Watching the Baby Grow Up: Robyn Hawk on Yelm Co-op Then and Now

Watching the Baby Grow Up: Robyn Hawk on Yelm Co-op Then and Now

robyn hawkFor Robyn Hawk, the Yelm Food Cooperative resembles a child she gets to see grow up. “It’s like a baby that’s been well-nourished,” she says. She ought to know. Robyn has been volunteering almost since the store’s inception, and she has seen all of the growing pains and changes that have occurred along the way. She is inspired by both the people who have stuck with it since the beginning, and the relatively new arrivals. “I wholeheartedly know that everything that goes on in the co-op is authentic and of pure intent,” she says. “Everybody gives of their heart and soul, paid and not paid.”

She remembers how the store began ten years ago. “A very small handful of people somehow got another small handful of people to get a fair amount of money so that they could start this co-op, based just on everybody’s brilliance,” she recalls. “Debbie Burgan, Tom and Jutta Dewell gave and continue to give their lives to it. Florence Vincent came in later, but she was amazing – because she was a different buyer. She researched everything and she was European. Rebecca Galbraith used to be there day after day in the small store. I’d say,’How can you be here and work so many hours?’ She’d just be sitting on the stool.”

The current leaders are equally dedicated, in her view. “Barnaby* is incredible,” she says. “The board that we have now is extraordinary. Bill Wyman** and that group are visionaries. There are so many people who do things behind the scenes.”

Compared to the early days of co-ops, she says, this store is extremely well run – and relatively tame. When she managed a co-op in the small town of Cave Junction, Oregon thirty-five years ago, “We used to meet the trucks on one of the side roads at 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning,” she says.  “For a while the cops would stop us. We would just load the products from their pick up to our pick up and go to somebody’s house.” Twenty people would gather around a table at the local alternative school once a week to place orders and once their shipments arrived, they would weigh everything and divvy it up between customers. “It was the very beginning of co-ops,” she says.

Today, volunteering at the Yelm Co-op allows her to fulfill a childhood dream. “Ever since I was a little kid, when we’d play house, I wanted to work with a cash register,” she explains, “but I’m totally dyslexic. There’s nowhere else on the planet that they’d let me run a cash register. It’s so fun for me. I love it. Working at the co-op is one of my favorite things that I do.”

*Barnaby Urich Rintz is the Yelm Food Cooperative’s General Manager.

**Bill Wyman is the Yelm Food Cooperative’s Board President.   

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For Brothers, Necessity Was the Mother of Liberty Lotion

For Brothers, Necessity Was the Mother of Liberty Lotion

4oz_libertylotion_productpicFor the Garner brothers, necessity really was the mother of invention. Samson Garner sustained a massive spinal injury several years ago and became a medical marijuana patient to deal with his pain levels. Not satisfied, he began to experiment with different ingredients in an attempt to create something that would be more effective. “The first draft was a combination of hash oil and coconut oil,” says his brother Levi. “It took him two years to get to the point where it was ready for market.” The end result is Liberty Lotion, a pain relief product that includes hemp oil and emu oil. Samson is in charge of production while Levi runs the business side.

For one local Yelm resident*, the lotion has been a godsend. After eight surgeries on one hip and another hip that had been broken in four places, the 84-year-old was in constant pain. “You learn to live with it and realize things like you can’t get out of the bathtub or your bed any more without pain,” she says. The first time she tried Liberty Lotion, she was amazed to realize that the pain was gone.

Levi recommends that people with chronic pain use the lotion heavily for two weeks, then ease up. “It’s like a time release capsule,” he says. “It takes time for the body to absorb the CBD (the non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis).” After that, he says, they should notice a significant decrease in their pain levels.

The sales team for Liberty Lotion (whom the brothers have given the title “Proper Gentlemen” rather than sales reps)  are long-term friends who were converted by the product’s effects. “They were in the construction industry,” says Levi. “They came over after an 18-hour day of pressure washing amd tried the product. The next day they quit their jobs and joined us.”

