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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At Olympia’s Alaffia, Fair Trade=Empowerment

At Olympia’s Alaffia, Fair Trade = Empowerment

alaffiaIt all started with a jar on a shelf. Olowo-n’djo Tchala was shopping at an American health food store when he noticed a bottle of shea butter retailing for $50.00.  Having grown up in the African nation of Togo collecting shea nuts with his mother, he knew how little of that money was making its way to the people who actually gathered the seeds, most of whom earned just pennies. Inspiration struck.

Today, Olowo-n’djo and his wife Rose Hyde own Alaffia, an Olympia-based company which offers over 200 fair trade skin products – most of which contain shea butter or coconut oil. The difference? All of Alaffia’s Togolese employees are members of a shea butter cooperative and paid fair wages. Profits are reinvested in the community through a variety of initiatives they call Empowerment Projects. In fact, Alaffia is currently the second biggest employer in the country aside from the government.

That degree of success might have seemed unlikely when Olowo-n’djo and Rose, whom he met while she was in the Peace Corps, started bottling shea butter in a trailer on Steamboat Island.  The first group of women they contacted in Togo were “very skeptical about the whole thing,” says Kelsey Mayer, Alaffia’s Communications Liaison, “but  eventually they began to trust him and they were able to start.”

From the beginning, the raw ingredients have been handcrafted in small batches and then sent to Washington. Rose, an ethnobotanist, experiments with different combinations to come up with the final products. The company’s first retailer was the Olympia Co-op. “Co-ops are definitely the heart of it all,” says Mayer. “That’s where we started. That’s what we value highly.”

Alaffia’s Empowerment Projects focus on maternal health and education. “One in 16 women will die every year during childbirth or due to complications during pregnancy,” says Mayer “Maternal health is a project that’s near and dear to our heart.” So far, Alaffia has funded the birth of 3,500 babies, many of whom Rose and Olowo-n’djo get to meet when they travel to Togo.

They also sponsor a project called Bicycles for Education. “Students are walking up to ten miles a day to school,” says Mayer. “Eventually it’s too time-consuming. Ninety-one percent of girls in rural areas drop out of school before reaching secondary school.” Alaffia collects bicycles in the U.S., then gives them to the students.  “It shortens their commute, gives them reliable transportation and 95 % of Bicycles for Education participants graduate from high school,” says Mayer.

Alaffia products are currently available at the Yelm Food Cooperative. Every item you purchase will contribute to a greater quality of life for a fellow cooperative member in Togo. If you’d like to learn more about the company’s empowerment projects, visit

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Join Us for Beer & Brats 2015!

Join Us for Beer & Brats 2015!

Elaborately beer and brats1festooned horses, humorously decorated tractors, flipping and tumbling children – they’re all part of the annual Yelm Prairie Days Parade that kicks off the three day Prairie Days celebration. Now in its third year, the Yelm Co-op’s Beer & Brats event offers spectators a chance to enjoy the procession with bratwurst in hand while sampling local beers and carefully selected wines. It  will run from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 the Yelm Co-op on Thursday, June 25th, with the parade starting at 7:00 p.m.

“We’re really excited about it,” says event manager Jenn Harshfield. “Unlike last year, it’s supposed to be 83 degrees and clear. We’re looking forward to serving a lot of folks.”

Beer & Brats is one of the Co-op’s largest annual events, with proceeds after cost going to support programs and priorities such as upgraded equipment. Volunteers have been meeting on a weekly basis to prepare. “The team is amazing,” says Harshfield. “Many of them have participated before, but some are new.” Harshfield, an advertising consultant with The Nisqually Valley News, became involved after board member Marilyn Reardon approached her last year. “I told Marilyn I’d be honored,” she says.

If Harshfield has her way, Beer & Brats will become as much a part of Prairie Days as flags and floats. “It’s just about having a good time,” she says. “We want everyone who visits us to come again next year.”

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Find Out What’s on the Co-op’s Wishlist

Find Out What’s on the Co-op’s Wishlist

child with dandelionIf you’ve ever wanted to play Santa in the summer, now’s your chance. It’s not Christmas yet, but the Yelm Food Co-op has a wishlist of items that will advance our ability to best serve our customers. We’re looking to upgrade and/or add equipment and features that will make shopping more convenient while adding new options (fresh ground almond butter, anyone?). All donations are tax deductible. Any amount will help!

Here’s how it works:

When you shop, you’ll have two ways to donate.

  1. Contribute a specific amount of your choosing toward a specific item.
  2. ‘Round up’ your purchases to the nearest dollar.

The Wishlist

Item: New Deli Scale. This is used to pre-weigh bulk items that are repacked, like dried mangos, raisins, frozen meat and fish from local vendors. etc. The scale tells the customer exactly what the item weighs, the cost per pound, and the exact cost of the item.  It will also tell the customer the ingredients of the item like Euphoria Chocolates.
Purpose: We hope to be able to sell sandwiches made in-house next year, which will require an ingredients list.
Cost: Approximately $1,200.

Item: 2 New Freezers, each 2-door:
Purpose: We want to expand our frozen offerings to include frozen desserts and prepared meals, including frozen pizzas.  With this expansion we hope to offer frozen peas and corn in bulk as well
Cost: $10,000

Item: Bulk Department Upgrades
Purpose: We want to replace old worn out bulk bins, expand our selection and include bulk liquids, nut grinders, etc.
Cost:   $4,000

Item: 2 touch screen monitors for the Point of Sale (POS) upgrade.
Purpose: 2 computers with Win 7 Prof were donated and we need to upgrade the POS registers.  To finish this out we need 2 touch screen monitors of approximately 12″.
Cost: Approximately $600 each.

Item: Store Signs
Cost: $2000-$6000

Item: Aisle Signs
Cost:  Approximately $700
Item: Finish the Wine Cellar wood shelving.
Purpose: Finishing the wood build out for the displays in the Wine Cellar.
Cost: $8,000
A bid for this will be in the Aug/Sept newsletter.

All donations will be specific to each item unless you’d like to make a general contribution, which will be applied to one of the items on this list. The best way to support this effort is financially. Please do not purchase an item and drop it off unless it is specific to our needs and has been pre-approved by staff.

Starting with the Aug/Sept newsletter updates on these items and the money collected to date will be posted. Thank you for your support!

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Yelm Cooperative June Board meeting rescheduled

Due to several Board members being unavailable for the normally scheduled June 11 meeting, it has been rescheduled for June 18th.

We meet at Rosemont Retirement and Assisted Living at 6:00 p.m. There is always a few minutes of public comment time at the beginning of each meeting. If you’d like to address the Board, please email to set this up.


The Yelm Cooperative Board of Directors

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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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