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Owner Deals

Loving What Matters
Fostering Change
Tim Sullivan, Interim GM

It is possible this will be my last newsletter article, or at least the last article at the top of the page. So let's start with a short update. The 4 th quarter 2017 financial results are now in the books, and I am happy to report improvements in results across the board. Common Ground sales were up slightly, expenses were down significantly, and we had a positive net profit.  We are not a profit driven organization, but we are all aware we need something on the bottom line to be sustainable over the long haul. I am proud of the Common Ground team's willingness to be open to difficult changes and their ability to overcome adversity.  We have seen it all over the last few months from a city water line break, multiple (false) fire alarms where we had to evacuate the store, to an electric strike that took out a transformer and our power for 7 hours. Each time our team rose to the challenge and got us back operating for our customers amazingly quick. I think the improved results reflect an improved spirit in the co-op, and a renewed emphasis on details from quality of product to great customer service. I believe our new GM will find a team willing and ready to lead Common Ground into the future.

It seems, at least when it comes to how we take care of our planet, we need fairly dramatic change. Many of our owners have been working for change in a variety of ways for much of their lives. What should Common Ground's role be in supporting your efforts in fostering change and where should we focus our efforts? It seems to me it only makes sense for us to work in the areas of food production, processing (or lack of processing), distribution and, last but not least, everything local. So how do we do this?

The 1 st step is to stay in business so we can even play a role. Over the past 2 years Common Ground's sales have dropped significantly. We can easily survive and thrive as a smaller co-op, but does that impact our ability to foster change? The reason sales have dropped include more competition, maybe some fallout from the failed Champaign store effort, possibly some poor choices in changes that were made in the store, and finally maybe we just were not living up to owners' expectations when they visited the store. How's that for brutal honesty? (It is easy to be honest when you are an Interim GM soon to be retired again.) The bottom line is fewer customers are coming in the door. We are not currently seeing a drop in customers, but we are not really seeing more customers either. If you look at your own food shopping patterns maybe you will recognize that you do not come into the co-op as often as you did a couple years ago.

However, there might be a bigger issue as well that impacts co-ops across the country. Do food shoppers believe they can foster change by where they shop and how they eat? Is eating really an ethical choice? Does how you eat actually impact the health of our planet? I am convinced the answer to the last two questions is emphatically yes! But, as for the 1 st question, we probably have some work to do.

The team at Common Ground is committed to providing our owners and customers the best shopping experience in the C/U area. We are committed to continually looking for ways to be more efficient, while providing the highest level of customer service. We are committed to educating our staff so they can provide the answers you want about products. We are committed to finding your values so you can find great deals here. Finally, we are committed to our local food movement. It is one of the reasons we are exploring an online marketplace for local producers and Common Ground. We need to make it as easy as possible for people to eat healthy and local. (By the way I will have some time influencing the new GM, the poor person.)

My final wish for you and Common Ground is that you will allow us to support your efforts to foster change. Spread the word, together we can be change makers!

Thanks for reading,

Tim

Last chance to complete Common Ground owner survey
Tim Sullivan, Interim GM


As you are aware, we operate in a rapidly changing market place. An interesting aspect of this change is the entry of Amazon into the food business and the growth of online shopping. When I was doing volunteer work in a remote part of Montana, most of the locals ordered a significant part of their food purchases from Amazon and had UPS or FedEx deliver them. Much of our conventional competition now has online shopping available. My question is, how does all of this impact Common Ground? What makes Common Ground special and how will we be special 10 years from now? 

I believe a big part of Common Ground's mission and what makes us special is our connection to and support of local producers. As a co-op I believe we need to help grow the local food infrastructure. We already sell more local food by far than any of our big box competitors, so how can we make a bigger impact? We also recognize people are busy and it is not always easy to drive out of your way to visit Common Ground. So here is an idea.

If we created an online market place that focused on the products from our local producers and was delivered to your home would it be helpful? If you could also buy other products, for example cleaning supplies or bulk foods along with local products would that be something you would use? We have lots of local products from wellness items to beer that you might not be aware of. How important is local to our owners?

Of course, this is were the request comes in. Please take a moment to click on the link to Survey Monkey and share your thoughts about this idea. There would need to be significant interest in this idea to make it a reality, so the more people that take the 5 minutes to complete this survey, the better we will know if there is sufficient support for it.

Thanks for your continued support of Common Ground and our local producers.

Please use  this link to complete the survey if you haven't already.
 