Meanwhile in Yelm, our 84-year-old friend uses Liberty Lotion for very deep bone, joint and muscle pain. In her experience, it usually takes about 45 minutes to take full effect. “Now I’m able to get things done around my property, weed the garden and take care of all the little things,” she says. “It’s given me my life back.”

Liberty Lotion is now available at the Yelm Co-op. Check the front display racks or ask a clerk for help.

*She prefers to remain anonymous.

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Meet the Manager: Kate Morgan on Food Security and Community Backbone

Meet the Manager: Kate Morgan on Food Security and Community Backbone

kateKate Morgan was raised on a steady diet of co-ops. “Since I was little, my family have always been big co-op shoppers,” she says and in fact her mother Linda was one of the first members of the Yelm Food Cooperative. “She was always telling me that I had to come in the store, and I got excited and wanted to help.” That desire led her to volunteer four years ago, and today,  Kate is one of three managers who share responsibility for the store under the direction of General Manager Barnaby Urich Rintz. “I love educating people about food and food security,” she says.

The store provides plenty of opportunity. According to Kate, “In Yelm, people may come in because they’re starting to experience some food or health related issues or they hear about it in the news. There’s a lot of explaining of what a co-op is in the first place.” That makes the store’s progress in its first five years even more impressive. “Sometimes we get calls from other start-up co-ops that want to know, ‘How did you do that?’” she says, smiling. “We started with way less money than a lot of co-ops, and we broke a million dollars in sales this year. That’s really incredible.”

She also appreciates working with a group of dedicated volunteers and local farmers to grow food security and sustainability in Yelm. “I’m very excited about what Karen Rae is doing with the Farmers’ Market branch of the co-op, because it’s something we haven’t had in this community,” she says. “Linking customers from farm to table and selling some of those products at the store creates a stronger food backbone in the community that can support itself and ride out hurdles.”

“Linking customers from farm to table and selling some of those products at the store creates a stronger food backbone in the community that can support itself and ride out hurdles.”

For example, she points out, currently the store is carrying produce from local farmer Mari Mann’s greenhouse. “There have been all of these freezes going on in the south, but we have this supply that’s local and fresh, and the price isn’t affected by what’s going on in the country or in the world.”

Although her degree from The Evergreen State College is in physics, she also learned about working with diverse groups during her time there. She was one of the original coordinators of what is now The Flaming Eggplant student-run cafe. “It started out in a class,” she explains. “We created the groundwork and got the vote passed by the students in order to collect a fee to get the start-up money. I had to learn how to delegate, form committees, and communicate within the different groups in a setting where they had other classes, so we had to work together with the different priorities.” That experience has definitely helped her in her managerial role, she says.  .

Kate believes that the Yelm Food Cooperative plays an important role in the community. “I love that we’re fighting back against the drive-thru, big box store quality of Yelm,” she says. “I like that we can support local businesses, that we have a community strong enough that we can support local farmers.”

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Yelm Cooperative Board of Directors Needed

Yelm Food Co-op DirectorsJan 20, 2015

The Yelm Cooperative is now accepting applications for new members of the Board of Directors who can begin serving immediately.

This is a chance for people with leadership skills to join our dynamic, growing organization and help make a real difference in our community. As a federal 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, we are embarking on a new journey with many new possibilities as far as program development and funding are concerned.

The Board of Directors oversees operations of the Yelm Food Co-op store and the Yelm Farmer’s Market, both of which are already successful programs. Development of the Community Food Education Program and its Community Gardens project are still in the future, but are a major part of our overall vision for the organization.

If you feel you have the skills and the passion to advance the Yelm Cooperative into its fabulous future, please look through the Vision & Mission statement and then fill out an application (see following links). Drop your completed applications at the Yelm Food Co-op store location or email them to

Vision & Mission Statement

2015 YC Board Application

Board Application Skills Matrix

Be a leader in growing the Yelm Cooperative into all it can be!

