From The Ground Up
Hear About Our Events, Classes, Sales for Shoppers & More!
Owner Deals
Board Election: The Results are In!

We are excited to announce the results from last week's Owner Elections!

We would like to share our gratitude with all the Board candidates who were incredibly motivated to be an integral part of our Board of Directors. We appreciate your presence at the Co-op and are proud of the hard work that you all put in.

This year, we had three full 3-year terms and one 1-year term available. The top three most voted Candidates for will receive the 3 year terms and the fourth most voted will receive the 1 year term.

We had 560 owners vote this year (176 more voters than last year with 47% increase in voter participation compared to 2016 Owner Elections).

Congratulations to the newest Board of Directors, as follows:

Karen Carney elected to a 3 year term as Board Director with 336 votes.

Karen Medina elected to a 3 year term as Board Director with 326 votes.

Magdalena Casper-Shipp elected to a 3 year term as Board Director with 238 votes.

Keith McKenney elected to a 1 year term  as Board Director with 204 votes

Round Up logo
Round Up For Good Election Results

The election results are also in for our 2018 featured Round Up For Good organizations.

The top 11 organizations voted will receive a month of donations starting in 2018. One month of donations will also go towards the Co-op's Food For All Program, our community-funded food access program. Due to nation-wide and international disasters, like Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, starting in 2018, the Co-op reserves the right to raise emergency funds for disaster relief, using one week of a Round Up For Good recipient's month.

Thank you to everyone who cast a vote this year!

Congratulations to the top 11 Round Up For Good organizations:

Planned Parenthood C-U, 293 votes
Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, 284 votes
Black Lives Matter, 235 votes
Courage Connections, 230 votes
Eastern Illinois Foodbank, 218 votes
Rape Advocacy, Counseling, & Education Services (RACES), 188 votes
Sola Gratia Farm, 184 votes
Crisis Nursery, 176 votes
Education Justice Project, 157 votes
Prairie Rivers Network, 143 votes
Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center (IMC), 133 votes

Meeting of Owners Recap

Adorable picture captured at the Meeting of Owners last week, featuring the Pittenger family, Ruby, Lola, and June wearing veggie & fruit suits!

This year's annual Meeting of Owners took place on Thursday, September 21st. It was an evening of camaraderie, good food, and celebration. The event had a family feel with the mingling of owners, board members, and co-op staff. Attendees enjoyed tasting samples from the store's departments, interacting with local vendors, participating in feedback stations, and creating cards for farmers. 

For the business portion of the meeting, Julie Zilles, board president, presented board updates. She shared what the board has been working on over the past year and introduced the current members. The democracy project working group has started the process for short and long term visioning. This project is currently on hold until we have a new GM in place, as the board feels it is extremely important for visioning to take place among the board, GM, and owners. The financial monitoring working group was newly created this year to educate the board, communicate with owners, and monitor financials monthly rather than quarterly in light of our current financial conditions. The GM search committee has been busy recruiting our next GM (see GM search article below).  Julie then brought the message back to the main reason for the MOO - voting.  Voting ended that evening and there were 8 candidates on the ballot to fill 4 open seats on the board.  Following up from the Financial MOO this past April, Julie shared that store sales are still declining, but we were still at 8.3 million in total sales in 2016. The store could sustain itself for quite a while with the sales we have if it weren't for the current debt load. Julie then recapped the debt repayment and loan deferrals information that was emailed out to owners. The co-op is still strong and the board is optimistic about the future. The 2016 impacts report was also shared during the MOO. See the impacts report here .