Questions? Comments? Reach Tim at tim.sullivan@commonground.coop
Upcoming Co-op Events

Feb 1, 6:30-7:30: Soup-er Bowl co-sponsored by Common Ground
Learn how to make a tastier, easier soup or stew, whether you're a novice or veteran cook. Our very own Sarah Buckman is the guest chef!

For February's First Friday, come into the co-op for a $6 dinner, wine sampling, Glow by Lola sampling, Sustain condom giveaway, & Local Red Bicycle Ice Cream sampling! 



Priarie Fruits Farm and Creamery samples their cheese & gelato, paired with specially selected co-op chocolates. Grab a coupon for some local cheese and gelato while you're in! A great Valentine's Day event for all ages.

Wes, Leslie, and the Prairie Fruits goats.

Feb 16, 5:30-7:30: Local Cheese Tasting
Ludwig Farmstead Creamery can teach you the differences among their local cheeses, like Kickapoo, Sangamon, and Vermilion River Blue. There will also be a wine tasting at the same time.





Elton from Greens For You will be sampling their locally grown greens paired with co-op made dressings and talking to shoppers about their farm.

Liz Faermark - Delight Flower Farmer, Red Herring cook, longtime co-op owner, and founder of Talk Wild Herbs - talks about and samples her Everything Cream, whose ingredients she grows and harvests herself.

Feb 21, 7:30-10p: Community Concert with Diane Patterson co-hosted with IMC
Join us at the Independent Media Center for a night of joyful community music. Openers Charlie Ford &   Kenna Mae Music welcome Diane Patterson, touring for her new album Open Road, which is inspired by ancient nomadic ways of life. Doors and refreshments at 7:30, show at 8.


Calling all mystics, misfits, and misgendered, and anyone else who wants to come. Sheba Love and Diane Patterson are calling an activation circle in response to #metoo and the culture around this. Please come as your highest selves, sharing old stories, creating solutions, as we reweave these strands of our past towards healing and action! 

Questions? Comments? Reach out to marketing@commonground.coop
Common Ground's First "Student Days" is coming up

Apply to be a Local Artist featured in our Art Gallery
Apply by March 1st online or in person



Our gallery is located in our highly utilized Flatlander Classroom, a space dedicated to connecting the community, facilitating educational opportunities focusing on healthy living, and providing access to local artists. This multi-use space is ideal for integrating the arts into the urban environment and creating partnerships among artists, the community and the Co-op. This year, we will be hosting two local artist installations every two months, allotting each artist a locked case that is 8' long x 44'' high x 4'' wide. We always welcome kids and group shows to apply before March 1st, 2018 to be considered.

Common Ground will provide selected artists with:
1. Two months, or eight weeks of Art Gallery space in the Flatlander classroom.
2. Closing Night Celebration: Common Ground will provide a free Art Gallery reception including publicity and food.
3. Designed and printed postcards for distribution by the artist.
4. Promotion of artist and closing night events through various media sources (including but not limited to Facebook, Common Ground E-Newsletter, our website, print materials, etc).

If selected, artists will be responsible for:
*Timely installation and labeling of work
*Communication with the Outreach Coordinator
*Completing Art Gallery Application either online or submitted in person.
*Although the artwork is secured in a locked and protective case, Common Ground Food Co-op is not responsible for any damage or stolen artwork.
*To maintain our safe, welcoming environment we require that works are non-discriminatory and non-graphic/explicit in content, and must be appropriate for all ages. Selection is at the Co-op's discretion.

Questions or requests for paper application? Email us or call 217-352-3347
Behold: Prepared Foods' Latest Invention

The kitchen folks are always hard at work, whether it's whipping up your favorite soup, baking dreamy desserts, or thinking up a new recipe. Today, the magic of the kitchen has brought us $6 meal bowls

These delicious, vegan, wheat-free bowls are ready to eat - just stir in the dressing and heat it up!

FOUR $6 options:
- Organic brown rice burrito bowl with corn salad, red cabbage, black beans, & cilantro lime dressing
- Organic brown rice tofu & veggie bowl with red cabbage, edamame, carrots, & sesame dressing
- Tofu pad thai bowl with carrots, green onions, & wheat-free rice noodles
- Garbanzo goddess organic quinoa bowl (pictured) with kale, roasted broccoli, roasted carrots, & green goddess dressing

And for $3.99, we offer our Co+op Basi¬Ęs chana masala bowl (chana masala blend plus organic potatoes, organic chick peas, & organic brown rice). Burrito Bowls available at the bottom of the Grab 'N' Go case - let us know what you think!
February Features: 
Vegetarian Italian Sandwich & Raspberry Mocha

VEGETARIAN ITALIAN SUB
Pastrami seitan, spinach, Italian mix (red bell pepper, onion, pitted mixed olives), Ludwig (local!) mozzarella, on a popeye hoagie or rye


RASPBERRY MOCHA (hot or iced!)
Give yourself a treat and enjoy our already delicious mocha with a twist of co-op made raspberry syrup, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream.



