronage Refunds=Happy Co-op Shoppers

Patronage Refunds = Happy Co-op Shoppers

easter happyDawn Young and her daughters got a welcome surprise last week when they went shopping at the Co-op: a more than $80 patronage refund based on how much she’d spent at the store in 2014.  “We did a happy dance and filled up a bag of mixed nuts from the bulk section without a thought of how much it was going to cost,” she says. “It was exciting.”

For the second year, the Co-op is providing this perk to current members in good standing and original members of the Co-op who joined before it became a non-profit organization. It’s based on the revenue generated in the previous year. “Once our sales reach the proper threshold, this is something we can offer our members as an acknowledgment of their support,” says General Manager Barnaby Urich Rintz. *

Current members and original members who have not renewed both get a 1% refund of what they spent in the previous year. Anyone who qualifies in both areas gets a 2% refund. Bulk items purchased through the Buy Club and certain products like newspapers don’t count toward the refund, and the purchases must be made under the member’s name and membership number. Shoppers have until December 31, 2015 to use their refund.

“The reward reinforced why we shop there,” says Dawn. “It’s a great incentive to continue to invest in the Co-Op’s goals of reaching a stronger buying base that will reduce prices throughout the store. We also feel appreciated for our contribution. The refund was twice as much as last year’s, so as a family, we achieved our goal of supporting the Co-Op more.”

To find out if you have a patronage refund waiting, visit the store and talk with one of our cashiers. We look forward to seeing you!

*Note: Patronage refunds are proposed to the Yelm Cooperative board of directors by the General Manager. The proposal is based upon profitability and the financial needs of the store. Consequently, Yelm Food Cooperative does not guarantee a patronage refund for any given year. However, members have expressed a great deal of support for the program, so management will consider proposing a patronage refund for every given year.

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4 Things You Didn’t Know About Wine Cellar of Yelm

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Wine Cellar of Yelm

anne marshIf you love wine and shop at the Co-op, odds are you’ve spent some time in the back of the store, sampling some of the local and international offerings Anne Marsh provides each week. But even if you’re familiar with this very popular department, you may not know everything about it. Enjoy this Q & A with the Co-op’s resident wine expert and stop by for a tasting!

How did you get inspired to learn about wine?

I was always passionate about food and wine pairing.  I became a gourmet cook and I thought I would enjoy being a sommelier, so I enrolled in a wine curriculum through Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET).  I hold a diploma in wine: WSET level II, Intermediate Certificate, Pass with Distinction.  I am very proud of that accomplishment as only a small percentage of students earn that distinction.

What was the original inspiration for the Wine Cellar?

After I completed my education I went to work for a very great lady, Linda Collier, founder of Collier’s of Centreville in Centreville, Delaware.    She taught me everything I know about wine from a hands-on perspective.  She gave me her blessing to model my wine shop after hers, with a “European Library” feel.

How has the community responded to the Wine Cellar?

“Thank you for what you do for us.”  Those who have discovered this enjoy the experience of tasting a wine before they buy.  They love that I learn their names and their tastes and can suggest wines they will surely love.  Each of us has had the experience of buying a wine and finding ourselves disappointed when we get it home.  It’s tragic, really.   Customers also love asking for suggestions of which wine to go with what they’re serving.  They want to have something that matches perfectly with a dish and compliments it.  It takes the experience of a dinner party to a whole other level of great.  I love what I do.

What do people not realize about the Wine Cellar?

We have over 300 wines in that little space!

The wines are from all over the world including the wonderful wines of Washington state!  That’s why we named it Wine Cellar of Yelm . . .Wines from around the World. I have a gift for finding quality wine and I handpick each and every bottle. I choose wine that is made with a lot of care, attention and love. The mission of the wine shop is to specialize in small batch, family-owned and handcrafted wine.

More than 50% of the wines in the shop are Organic and many are made without the addition of commercial yeast.  Large lot, mass-produced wines are made with many shortcuts and use lower quality grapes.  We hear so much about inferior quality food and the importance of putting good things in the body.  The wines in the shop are made with a passion for excellence and many are under $15.
I love what I do and finding the right wine for folks is fun.  I often open wine during the week and allow folks to taste.  It’s not just for Saturdays. When you see me, just ask.  I’ll help you find wine and help you match to a food if you wish.   I have developed a following of customers who regularly attend the Saturday tastings.  They tell me that their palate is expanding and they are enjoying all the new varieties and flavors they wouldn’t have thought to try.

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Embrace Spring With Local Honey and Bee Pollen

Embrace Spring With Local Honey and Bee Pollen

beekeeping class

If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, consuming local raw honey and bee pollen is a great place to start getting your body in tune with the local flora. Bee Forever Apiary offers raw, unprocessed products developed in the Bald Hills area.