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The Cure for Your Holiday Sugar Hangover

The Cure for Your Holiday Sugar Hangover

nh-preserves-apricot_21_bigLet us guess: your friends, relatives and neighbors dropped by during the holidays bearing individually wrapped chocolates, homemade cookies, pumpkin pie and more. Delicious as they undoubtedly were, at this point the sight of one more sugary concoction might send you over the edge. Fortunately, the Yelm Cooperative has an antidote: sugar-free jams, jellies and preserves from Nature’s Hollow. The company also makes honey, maple syrup and an all-natural sweetener that are perfect for anyone looking to tone down their sugar intake. As an example, while regular maple syrup has 53g of sugar per serving, Nature’s Hollow maple syrup has zero.

The secret ingredient is Xylitol, a natural sweetener with a very low glycemic index and few calories. Nature’s Hollow uses Xylitol in all of their creations, which makes them ideal for diabetics, and those looking to manage their waistlines now that the holidays are over.  Unlike many artificial sweeteners, it also tastes good. “I love the ketchup and jams,” says co-op working member Florence Vincent. “My diet requires I cut out sugar completely, so the products are a godsend for me.”

Visit the Yelm Co-op and pick up a jar or two and kick off your new year on a healthy note!

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The EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” food additives

The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. Here is their 2014 list of the worst dozen food additives found in the world’s food supply.

Be an informed shopper and look out for these. As always, do your won research and draw your own conclusions.

This article ( is part of our information program at the Yelm Cooperative.


Nitrites and nitrates are used as preservatives in cured meats such asbacon, salami, sausages and hot dogs. Nitrites, which can form from nitrates, react with naturally occurring components of protein calledamines. This reaction can form nitrosamines, which are known cancer-causing compounds. Nitrosamines can form in nitrite or nitrate-treated meat or in the digestive tract.


Potassium bromate is used to strengthen bread and cracker dough and help it rise during baking. It is listed as a known carcinogen by the state of California, and the international cancer agency classifies it as a possible human carcinogen (IARC 1999; OEHHA 2014).


Propyl paraben is used as a preservative in foods such as tortillas, muffins and food dyes. People can be exposed to it either as a direct additive or as result of contamination during food processing and packaging
Propyl paraben acts as a weak synthetic estrogen


A wide variety of foods contain BHA, including chips and preserved meats. It is also added to fats and to foods that contain fats and is allowed as a preservative in flavoring.

The National Toxicology Program classifies it as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” the international cancer agency categorizes it as a possible human carcinogen, and it’s listed as a known carcinogen under California’s Proposition 65 (NTP 2011; IARC 1986; OEHHA 2014).


Is not a listed carcinogen, but some data have shown that it does cause cancer in animals. Rats fed BHT have developed lung and liver tumors (EFSA 2012). BHT has also been shown to cause developmental effects and thyroid changes in animals, suggesting that it may be able to disrupt endocrine signaling (EFSA 2012)


Propyl gallate is used as a preservative in products that contain edible fats, such as sausage and lard. It is classified as GRAS even though a National Toxicology Program study reported an association with tumors in male rats and rare brain tumors in two female rats (NTP 1982


An alkaloid found in chocolate that has effects similar to caffeine.  The producer’s estimated average human consumption rate was five times higher than the level the company reported as safe (NRDC FOIA 2013). But it is now listed as GRAS without the FDA’s approval.


The truth is that when you see the word “flavor” on a food label, you have almost no clue what chemicals may have been added to the food under the umbrella of this vague term.
In addition to the flavor-adding chemicals themselves, flavor mixtures often contain natural or artificial emulsifiers, solvents and preservatives that are called “incidental additives,” which means the manufacturer does not have to disclose their presence on food labels.


Artificial colors are often used to increase the appeal of foods that have little nutritional value. Questions have been raised about the safety of one class of synthetic colors, called FD&C (Food, Drug & Cosmetics) colors, and contaminants in other artificial colorings as well.


Diacetyl, used as a butter flavoring in microwave popcorn, is associated with a severe and irreversible respiratory condition called bronchiolitis obliterans, which leads to inflammation and permanent scarring of the airways


Phosphates are frequently added to unhealthy highly processed foods, including fast foods. In people with chronic kidney disease, high phosphate levels in the body are associated with heart disease and death (Ritz 2012).


Additives containing aluminum, such as sodium aluminum phosphate and sodium aluminum sulfate, are used as stabilizers in many processed foods.  While significant scientific uncertainty remains around whether there may be links between aluminum-based food additives and health effects, their widespread use warrants putting them on the “watch list.”