Tim Sullivan, interim GM, then gave the operational updates. He talked about recently attending the GM conference through the National Cooperative Grocers and learning that 1/3 of food co-ops in the central region are struggling. He posed the question, in this tough, competitive environment, why do people shop at co-ops? He has found through talking with staff, owners, and vendors that it's about healthy and local food, ownership in the co-op and our Ends, environmentally conscious consumption, and ethical food choices. Common Ground's three main opportunities that he's working on with staff are bringing customers in the door, creating an awesome shopping experience, and operational excellence. Tim then introduced several of the department managers and shared the awesome things happening in each department. The operational update ended with a discussion about telling our story.  How do we reconnect with who we are and invite owners and customers back to shop with us? Tim called owners to action - asking them to fill out comment cards with any suggestions they have about the store or overall shopping experience or to ask for him next time they are in the store to share their suggestions with him directly. 
Come to the Fall Festival at Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery

Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery is hosting the Fall Festival at the farm on  Sunday, October 8, from 3-6pm.

There will be a free cider pressing demonstration between 4-5pm!

Fresh cider and cider floats with their amazing homemade gelato will be available for purchase, along with 30 minute hayrides! Check out hayride times and bring a little cash with you!

Their store, The Real Stand, will also be open for their famous cheeses, gelato, and more.

Follow their event on Facebook and let them know you are attending!
We had a great time visiting Kilgus Farmstead!

Jenna Kilgus and her girls walk us through the milking procedure that happens twice a day.

These dairy cows were incredibly friendly and curious letting us pet them. They even nuzzled one another as they ate hay.

Jenna's daughter introducing her favorite young cows (heifers) who she has been caring for and grooming for the State Fair.

We enjoyed our visit at Kilgus Farmstead in Fairbury, IL, about 60 miles away from the Co-op. We were lucky to spend time with Jenna Kilgus and her two girls, as they gave us a tour of the entire farm. At Kilgus Farmstead, the farm operation involves the whole extended Kilgus Family. When we ask how long their work days are, Jenna explains that her and her husband and her extended family work an average of 12 hour a day to complete all the farm tasks each day. Their dairy operation features Jersey cows, known for rich  and creamy milk fat. Even the two young daughters help with some daily chores around the farm! The girls are so knowledgable at such a young age, and it was a joy listening to them rattle off all of the cows' names in detail, as we walked through the farm.

Along with milking the dairy cows twice a day, they care for all many animals in various stages of their growth. Did you know that Kilgus Farmstead is in regular communication with their local animal dietician, who recommends special diets for all the various animals on the farm? It's true, the animals diets change based on seasonality, age of the animal, and what additional supplements are needed (i.e. alfalfa). We have worked with the Kilgus family for many years, using their milk in our specialty coffee drinks, bacon in our kitchen and deli for sandwiches and pizzas, and our local meat section is stocked with Kilgus Farmstead meats. They also are one of our main sponsors for the annual Ice Cream Social Fundraiser that we put together in support of Eastern Illinois Foodbank.

Thank you Kilgus Family for hosting us at your farm. We are impressed with how committed you are to working with your family, animals, and farm. Thank you for suppling the Co-op with such delicious foods.

GM Search Update

Over the past couple of months, we have been narrowing down the many applications we received for the GM position, and we are now beginning the finalist interview stage. We have conducted phone interviews, video conference interviews, and extensive reference checking with both local and non-local candidates. At this point, we have narrowed it down to one candidate, who we will be interviewing in person soon.  

Ideally, we would have loved to have more than one finalist interview, but we feel that this candidate's experience and qualifications are strong enough to move forward alone. While we're very excited about the interview, it's important to know that we are also researching and developing contingency plans to keep the process moving forward if this candidate is not the right choice for Common Ground's next GM.

The interview process consists of both board and management interviews. We will also be incorporating input from owners gathered in-store and at the MOO. The search committee will make a recommendation to the board based on board and management feedback on the candidate. The full board then must decide whether or not to make an offer. If you have any questions, please feel free to email the search committee directly at

The Herb Haven of Green Pantry Nursery

Green Pantry Nursery is our main source of deliciously fresh local herbs, grown by Steve and Amy Wenger in Tuscola, IL, about 30 miles away from  the  Co-op. We toured the giant raised beds and three greenhouses filled with oregano, thai basil, dill, parsley, lemongrass, genovese basil, varieties of mint and rosemary so big, that has grown into large shrubbery in just five years.

