Kate 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.”