Co-op Celebrates 10th Anniversary at Annual General Meeting

Co-op Celebrates 10th Anniversary at Annual General Meeting

AGM1For anyone who supports the Yelm Food Cooperative, this Saturday is something to celebrate. In ten short years the Co-op has gone from a buy club to a brick and mortar store, increased membership, added a thriving Farmers Market, and broken a million dollars in annual sales. Board members will join General Manager Barnaby Urich Rintz and Farmers Market Manager Karen Rae for the 2015 Annual General Meeting from 1:00 to 3:00 at the Yelm Adult Community Center.
“It’s important for members to attend because it’s their co-op,” says board member Tom Dewell.  “This is their chance to speak, to see the health of the organization, to comment to board members in public or private. This is their main chance to make a difference.”  Tom says that it’s also an opportunity to learn where your membership dues go and why being a member matters. “Being part of the Co-op is being part of the vision,” he says.  “This is a way to get a sense of what the leadership is thinking.”
Board President Bill Wyman agrees. “Just because we’re a non-profit organization, the participatory concept of the Co-op has not been lost,” he says. “We listen to our members and want their input. They can interact with the board directly and also with two program managers.”
Key areas of focus at this year’s event will be the success of the Farmers Market, the patronage rebate, and the overall financial health of the organization, says Bill. Members will also have the opportunity to vote for several directors who are up for re-election. The voting period will be extended for those who are unable to attend. Ballots are available at the store for active Yelm Cooperative members. 
Both Barnaby and Karen have time set aside for questions. “We’ll have more interaction between the managers and the members this year,” says Tom. Other important considerations? As always, refreshments will be on hand and this year, there’s a bonus. “Dawn Young is doing a cake because we’re celebrating our 10th year anniversary,” says Bill.

See you at the meeting! 

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Why Willa Listens to Co-op Shoppers

Why Willa Listens to Co-op Shoppers

willa and barbaraDisney World is about as far as you can get from Yelm, Washington within the continental United States, both geographically and socially.

But for Co-op supervisor Willa Cain, who spent eleven years in food and beverage at the Orlando theme park, it was perfect preparation for her current role working with the public. “The common denominator is the customer service aspect,” says Willa, who also spent thirteen years as a traveling bedside nurse. “I really like to listen to people who come into the store and find out what they’re looking for.”

A lot of her job, she says, is communicating with customers about their needs and educating them about what the store has to offer. “It’s a win-win. They give us ideas that we can share with others, and we can let them know all of the things that are available.”

Willa started with the Co-op as a volunteer in April, 2014. “I was looking for a place that sold farm-fresh food,” she says. “When I’d traveled, I would always go directly to the farm. I love organic food. When I came into the store for the first time and saw raw milk, I thought, ‘This is the place!’”

In the past year, she’s noticed some changes. “A larger group of new people is coming into the store to shop. It has to do with the products we sell, but also the fact that this is a hub,” she says. “We make people feel welcome when they come in.” That’s important, because her goal is to educate the larger community. “When you inform people about what we have here, everybody can benefit,” she says. “I want the Co-op to really become the one stop shop.”

Another thing she learned at Disney World: “There’s a little saying that ‘You can design and build and create the most wonderful place in the world, but it takes people to make that dream a reality.’”

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2015 Annual General Meeting

2015 Annual General Meeting

2015 AGM2015 AGM

You’re Invited!

The Yelm Cooperative’s 7th Annual General Meeting

Saturday, Sept 5th, 2:00 p.m.

Yelm Adult Center, 16530 103rd Street, Yelm

Join your fellow Co-op members for an informative afternoon spent building community (and enjoying some great snacks).

This year’s agenda:

  • Overview from Board President Bill Wyman on the progress we’ve made this year with your help.
  • Farmers Market Manager Karen Rae on the successful new children’s program and other improvements and additions.
  • Vote on renewing three-year terms for three current members of our Board of Directors: Diane D’Acuti, Tom Dewell and Jeevan Anandasakaran.
  • Find out what’s new and what’s in the works at the store from General Manager Barnaby Urich Rintz
  • Q & A

Please note: only current members can vote, so make sure your dues are paid up before September 5th! Drop by the store or call in with your credit card information to remain eligible.