Don't forget to take advantage of Mocha Mondays ($2 for a 12 oz & $3 for a 16 oz) and our new sandwich punch cards 
(get your 11th sando free!)

Check out the Deli menu for our full offerings, and don't forget you can call in your order at 217-239-4525.


Price versus Power
Mia Hanneken, Education Coordinator

Food co-ops arose as an alternative to the conventional, mainstream superstores. As co-op owners, we know this. We agree that organic is best. We're conscious of the dangers of widely used pesticides. We avoid additives, sugars, and preservatives. We know co-ops formed as a reliable source of quality food, allowing the community to actively avoid the food giants that mass produced low quality food. These are universal values we share as co-op owners, otherwise we wouldn't have felt called to invest in this movement. Most consumers, in general, believe that their shopping dollars can serve as a driving force toward social and environmental change in our society. Yet, we see more independent businesses struggling and more massive corporations thriving. I read an article from the Journal of Marketing Management entitled, "Can consumers really buy alternative foods at a big box supermarket?" Author Josee Johnston says that "valuing the idea of shopping for change cannot be equated with actual shopping behaviors" (2017). I feel this statement is an incredibly accurate perspective within our co-op community, meaning that C-U consumers may support the co-op ideals, may be co-op owners, but justify grocery shopping elsewhere because Schnucks is on the route home from work, or Aldi's prices are too good to pass up. Our lives are busy, and our expenses are high. The convenience of quickly swinging by the store on your way home makes sense. Saving money always makes sense. This game of tug-of-war between values and practicality has been an ongoing conversation in my own household too. To add, every major big box store has an ever-expanding organic selection. So as we're taking advantage of convenience and low prices, we can also feel we are being healthy, responsible consumers.

Take a step back, though. It's not quite so simple.

Over the last decade, the demand for organic, all natural food has skyrocketed. This organic "niche" used to be exclusive to health food stores or associated with the counterculture hippies of the food co-op movement. For a variety of reasons, organic has entered the mainstream, and mainstream is what food corporations do best. Since these superstores exist solely for profit, they raced to meet consumers' demand for organics, and when they realized every other superstore was doing the same, it became a race to beat their competitor's prices. The result of this is a real catch-22. Walmart, Meijer, Schnucks, and Aldi growing their organic produce means a massive improvement in organic accessibility. Certified organic is found in any given grocery, and finally it's available at reasonable price points, allowing formerly excluded populations the chance to consume higher quality foods. That's amazing. Food accessibility is imperative.


But again, it's not quite so simple. Unfortunately, for every action, there's an equal reaction. Massive food corporations have tons of organic options, but they aren't sourcing them from small, family-owned organic farms. It would be impossible for those small, family farms to meet the demand that food giants place on their producers. So now, organic practices are being loosely adopted by huge agribusinesses, the same industrial farms that co-op owners originally refused to support. The few large organic family farms that can supply large quantities are being bought out by major food conglomerates. Organic produce is also being shipped from abroad from producers forced to meet the corporate demands of more product for less money.

Low cost organic food means the same thing as low cost conventional food . It means the producers are being paid less and less. It means the base level workers are expected to produce more and more. And it means the working conditions decline in the desperate attempt to meet these expectations.

There's also widespread debate about loopholes around the rigid guidelines to qualify as "certified organic." Many factory farms producing certified organic products have found ways to minimally adapt their traditional practices in order to technically meet the standards. Brian Barth contributed to the Modern Farmer website about this issue in the article, "The Bad News About the Organic Industry." He outlines the latest buzzwords in organic food production and ways factory farms are navigating around the rules. As just one example, the USDA requires that "free-range" poultry mustn't be confined to cages and must have "continuous access to the outdoors (though not necessarily in an environment where they are able to forage)" (2015). Barth also highlights The Cornucopia Institute, an organization that dedicates their effort to uphold the integrity of the organic certification. They conducted a huge project on investigating organic factory farms to prove the fraudulence. On one farm, they found "free-range" poultry confined to buildings with access to outdoor spaces so small that the pasture was entirely exhausted and all chickens were unable to access the area at the same time. Yet, by technicality, they are certified organic. For more in depth research, I recommend checking out their website for detailed information on their findings (see below).