Thomas Mani, owner and operator of Bee Forever Apiary, explains why that’s important.  “A lot of stores offer honey that’s been ultra-filtered,” he says. “That process removes small particles like pollen.” But pollen, he says, has a fingerprint, just like people do, which reveals its origin. “Ultra-filtered honey loses its fingerprint, which opens the door for cheating or adulterating the honey,” he says. “A lot of honey that’s offered in grocery stores has corn syrup in it, molasses and water content of up to 25%,”

In contrast, Bee4ever’s honey has no corn syrup, and the water content is kept below 17% so that it can be stored for long periods.  No heating is applied during the extraction and bottling process, which means that all of the valuable ingredients like enzymes remain intact.

Additionally, some local residents have found that Mani’s honey helps them with issues that have plagued them for decades. “I have always experienced severe allergies not only during the hay fever season, but all year round,” says Judy Mezen. After trying Mani’s pollen and honey, she decided to give up he antihistamines ‘cold turkey’ and only use the pollen and honey, supplemented during the strongest part of the season with freeze-dried stinging nettle. “Beginning with day one, I was successful,” she says, “All I have to do is take a small pinch of the pollen and about a teaspoon (or less) of honey and within about 5-10 minutes I can breathe clearly, and it even takes away my sinus headaches. I have been able to do weeding in my garden and even mow the lawn.”

Bee4ever Apiary’s Raw Honey and Bee Pollen are available in the second aisle of the Yelm Food Co-op.

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What Breaking $2 Million Means for Co-op Members

What Breaking $2 Million Means for Co-op Members

millionManager Debbie Burgan on Loyalty, Passion and Why Numbers Matter

Debbie Burgan believes that Co-op members want to support the store – they may just not know how. Information, says the Yelm Co-op Manager, was a key to breaking $1 million in sales after less than ten years of operation. “It was important to make our members aware of what we were trying to do,” she says. “Once Tina Maggio made a sign showing our goal, they stepped up and did more.”

Burgan has been a key player with the Co-op since its beginning back in 2005. “There was so much passion to open this store,” she says. “We literally opened it up on  a wing and a prayer. We knew it was going to work. In the first few years, we had so little, just a lot of customers who wanted the store as much as we did. We still have that customer base.”

Expanding that base is a key for the Co-op to hit the next target. Breaking the $2 million threshold would be the first step in allowing the store to apply for membership with the National Grocers Cooperative Association, which would provide multiple benefits, including buying power. “If we can get the buying power that other co-ops have, our buying structure changes,” says Burgan. “That benefit would get passed on to our members.”

“I don’t think it will take us long to hit the second million,” she says. “We just need more of our members to show support by spending 80% of their grocery dollars with us.”  Right now, a core of approximately 200+ members are doing exactly that. Were that number to double, the additional revenue would make a lot of improvements possible, such as a deli section.

Doing the numbers comes easily to Burgan, who came to the Co-op after wrapping up a corporate career in the software industry. “I wanted to find a place where I could take the best of corporate structure and the best of what people wanted for the Co-op and bring them together,” she says.  Here’s one more number she has in mind: “I want to see six cash registers at the Co-op and they’re all busy.”

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Ice Chip Grannies’ Other Company Adds Humor to Health

Ice Chip Grannies’ Other Company Adds Humor to Health

ice chip granniesBefore Ice Chips Candy, before Shark Tank, before Beverly Vines-Haines and Charlotte Clary were the ‘Ice Chip Grannies’, there was Healing Leaf. This original line of all-natural salves was one of the first companies created by Vines-Haines and Clary (aka ‘the grannies’), and is still close to their hearts. “Healing Leaf is a perfect reflection of our goal to create natural and safe skin care products,” says Vines-Haines.

Their first invention was created as a way to help a friend who was suffering from a severe fungal infection. “He was an Air Force pilot who had served three tours in Vietnam and often had to wear heavy boots for days at a time. So we formulated an anti-fungal salve, went out and bought the ingredients, and cooked their invention up on Charlotte’s stove,” says Vines-Haines.  They mailed it off to their friend and eventually they heard from him that it worked.

From there, they went on to create a slew of products bearing creative names like Zappa Zit (acne solution), Splat! (Food Stain Remover) and Ahhh . . .  (muscle relief). The Yelm Co-op currently carries Sandal Toes (Nail Fungus Solution), Skin Wizard (Skin Care Solution), Massage in a Bottle (Extreme Joint Pain Relief ), and Psoria-Cease (Psoriasis Solution), which tends to fly off the shelves.  They are all non-GMO and are not petroleum based, unlike many skin care lines. “Often people forget products placed on their skin or scalp are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and circulating through their bodies,” says Vines-Haines.

While Ice Chips takes up much of their time, “we intend to continue our focus on natural products whenever possible,” says Vines-Haines. “We have employees who are well trained in making our skin care products and they often give us ideas and suggestions. Charlotte and I have many ideas we hope to implement in the future and our health and beauty aid line has a bright future.”

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