As usual, we will have delicious finger food on hand.

We look forward to seeing you!

The Yelm Cooperative Board of Directors

Bill Wyman, President; , Barbara Morando,.Vice President; Marilyn Reardon, Secretary; Tom Dewell, Treasurer; Terry Kaminski, Director; Jeevan Anandasakaran, Director; Diane D’Acuti.

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Olympia’s 8 Arms Bakery Delivers the Good(ies)

Olympia’s 8 Arms Bakery Delivers the Good(ies)

bakery goods1Many people have heard of CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, but what about CSB? That stands for Community Supported Bakery, which is how Olympia’s 8 Arms Bakery began. In this model, customers can pre-purchase a weekly box of baked goods for periods ranging from four to twenty weeks, with the selection changing every week.  “When I first started in 2007, the only thing we were doing was a bakery share program like a farm CSA,” says owner Jen Ownbey.

Today, 8 Arms is still a CSB but has added much more to the mix. In April, they moved from a space with 200 square feet to one with 1,800. “Our wholesale business has grown a lot,” says Ownbey. “Now we’re figuring out how to fit into the new space.”

Ownbey believes part of their growth comes from the fact that 8 Arms offers things you don’t see in other places. “We have 20 different kinds of bars,” she says. “Little hand held pies, and a couple of different types of crackers. Our breads are kind of rustic looking, which is clearly different from bread that’s mass-produced.” Products are also 75% organic, another contributing factor, she says. The bakery offers gluten-free and vegan alternatives along with more traditional goods.

The bottom line, says Ownbey, is that she wants people to be happy when they eat her creations. “The reason I started 8 Arms was that I love to bake,” she says. “Food should make you feel good.”

Look for 8 Arms breads and more in the bakery section at the Yelm Food Co-op.

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Enjoy Art, Wine & Flowers in Gordon’s Gardens This Saturday

Enjoy Art, Wine & Flowers in Gordon’s Gardens This Saturday

wine artGet ready for a heady combination of art, wine, music, poetry, and flowers this Saturday as the Yelm Food Co-op hosts its second annual Art, Wine & Flowers in Gordon’s Garden event. Anne Marsh, Virtuose de Vin at Wine Cellar of Yelm, has selected wines from six different regions in collaboration with La Gitana owner Marian Licxandru, who will be providing unique pizzas to complement each glass, and Gordon’s Garden Center owner Kellie Petersen. “This is an awesome way to reach out and bring the community together,” says Anne. “We can create something wonderful and support local business at the same time.”

From 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., guests will have the opportunity to sample wines while being greeted by a volunteer sommelier in culturally appropriate garb. “Everyone can move through the six tasting stations at their own pace,” says Anne. “The server will know their wine very well, and each tasty bite has been specifically chosen for that wine.”

Four local artists will have work on display: Steve Cramer, Jenn Harshfield, Judy Chapman, and Sandra Bocas. Visitors can also enjoy the floral arrangements created by Kellie Peterson, designed to enhance the regional atmosphere of each tasting station. Classical guitarist John Chapman and poet Michael Apau will complete the ambience, with Apau wandering, minstrel-style, through the gathering.

Once they’ve finished tasting, guests are encouraged to buy the wine of their choice and journey across the street to La Gitana, where Marian will have the specially created pizzas available – and no corkage fee. But don’t ask about ingredients. “I won’t be revealing what the wines are until the day of the event,” says Anne, “and the same goes for the pizzas.”

Tickets are $40 for two prior to the event and $25 per person the day of, with a $10 charge for those who only want to view the art. “It’s honoring the work of all of the volunteers who are contributing their time to put this together, including the artists, the people pouring, the musician, the poet and the people preparing food,” says Anne. Proceeds from the event will go toward the Yelm Co-op’s Wishlist of new equipment and features. Tickets can be purchased at the Co-op or by calling 360.400.2210.