The current state of the organic industry is a multi-layered issue with so many arguments and counterarguments. Of course, I can boil it down to "shop at the co-op for real organic, ethical food," but as I stated earlier, even I'm torn between the ethics and the money savings. I wholeheartedly believe in the co-op values and movement, and even though it's tempting to buy a $.99 gallon of milk at Aldi, we all have to remember that our money can--and does--make an impact, both positive and negative. It isn't easy to see the impact we are making when shopping at a superstore. The money is shipped off to the CEO, the stakeholders, a couple cents dropped to the producers, a hefty percentage to a marketing team. We don't see the result of our money, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. The difficult truth is that we contribute--however little--to the state of our food system by accepting the quality of food, overlooking the conditions under which it's produced, and financially supporting it because of our personal convenience.

That's a pretty heavy-handed statement, but it's not wrong. Think about the state of our country, our society, our world, and consider that it evolved to this because we as a population didn't force it to change. Consider, also, the power that we hold, not just as a population but as individuals. Each of us has a little bit of power in the future. Our little bit of power makes an impact, and we all get to choose what kind of impact. I genuinely believe the impact we are making at the co-op is a positive one, the benefits of which reach beyond the walls of Common Ground and further than the city limits of Urbana. As you continue your daily tasks and chores, remember your little bit of power. Don't write off the difference you can make with something as routine as grocery shopping. Put your power where your values are.

Sources:

Johnston, Josee. "Can consumers buy alternative foods at a big box supermarket?" Journal of Marketing Management . 2017.

Barth, Brian. "The Bad News About the Organic Industry." Modern Farmer. 2015.


Questions? Comments? Reach Mia at mia.hanneken@commonground.coop
February Classes You'll Love

Register online via the links below, or sign up in person with our staff at the registers, if you prefer. Unless indicated otherwise, all classes and events are located in the Flatlander Classroom at Common Ground, 300 S. Broadway in the Lincoln Square Shopping Center. 
 
Thursday, February 1; 4-5
THIS CLASS IS FULL
This monthly cooking class is for kids in grades 3-5. We learn how to read recipes, use kitchen tools safely, and prepare new foods. Due to the high demand of Team Artichokes, we are offering a second session! See below for details.

Friday, February 1; 6-7:30
$7 owners; $12 non-owners
"Glow by Lola" founder is a local wellness producer, yogi, and life coach who is leading a class on mood enhancing foods. Participants will prepare and sample a quick and simple pad thai while engaging in discussion about meal prepping for mood enhancement.

Saturday, February 3; 3-5
$10 owners; $15 non-owners
Skip that expensive Valentine's Day date! Instead, surprise--and impress--your sweetheart with a home cooked authentic Thai dinner. May has planned a class around a popular appetizer and entree to share with us all. Sign up to learn how to prepare chicken lettuce wraps appetizer and green curry main dish, alongside recommended wine pairings for the meal.

Tuesday, February 12; 4-5
THIS CLASS IS FULL
Team Tomatillos is a monthly kids cooking class for first & second graders. In this hour long class, we learn how to read recipes, use kitchen utensils safely, and make delicious snacks!

Thursday, February 8; 4-5
FREE; registration required
Due to the high demand of Team Artichokes, we are offering two session!  This class is also for kids in grades 3-5. We learn how to read recipes, use kitchen tools safely, and prepare new foods. Please only register your child for one session of Team Artichokes to allow as many kids to participate!

Thursday, February 8; 6-7:30
THIS CLASS IS FULL
Co-op kitchen staff, John, sharing his years of professional culinary experience. Join us in the classroom for a hands-on class preparing a budget-friendly recipe for vegetarian shepherd's pie. As part of our Food For All program, the recipe will be cost efficient at under $2 per serving, made entirely of co-op foods.

Saturday, February 10; 3-4:30
$5 owners & non-owners
Eastern Illinois University professor and nutritional spokesperson, Jim Painter, PhD, will be leading a discussion on the misconceptions behind preventing heart disease, particularly regarding fat in our diet. Sign up to learn more about this scientific, evidence-based research and learn the most beneficial heart-healthy foods.

Thursday, February 15; 6-8
$10 owners; 15 non-owners
Joan of Old Town Flowers is back at the co-op to show us her tips and tricks on making homemade yogurt with common kitchen supplies (no fancy yogurt maker here). She will take us through the process from start to finish and provide parfait samples of pre-made yogurt. 