Amy and Steve have donated hundreds of herb seedlings for our Plant Sale Fundraiser each year in May to fund for our Food For All Program and they work hard to ensure that our town is in good supply of  fresh herbs.

Our staff get excited when they see Steve drop off shipments of herbs because we get bucks of fresh basil for our pizzas, deli salads, and more. (We admit, the basil is one of the secrets why our spinach basil pizza is our top selling pizza.)

Thanks for taking time out of our busy day to show us around! We are grateful to have such wonderful farmers, like you, growing our food and herbs.

The mint is great for tabouli, topping on roasted meats, fresh tea, good for nausea, and more potent when it is harvested locally and brought to the Co-op the same day!

This is an exemplum of what healthy rosemary should look like. This five year rosemary amazed us! The raised bed is about ten feet long to give you a reference to size.
Newest Art Installations in the Classroom!

We are excited to announce the newest art installations featuring two local artists and Co-op owners, Beth Chasco and
Aman Aulakh!

Stop by our Classroom to see the artwork up close. We're excited for everyone to see it!

Beth Chasco has featured  Landscape Oil Paintings of the Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan. The featured painting directly to the right is titled "Leelanau Two Track". Read Beth's artist statement.

Aman Aulakh's art (below) features original Polaroid slides photos taken by her father in the 1960's and her own photography from the early 2000s, where she has created photo emulsion lifts from the Polaroid photos and placed them onto delicate hollowed egg shells. The featured art on the left is titled "Post Shaadi" and to the right is titled "Cowboy & Indian".  Read Aman's artist statement.

13 Classes this October!

Sign up for a class at the Co-op! We have 13 classes for October alone!

Owners, did you know that your class tickets are cheaper? We offer discounted classes for owners as an owner perk! If you are a Food For All member, you can come to ANY class for free, as long as you preregister. 

October 3: Co-op Explorers' Team Tomatillos (free cooking class for 1-2 graders)

October 5: Co-op Explorers' Team Artichoke (free cooking class for 3-5 graders)

October 11: Three Easy Recipes: Crock Pot Pork Shoulder

October 12: Self-Care Series: Morning Ritual

October 14: Indian Cuisine: Coconut Based Curried

October 17: Homemade Mead Part 1 (with Maggie Wachter from Second Nature Honey)

October 21: Ethiopian Cuisine: Injera

October 21: Thai Cooking: Tom Kha Soup

October 26: Kitchen Apothecary: Herbal Skincare (with Delight Flower Farm)

October 28: Somatic Experiencing

October 30: Kombucha with Flowers (with Delight Flower Farm)

Sign up for October Classes online or in store!

We were thankful to be a part of this year's CU Pride Fest

We were honored to be a part of this year's CU Pride Parade, where we gathered together to celebrate our strong connection with our CU neighbors  in support of our LGBTQ community . Being a center of a vibrant and inclusive community is our main mission and "First End" as Common Ground. It is our belief that we are all stronger together- meaning we support one another so  that we become stronger as a whole.

We had a large turnout of Co-op owners, customers, board members, and staff join us to march and carry the opening banner. A special thank you to the Uniting Pride (UP) Center of Champaign County and Josh Laskowski for all of the help and hard work putting this together.

A supportive shout out to those in our Queer community; we see you, we love you, and we welcome you. If you like, please reach out and let us know if you are interested in sharing your voice about ways we can further support you, here in Champaign-Urbana.
A letter to from Tim, Interim  GM


So I have been on the job for about two months now and so it is a good time for a progress report.