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Celebrating the Co-op Team

Celebrating the Co-op Team

DSC02527Everyone contributes. Some may do one four-hour shift a week, others may help with specific events like Beer & Brats, while still others may work more than two shifts per week. But throughout the year, everyone connected with the Yelm Food Cooperative, employees, volunteers, and working members all support its success. Those contributions were recognized at the annual Appreciation Party on December 14th in a festive night filled with outrageous food and great wine.  “It’s important to acknowledge the people who volunteer their time and energy to support the co-op and make it grow – to honor them for their time and energy,” says event coordinator Barbara Morando.

“I think everyone really saw how much they were appreciated because it was clear that a lot of thought and effort went into the event,” says Manager Kate Morgan. “I was really impressed with how beautiful the setting was and how much the organizers had put into it.” Local chef Dawn Young of Early Dawn’s Eatery created a delectable spread and Anne Marsh provided matching wines from the Wine Cellar of Yelm.

Volunteers are essential for the running of the store, says Kate. “They get their discount and a couple of little perks, but other than that, they don’t get a lot of appreciation. A lot of customers don’t realize that they’re volunteers.”  Board Treasurer Tom Dewell was struck by how many of the people being recognized have been part of the Co-op for years, if not from the beginning. “This organization was founded and kept alive by the hard work of people who have decided this is a cause they want to support and are willing to give time and energy to make it so,” he says.  “Volunteer-based organizations are so tenuous because those folks can walk at any time, but so many of ours have stayed and stayed and stayed.”

Aside from a chance to acknowledge everyone, the event offers another opportunity. “Even as an employee, I don’t get to interact with all the volunteers who might come in once a week,” says Kate. “People get to meet other working members and volunteers that they might not even know. Events like this form a community relationship. Getting to interface with the board and all the people involved just makes it stronger.”

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Happy Holidays From The Bees!

Happy Holidays From The Bees!

PillarGroupBeeswaxCall it your ‘Circle of Life’ holiday gift: hand-dipped beeswax candles from Big Dipper Wax Works in Seattle. This company not only uses nectar from flowers gathered by honeybees, it then turns around and donates 10% of the net profits from all candle sales to organizations dedicated to outreach, education, and sustainability efforts devoted to promoting sustainable beekeeping. “Big Dipper is committed to supporting a vibrant community of customers, beekeepers, and bees,” says founder Brent Roose.

Many candles come with unfortunate side effects because they are made using paraffin, a petroleum by-product which is chemically bleached and hardened, emits black soot and pollutes the air. Big Dipper candles are 100% natural and free of paraffin and other toxins. Unlike most products used in candles, beeswax actually cleans the air by emitting negative ions.

Stop by the Yelm Cooperative during your holiday shopping for some elegant hand-dipped tapers or pillars made with an exquisite mix of essential oils. This is one gift that will keep on giving.

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Holiday Grapevine is out!

christmas tree

The latest issue of the Yelm Cooperatives Grapevine is out for your reading pleasure!

$1 Million in sales

Last issue we talked about reaching $1 million in sales this year and asking for your help.
Well, as I post this, we are set to reach that magical goal by mid- December!!

Packed with Articles

Check out the great articles this issue:

=> History of Co-ops, part 2

=> The General Manager’s bi-monthly report

=> A wrap up of this yea’s hugely successful Farmers Market

=> Our regular “Vegan Corner” has some things to think about
when you think you are eating vegan, but might not be!

=> 2 pages of YFC specials for December and January

=> Some very yummy recipes from staff members:
             Almond Crescent Cookies,
             Stuffed Bell Peppers
             Pumpkin Soup
–  all perfect for cold winter days!

Working Members

On the back page is  a column that addresses a very critical need for your Co-op’s continued success – that is the need for more Working Members to help run the store. You may have noticed recently that there are times when there is only one of 2 people working in the store on a shift. That person has to be cashier, stocker, order receiver, telephone answerer, customer service rep and do anything else that comes up. So, please if you can find the time to lend a hand or know someone who could, talk to one of the staff members.

