Sneaky’s Takes the ‘Junk’ Out of Junk Food

Sneaky’s Takes the ‘Junk’ Out of Junk Food

tish and sneakysThere you are, strolling the aisles of the Co-op and virtuously filling your cart with fruit, vegetables, and a few products whose names you can’t pronounce but they look healthy. Your intentions are good, your heart is pure – and then you get home. “If you’re like me, you buy all of these healthy foods but then the first thing to go is a bag of potato chips,”says Tish Watford. “Where we tend to break down a lot is in the snack department.” Her solution was to invent Sneaky’s, popcorn dusted with nutrient rich spirulina powder that is made of all organic, non-GMO, gluten-free ingredients.

“I hope that people will see it as a way of creatively incorporating  superfoods in something other than smoothies,” she says, “especially parents. Maybe it will light a creative spark.” She also hopes that Sneaky’s will help people “rethink what they’re buying; each ingredient and the purpose it serves. In the broader sense, it’s about understanding what’s in our food. Why is this in here?”

“Where we tend to break down a lot is in the snack department.”

Tish’s first taste-testers were her parents. She was living in a small town in Alabama that didn’t really have any healthy food options. After a visit to neighboring Tuscaloosa, she brought home some spirulina. Her son wanted popcorn, so she decided to experiment with it. “It was a little salty at first,” she laughs. Since moving to Olympia, she’s perfected the product and introduced it into local health food stores, including the Yelm Food Co-op.

Before launching Sneaky’s, the only business she’d owned was in tax preparation. Tish holds a master’s degree in accounting and financial management. “The food world is so much different from offering a service,” she says. “It’s so good to be in this area. I’ve learned a lot on my own but also from other Olympia-area foodpreneurs. Everyone is ready to share their knowledge.”

Her next step is an alternative version of kettle corn “without the corn syrup,” she says. For now, look for spirulina Sneaky’s in the snack section of the Yelm Food Co-op. You can put it right next to your vegetables.
Photo by Jennifer Crain

Read More
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.   


Read More
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.

Read More
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.”

Read More
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.”

Read More