The Road to Merging with Just Local Food Co-op
There has been a tremendous amount of cooperation in the Chippewa Valley between Menomonie Market Food Co-op and Just Local Food Co-op over the last year and a half—from my vantage point, both co-ops have learned and benefited from our connections. I do believe it’s time to say, out loud, with excitement and relief, that the work of our collaboration committee is drawing to a close, and the full boards of both co-ops are moving towards agreement on a plan to merge our two co-ops into one. If this plan is approved by both boards, it will move into the Owner Engagement Phase. We will kick off this phase by mailing all owners a packet of information that details the plan, lists ways that you can learn more and be involved, and invites you to vote the plan up or down. Watch your mailbox!
Co-ops are different for lots of reasons; they build wealth for local use instead of exporting wealth to faraway owners, they consider community and environment in addition to economics when making decisions, and they truly serve the needs of the people who use them—the shoppers! Now the Second Cooperative Principle—democratic member control—will be realized when Just Local Food owners and Menomonie Market owners are asked to go to the polls and decide if a merger is in the best interest of their co-op. Both groups of owners will have to vote YES with a two-thirds majority for this merger to happen. That is democracy in action and is completely unique among businesses in the U.S.
From 2010 to 2014, Menomonie Market went through several negotiations with developers, the City, and landowners to find an expansion site. It was difficult work for me because it felt like a lot of it was done in secret. Sometimes the detailed work that includes strategy and external factors needs to be worked out before the plan can be announced or unveiled. I have felt like that again lately, and I am so excited to share our hard work with you, hear your questions and your concerns, learn more about how we can make the plan even better, and then leave the ultimate decision in your hands.
Should the boards vote yes, the packet you receive will include the dates and times of several virtual and in-person opportunities to ask questions of board members and staff. Whether you attend every one, or you glance through the packet and are ready to vote, we hope that every owner participates in this big decision. And as always, I am happy to hear from you on this or any other matter!
This article was originally published in the July/August 2021 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.