Home & Garden Show Volunteer Opportunities

Home and Garden ShowThe 2016 Home & Garden Show is coming right up on and several time slots are available to volunteer at the Yelm Cooperative booth. This is a great opportunity to let people know about the natural foods market right here in Yelm and build excitement about our vision for a sustainable food system in our area. 

Here are the available slots: 

      Sunday, May 1st  – 11 am – 2 pm ( 1 or 2 people)

      Sunday, May 1st  – 2 pm – 4 pm (2 people)

      Sunday, May 1st  4pm – 5 pm  (1 or 2 people to help our board president Bill Wyman with teardown)

If you would like to help, contact Marilyn Reardon at (360)400-8030. Thank you!  

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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 www.alaffia.com.



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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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