An interesting aspect of a food co-op versus a conventional chain store is that an independent co-op does not have the back office support that chains do for things like finance, human resources, and marketing. It is one reason a coop's cost structure is higher. But, in today's competitive reality, co-ops are searching for ways to lower costs. That is why there are co-op mergers happening or co-op's sharing staff in these areas. Another option is to use outside organizations to provide all or parts of these services. Since there are no other food coops close to Common Ground, this is the direction we have taken. This is one small part of improving our operational excellence that I often talk about with staff and owners. I believe Common Ground is making progress and heading in the right direction in these operational areas.

In addition to operational excellence, we talk daily about ways we can improve your shopping experience. Things like customer service, friendliness, product quality, freshness, and presentation, creating a little excitement or fun in the coop are all ways to enhance your visit to Common Ground. It is easy to do most of this for a day or even a week, but to do it every day all day is very difficult. We have a few areas in the store where this is especially challenging, but overall I am really happy with our progress. I think all of our staff understands that if Common Ground is going to succeed over the long haul, this high level of shopping experience is critical. I have gotten a lot of suggestions from owners in this area, and I really appreciate the feedback. I encourage you to reach out to me, especially when you are in the store. Do not hesitate to ask for me because I really enjoying visiting with our owners and customers.

Finally, we are working hard on inviting owners and customers to visit Common Ground just a bit more often. The number of people who walk through our door each week is the key to long term fiscal health for Common Ground. We had a great turnout of owner days, so a big thank you for that support! In my former life we had a saying; "the work you did 6 months to a year ago show up as results today". I believe this to be true, and that is why growing the number of customers is long term work. Watch for a few creative new things we will be doing over the next months to convince you to visit us just a bit more.

You are aware that your board is working hard to find the best possible new General Manager for Common Ground. This is the most important board responsibility. At the recent meeting of owners, Julie shared with the owners that in early October they will be interviewing what they believe to be a strong candidate. So maybe we will have an exciting announcement in the next newsletter. Be assured if for some reason this candidate does not turn out to be the right leader for Common Ground, they will continue the search. If that happens I am able to stay for a few more months while the search continues.

Many owners have told me how much they love the Common Ground Food Co-op. I believe we are making progress at your food co-op, and are heading in the right direction. I also believe all of our staff knows we still have work to do to make your co-op the place you want it to be. It is a pleasure to be here supporting their efforts.


September's Round Up For Good: Men's Transitional Housing

For the month of September, we raised over $3,000 for the  Men's Transitional  Housing Program,  formally known as  The T.I.M.E.S Center.

The Men's Transitional Housing Program currently serves and houses 20 men with insecure housing, giving them access to medicial care, mental health appointments, and a place to stay for up to 2 years.

The Men's Transitional Housing Program, (The TIMES Center) is owned by Rosecrance Health Network, as of early last year.

Have questions about how you can help? Call Sheila Ferguson, the Rosecrance representative at (217) 693-4601

October Round Up For Good:
UC Books to Prisoners

We are excited to raise money for Books to Prisoners, an Urbana based local organization located within the Independent Media Center, that provides " books to Illinois inmates at no cost by mail as well as through two county jail libraries". For several years, Common Ground has served as a location to receive these book donations. We have a Books to Prisoners receptacle near our mall hallway entrance, where you can drop off books to benefit B2P.

Because of your help, UC Books to Prisoners has delivered 129,689 books in 38,518 packages to 19,179 inmates!

Thank you for your support for the entire month of October. We look forward to enriching this program with the help of our Co-op supporters.

Visit the UC Books to Prisoners website for more  information on volunteering and donation drop off.

Hear about our events on Social Media!

Check out our Facebook page for notifications about events, new products, recipes, and updates!

See our facebook here and follow us!

                     Like us on Facebook      View on Instagram     Follow us on Twitter
Thanks for reading!
Common Ground Food Cooperative | 217-352-3347 |  | 
300 S. Broadway Avenue Suite #166, Urbana, IL 61801

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter View on Instagram