“It’s going to be a beautiful day,” says Anne. “This is a way to raise money for the Co-op and support our local businesses, while enjoying great food, wine, and art in a really lovely setting.”

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Main Street Cookie Company Puts Rainier on the Map

Main Street Cookie Company Puts Rainier on the Map

insidecookiestorRainier city council member Dennis McVey was on an Amtrak train from Texas to Washington when everyone decided to introduce themselves. When his turn rolled around, he said, “I’m from Rainier, Washington.” Across the table, a woman’s eyes lit up. “That’s where Main Street Cookies is!” “I felt really proud of our little town,” says McVey. “I got a big smile on my face.” As it turned out, Main Street had shipped cookies to the woman’s Boston home.

Main Street has helped to put Rainier on the map, with cookies retailing at more than twenty South Sound locations, including the Yelm Food Co-op, and shipping to customers nationwide. The company’s success can be attributed to owner Joycelyn’s Zambuto’s unwavering integrity when it comes to ingredients. “The most important thing to me is to make certain that whatever I put out there is the very best that we are capable of producing,” she says. “We’ve actually improved our product since we first opened.”

That means unlike most store-bought cookies, Main Street’s creations contain no vegetable shortening, no oil, no hydrogenated products of any kind, no food coloring or dye, and no preservatives. The quality of her ingredients also makes them more expensive. “Sometimes when people first come in, they balk at the price,” she says. “But once we explain why, they’re usually fine with it.”

Zambuto credits the Rainier City Council and Mayor Randy Schleis with creating a healthy environment for local companies. “They are very appreciative of their businesses and their town,” she says. “I have a really good working relationship with City Hall. The business community in Rainier is wonderful. It’s probably the area’s best kept secret.”

In the nine years the store has been operating, she’s noticed a shift in her clientele. “I’m finding that over fifty percent of the people who walk in the door are new,” she says. “They’re coming from as far north as British Columbia and as far south as California. They’ve heard of Main Street and wanted to stop. They all say, ‘I was told I had to come here.’ I love that.”

Between the retail, wholesale, and online markets Main Street serves, “It’s hard work,” says Zambuto.  “Even when you get your operating systems down, there is no vacation.” However, she contends, it’s worth it. “This has been perhaps the most joyous experience of my life. I’ve met some incredibly beautiful people from all over the world.” As Main Street’s reputation continues to grow, she will have the opportunity to meet many more.

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Florence Vincent Wants You to Know What’s in Your Food

Florence Vincent Wants You to Know What’s in Your Food

florenceEvery October, Florence Vincent launches a personal campaign to label foods that contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Although the U.S. government and the state of Washington have yet to join the 64 countries around the world* that mandate labeling, including Vietnam, Jordan, Sri Lanka and most of the European Union, for one month in one small corner of Yelm you can find out exactly what’s in your food. That corner? The Yelm Food Co-op.

“I go around the store and I label everything. I look at all the packaging,” she says.  “Anything that is organic is automatically GMO-free, but with anything that doesn’t say so on the package or have a non-GMO verified label on it, I look up the company and find out what their policies are. I’ve been doing that for quite a few years.”  Fortunately, she says, “We have very, very little in the store that is not GMO-free.”

Florence’s passion for the subject arises out of her love of healthy, organic food. Back in her native England during the 1980’s, she helped a friend run the legendary Odette’s restaurant and eventually started her own – the first entirely organic establishment in the country, Elephants and Butterflies. “At the time there were vegetarian organic places, but none that also had organic meat,” she explains.  

After moving to America, she became involved with the Yelm Co-op just three months into its existence. “I just loved the concept,” she says. “I decided to volunteer to help. Because I’d had retail experience in my life, they jumped on it because nobody else had that.” Soon, she was asked to be manager and buyer, and for five years was the primary buyer for the store.

The experience taught her something about herself. “Managing was not my strength; buying was my strength,” she says. “I love buying. I have always loved looked at new things, and tasting.” These days, she and General Manager Barnaby Urich Rintz travel to trade shows to try new products and bring back the best for Co-op customers.