There is not only the satisfaction that comes from serving our local community with high quality, nutritious and yummy foods, Working Members receive some great benefits!

Great opportunity for a someone to keep the store shiny and clean!

Anyone who finds a volunteer who is willing to be the person who does regular cleaning of the store will get a

$100 Gift Card!

And the cleaner volunteer will get one, too!

Both cards will be issued after the volunteer has worked for 3 months. If the volunteer wants to become a Working Member, they will receive those additional benefits as well, like 2o% discounts on purchases, Buy Club privileges and a La Gitana VIP card.

Get this Grapevine issue at the store while supplies last or download it here:

Grapevine – Holiday 2014

You’ll need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this. You can download it here:

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Gift of Gobble Expands Community Impact

Gift of Gobble Expands Community Impact

DSC02287This Thanksgiving, the Yelm Food Cooperative’s annual Gift of Gobble project exceeded all expectations, both in the number of families reached and the amount of money raised. “It was a quantum leap this year,” says Outreach Coordinator Andrea Levanti. Co-op volunteers raised over $7,000 and provided meals for 128 families – three more than their original goal of 125.

The project has evolved greatly since its inception in 2010 and every year is able to make a greater impact in the community.  “It’s very gratifying to develop a network with other groups that have been doing this all along,” says Levanti. “St. Vincent de Paul is an amazing organization that helps families with basic things like keeping their electricity on. This year for the first time we worked with Yelm Community Schools, and I had a bunch of counselors contact me with families to nominate. Our military contact at JBLM came through with twenty-five families. ”

For recipients, the gift of a complete Thanksgiving feast translates into multiple meals that help to feed other friends and relatives. “People have shared with us that they’re able to get up to six meals out of what they’re given, and then they use the turkey bones to make soup,” says project coordinator Barbara Morando.

Co-op volunteer Tina Maggio has been involved from the beginning and coined the term “Gift of Gobble”. She points out an unusual aspect of the program.  “The cool thing is that there’s no questions asked,” she says.  “Anyone can nominate a family – it’s not based on their income. Once the name goes in, there’s nothing to prove.” Barbara Morando adds that Gift of Gobble helps maintain the dignity of recipients by avoiding invasive questions.

Such details are clearly appreciated. In the flood of thank you letters and emails that followed this year’s project, one stood out. It came from a man who had frequently volunteered with homeless shelters himself. “This year, it was my turn to receive,” he said. “I was stunned as I am not usually on that end; yet this year with no income per se, no food stamps either, I became the recipient of a meal donated by the Yelm Food Co-op. What I observed in a short moment of waiting for the gift, was a group of busy, caring, generous people thoughtfully and tastefully putting together a meal fit for royalty . . . like a wave in the ocean of social reality and consciousness, what is given forth will surely return to the giver. Your giving spirit shall see its wondrous return. Bravo to the community spirit! Thank you volunteers and members of the Yelm Food Co-op.”

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Middle Eastern Goodies Provide Mental Vacation

Middle Eastern Goodies Provide Mental Vacation

Signature Hummus OLF 040610As the Pacific Northwest winter closes in, you may find yourself dreaming of warmer – nay, hotter – climes. Greece, for example, or possibly Lebanon may come to mind. Don’t fight it. Just throw on some culturally appropriate music and crank up your woodstove. Now you have the perfect setting for delicacies from Exquisite N Traditional, an Olympia-based company specializing in middle eastern products. Owner Habib Serhan was born in Lebanon and his recipes were passed down by his mother and grandmother.

Currently, The Yelm Food Cooperative carries their all-natural hummus made from garbanzo beans, squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, fresh garlic cloves, tahini and sea salt.  Habib also makes another delicious dish called labneh, a soft cheese made from strained yogurt. The latter makes an excellent low-calorie alternative to regular cream cheese. The yogurt is made from natural, growth hormone-free milk, which is then combined with olive oil, sea salt, garlic, dried mint and cucumber. Look for it in the refrigerated section near the produce.

Side note: they also cater with a larger range of entrees and side dishes! So if you want to go all in: make a full playlist, order more firewood, send for some ouzo and call them or visit

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