The main thing is to make sure people are enjoying their work.
1 There is no ‘I’ in teamwork
While Robyn acknowledges she is the backstop behind the co-op, standing in for anyone who can’t make it at the last minute, she is quick to point out that the co-op works because members bring to it their own specific skills and no one is ‘power hungry’.
“The main thing is to make sure people are enjoying their work. We have one helper who likes organising shelves, another who is confident serving, and we employ a person for two hours a week to handle bill paying. It’s because of people like this that we can keep the co-op open seven days a week for 42 hours.”
2 One size doesn’t fit all
Tailor your organic food supply to suit the size of your community. Not every place needs a food co-op. All that may be required in your area is a telephonetree-operated food-sharing club or the delivery of randomised organic produce boxes on a weekly basis. Look at models that have worked in similar communities. 3 Duty rosters are a basic When divvying up duties, make sure no one person is landed with the bulk of the work or the organisation will soon collapse. Have back-up helpers who are available to take on jobs at short notice when another worker cannot make it to work.
4The perfect premises
If you require premises, you may need to negotiate the use of a garage or similar building for food distribution. If your organisation needs to move into a more ‘retail’ part of town, give serious thought to ‘shop-sharing’. Approach the likes of a tradesperson who is using only a small portion of a building to store parts and equipment and who is probably able to open for only a few hours each week. Offer to keep the premises open for more hours in return for a reduced or nil-rental on space for a co-op to operate.
5 Be discerning
If the aim is to supply locally-grown organic vegetables, you can’t always insist on produce being officially ‘certified organic’ so learn to be discerning. Get to know your suppliers on a personal level and if you find they are caring for their soil (growing
organically) and their plants are healthy, accept their goods and label them ‘locally-grown home-organic’.
6 Let your buyers/food sharers be the judge
If someone notices a product you’re buying contains an ingredient that’s not acceptable (palm oil, for example) or points out a product is being produced by marginalised labour, cease stocking it.
Sell locally sourced goods wherever possible and recognise that this opportunity may change seasonally. Currently, the Riverton co-op sources lamb and beef from an organic grower in nearby Blackmount, and gets its organic pork from Riverton. Depending on the season, 25% of the vegetables stocked are grown in Southland, but the co-op would like to see this increase to 100%. One local supplier makes enough from her vege sales to pay for her family’s fruit purchases from the co-op.
8Predict and prepare
Make a plan for ‘loss sharing’. When dealing with fresh produce, there will always be some waste. The Riverton Organic Food Coop currently splits the loss 50-50 between suppliers, the co-op paying the supplier 50% of the value of the produce that is unsold.
Think about how you will price your produce. The Riverton Organic Food Co-op asks suppliers to name their own price for fresh produce they are selling to the shop. Of this price, the co-op takes 10% for handling and administration and the government take 15%. Accept that prices for many goods will be higher when you live in more remote emote areas because of the cost of freight.
Instead of hand-written records, Karla Evans manages the accounts by computer.