Throughout her years with the store, she’s noticed a common thread. “The customers make the co-op what it is. There is this core group, getting larger all the time, that will not let go of the co-op. They support it right the way through. The co-op just keeps going by the sheer will of its customers that want it to be there.”

As for the future?  “It’s been nice getting more involved with the community,” she says. “I hope that more and more people will take a look at what we’re doing and realize that eating good food is actually going to save them money in the long run.”

*To learn which countries mandate labeling GMO products, click here.

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Mari’s Farm: Fueling Yelm With Fresh Produce

Mari’s Farm: Fueling Yelm With Fresh Produce

maris farm 1The first things you’ll notice on Mari’s Farm are the rocks. They’re everywhere – huge, ponderous obstructions-turned fence posts and mini-mounds throughout the property. When Mari Mankamyer and her husband Tim Mann started the farm in Yelm’s Bald Hill region, “You couldn’t even get into the soil with a rototiller,” says Mari. “You’d break it.”

Once you understand that the lush, vibrant gardens you’re viewing were the original home of those rocks, you’ll view your hosts with newfound respect and even admiration. After three years of solid work, the farm provides a weekly supply of  fresh produce to the Yelm Co-op, Garden to Gourmet Restaurant, Ricardo’s Restaurant, The Yelm Farmers Market, and Local Flavors Market and Country Kitchen.

For Mari, the idea was born while she was working for her mother Susie Kyle at her kitchen in Centralia.  “I was helping her cut up kale, and it dawned on me that I could grow this,” she says.  “I know how to garden. As soon as I realized that, it wasn’t about selling it, it was just about how much we could produce.” From the beginning, the farm has been her full-time job, with Tim helping on weekends. “Now the farm is paying him for two days a week,” she says.

When they first started, the only thing standing on the property was an old telephone pole. Today, aside from the ever-expanding growing area and the couple’s home, the farm contains two greenhouses, one standard and one aquaponic, to help them grow year-round. “Everything out here is an experiment,” says Tim. “We’ve been testing different methods with making the greenhouses energy efficient and helping the plants grow.”

The aquaponic greenhouse includes three large fish tanks full of tilapia. “We feed the fish non-GMO food,” explains Mari. “Their waste in the water gets recycled through the grow trays, and that’s what feeds the lettuce.”

Despite the labor-intensive nature of their work, both Tim and Mari clearly love what they do. “What’s inspiring is that everyone loves my stuff,” she says. “I haven’t had one complaint about any one of my products because we’re always about quality, quality, quality. I try to pick and deliver in the same day so it’s as fresh as can be. People will have a bag of lettuce that sits in the back of their refrigerator for ten days or so and it’s still good. It holds up for a long time.”

“The other thing we both really like is watching things grow,” adds Tim. “That’s definitely a point of inspiration for us.”

For the future, rather than expanding the number of clients they serve, Mari prefers to focus on growing more of what her current clients need. Ricardo’s needs more spinach, she says, and Garden to Gourmet requires a great deal of beets. In the meantime, she’s grateful for the progress they’ve made. “It’s taken a community to get us here” she says. “If it were just me and Tim, we’d probably still be renting. It’s taken a lot of help from very dear friends and family to make all of this happen for us.” View Photos

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Yelm Crew Investigates Theo Chocolate Factory, With Delicious Results

Yelm Crew Investigates Theo Chocolate Factory, With Delicious Results

theo chocolateWe dare you: try not to think about Oompa Loompas while touring the Theo ChocolateFactory. It’s tougher than you think. Learning about the multiple chocolate waterfalls and large pipes the molten river flows through, it’s hard not to imagine that Augustus Gloop and company might be haunting the company’s Fremont premises. The Seattle-based organization makes the only certified organic, fair trade and non-GMO bean to bar chocolate in North America. On top of that, their products are absolutely delicious, as a contingent from Yelm found out last weekend during a field trip to the factory.

