By Jeanette Read, Board Director
Grow Co-Op! Expanding Stores, Building Communities. This was the theme of the 2008 Consumer Cooperative Merchants Association (CCMA) Conference, which was held mid-June in Portland, Oregon. I was fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to attend the conference on behalf of New Leaf Market. CCMA is well-known for its unique blend of practical information, innovative ideas and cooperative inspiration. What an incredible experience! The conference provided me with an opportunity to join over 450 other members to share ideas and information, as well as attend educational workshops on a wide variety of topics.
This was the 52nd Annual CCMA Conference. Attendees represented 32 states and 71 cooperatives. They were general managers, staff members, board members and consultants. Our focus was to reach beyond the walls of our co-ops to take a look at the serious challenges we all face due to global warming, sustainability, recession and inflation.
The first day started with a pre-conference workshop on Loss Prevention, which was three hours of very useful information. That afternoon, bus tours had been arranged and I chose the tour that included Food Front Cooperative Grocery and Bob’s Red Mill. While touring the Food Front Cooperative Grocery, I realized how easy it is to take New Leaf Market for granted. In comparison, I would have to say we have become spoiled with a quality shopping environment. Through the years, we have been fortunate to have an ever-evolving management team committed to providing a positive shopping experience for our member-owners and shoppers. Currently, our expansion bears witness to the high level of commitment from management and staff. Working in the midst of the chaos created by construction can’t be easy, but they handle it with a smile, knowing better times are around the corner. Thanks everyone—great job!
I have been a fan of Bob’s Red Mill products for quite some time. Their products are available at NLM and are primarily flour based: pancake mixes, whole grain cereals, whole wheat flour, etc. We toured the 320,000-square-foot facility on the outskirts of Portland, and now I understand why the quality has always been so high. Grain goes directly from the farm to the mill, and is ground using century-old quartz mill stones. They now have a large selection of gluten-free products. If you’re interested, there is a great video tour on their site: www.bobsredmill.com/tour/index.htm.
My personal goal was to return with at least three great ideas that could be utilized by our co-op. Well, on the second and third days, there were 48 workshops that I could choose from to help accomplish that goal. Each of the three time slots per day had eight topics available to choose from. For the first time in my life, I wish I could have been cloned. The workshops that I attended were dynamic and chock-full of information. Although I was only able to attend six of them, I came home with four typed pages of info and ideas!
The co-op community as a whole is a unique business model—community owned and controlled business ventures. Just think about that for a moment. When you support our cooperative, money you spend stays in our community. It isn’t hauled off to Arkansas or who knows where else. It’s about coming together for the betterment of the whole. It has always been a good concept, but now it appears to be a great concept, given our economic environment. As I visited with folks from all over the country, I found a sense of positive enthusiasm. Everyone is facing challenges, but challenges create opportunity. New Leaf Market is 34 years old and very strong. We will remain strong with the cooperative efforts that made us strong in the first place.