The group included Amy Honey and Jamie Honey of Yelm Bootcamp and a lively gang from New Leaf Hyperbarics. Everyone came away with a new level of respect for what it takes to create chocolate and an appreciation of the exceptional standards Theo Chocolate holds itself to. “All of the work that has to be done by hand before you even get the bean to make the chocolate, that was amazing to me,” says Amy.

Jamie was struck by the emphasis on fair trade. When Theo founder Joe Whinney became the first supplier of organic cocoa beans to the U.S. in 1994, he observed how farmers in Central America and Africa were being exploited, and determined to make a difference. After starting Theo in 2006, he teamed up with actor/director Ben Affleck to create the Eastern Congo Initiative, which provides support for more than 20,000 people living in East Congo. “I loved the fact that every single person along the line is paid well,” says Jamie.

It helps that the chocolate itself is incredible. The tour included samples, and it was hard to pick a favorite, but both Jamie and Amy commented on the milk chocolate with chai spices and the ganache with strawberry jalepeno.  They highly recommend the tour and plan to do it again. “It was joyful, educational, experiential and it tasted delicious,” says Jamie. “What more could you get in an hour?”

Theo Chocolate has its own rack at the Yelm Food Co-op. Try it today!

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Team Co-op Rocks Beer & Brats

Team Co-op Rocks Beer & Brats

beer & brats collageHealth inspectors are not famous for handing out compliments, so it was high praise indeed when Thurston County’s representative pulled Jenn Harshfield aside during the Co-op’s annual Beer & Brats celebration on June 26th. “You have one of the best teams I’ve seen,” he told her. “You’re doing it right. Congratulations.”

Harshfield organized this year’s event, along with 31 volunteers who braved blazing heat to serve over 350 brats to parade watchers and bring in more than $3,800 to support the Co-op. “We had super hero volunteers,” says Harshfield.  “Words cannot express how great they are and how hard-working. They take initiative.”

Glenadine O’Harra was in charge of the kitchen. Like Harshfield, she got involved at the request of Co-op board secretary Marilyn Reardon, and jumped right in despite the fact that the role was new for her. “It sounded like it would be challenging and a lot of fun,” she says.  Also like Harshfield, she can’t say enough about the team. “It went very, very well,” she says.  “Success was really the result a combined effort, with so many great people helping and supporting.”

In Reardon’s eyes, the group did more than just serve food, beer, and wine. “They created a really good time for our community,” she says. “Their good nature, absolute hard work and dedication to the co-op enlivened the whole parade route. We made a lot of people happy that day.”

Congratulations and thank you to the entire Co-op team! View photos of Beer & Brats

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Core Volunteer Moving On After Seven Years

Core Volunteer Moving On After Seven Years

thank-you-540x358Monday shoppers may find themselves searching for a familiar face in the coming weeks. After seven years, Robyn Hawk, one of the earliest supporters of the co-op and a regular volunteer at the cash register, is moving on. Co-op customers will miss her ready laugh and sense of fun, one she has shared with many other long-term volunteers.

Nothing in particular has triggered her departure, she says. “It wasn’t at all premeditated. I love working at the co-op. But one afternoon, it just jumped into my head.  It was so clear to me that it was time to move on.”  That doesn’t mean abandoning all ties, she says, and she doesn’t rule out volunteering ‘here and there’ in the future. Her regular volunteer days are done, however.

Robyn is grateful for her time at the store. “It was a growing period for me,” she says. “The gratitude from the people I worked with, just for having me there was empowering. I’d like to say ‘thank you’ for the many years there and the gratification of being part of it.”

Although she’ll no longer be a regular volunteer, she plans to continue participating in other ways.  “I support the Co-op wholeheartedly,” she says. “I continue to support it with buying.”

In the meantime, she’s seen hopeful signs that a new generation of volunteers is starting to step forward.  “There’s a whole new group of people coming in and I don’t even know half of them,” she says. “That’s great! Change is good.”

Thank you Robyn for all of your effort, humor, energy, love and attention toward the seedling that was and is the Yelm Co-op. It made a difference!

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