Saturday, February 17; 2-3:30
$20 owners & non-owners
Puerto Rico continues to heal after the devastating hurricane Maria, and its impact has affected as far as the CU community. U of I student, Cara, is leading a bread baking class to raise donations for a local family after tragically losing a loved one after the hurricane. All ticket proceeds will go to the Rodriguez family's YouCaring account to cover funeral costs. Additional donations are incredibly appreciated, though not expected.    

Saturday, February 24; 2-4:30
THIS CLASS IS FULL
Tesfaye is back at the co-op to share a delicious vegan dish of lentils and vegetables, paired with traditional Ethiopian bread, injera. Born in Ethiopia and a scholar of anthropology, he will also discuss the cultural, topographical, and historical elements that have shaped and influenced contemporary Ethiopian cuisine.

Questions? Comments? Reach out to education@commonground.coop or check 
February Round Up For Good: Education Justice Project


The  Education Justice Project (EJP) is a vibrant community of incarcerated students, educators, families, and others who are committed to creating a more just and humane world through education and critical awareness. EJP hosts a college-in-prison program at Danville Correctional Center, produces a statewide reentry guide, runs programs in Urbana-Champaign for families of incarcerated loved ones, and engages in public education efforts around issues related to incarceration and criminal justice.
January Results: Daily Bread Soup Kitchen

In January, together we raised over $4,600 for Daily Bread Soup Kitchen. That's a lot of spare change! Every penny counts. Thank you for supporting DBSK and all of our Round Up organizations each month.

Want to be signed up to volunteer at DBSK? They usually can accept 3 volunteers per day.  Apply Now to Volunteer Want to donate food or money?  Donate here
Driving the Van of Change: Uncertainty & action
Sam Ihm, Promotions Coordinator

It all started with a van. 44 years later, how are the owners, employees, and shoppers of Common Ground connected to the foundational purpose of the co-op?

In 1974, a group of radical volunteers drove a van from the middle of Illinois into Wisconsin. Their mission was to get organic, farm-direct foods to bring back to the community. Things were a bit different back then in terms of access to healthy, locally grown food. With that inaugural road trip, they laid the foundation for the robust local food system in Central Illinois we know today. 44 years has literally changed the face of the earth and the people living on it; it's almost impossible to reconcile the public and private concerns we have today with what was going on in the year when "Kung Fu Fighting" topped the global charts. On the other hand, we are still fighting the battles begun in the co-op's founding years, and under curiously similar circumstances.

A quick survey of food co-ops across the country will tell you that many began around the same time as ours. These bubbles of local action were indeed part of a greater movement that continues today. In the 1970s, the grocery industry was undergoing a sea change in favor of cost-cutting and discounting. Efficiency was the new game, and mass-producing farms became big-time partners with big box supermarkets. While the food establishment made the reasonable effort to lower prices and therefore increase overall access to food, it was failing to support locally oriented, health-driven food economies. Radical actors saw the problem and took the solution into their own hands.

You know a bit of it, but here's the short of how we got where are today:
  • 1974: The original co-op owners took their first of many trips in a big van up to Wisconsin. They loaded it up with healthy, ethically sourced food, drove it home, and distributed the food from a church parking lot on Springfield & Wright in Champaign.
  • 1984: Interest in organic food, niche items, and non-sprayed produce grew enough that the co-op opened a store: 900 square feet in a church basement, staffed by volunteers. Deliveries were made through a window.
  • 1990s: Co-op leadership formed, paid staff were brought on in addition to the volunteers, and the co-op began partnering with local farms.
  • 2008: Steadily growing interest in the co-op merits a move to Lincoln Square Mall. At this time, just 10 years ago, the co-op had fewer than 10 paid employees. But people flocked to the co-op, and in 2012, the co-op expanded to its current size within the mall and employed over 70 staff members.
  • 2015: Another expansion is announced due to growth, interest, and the ability to serve a food desert near downtown Champaign. Evidently, Common Ground had reached carrying capacity, as sales began to level off and decline, disallowing the expansion.
  • 2018: Sales have returned to promising levels as the co-op focuses on what it is best at: providing high-quality, locally sourced, ethically considered foods to the community.
So here we are: 5,800 active owners supporting the co-op as an alternative grassroots  food system that is as necessary as it was when it began so humbly in 1974. The co-op bolsters the local economy and community in ways that cannot be replicated by a corporation. If it were to ever go away, we would see that plainly.

The threat of failure keeps a business alive because of the action it prompts. Similarly,  the threat of a failed food system drove the van of change that became the co-op.

It's easy to imagine that, when they drove that van up to Wisconsin, their cares and worries were smaller than what we deal with today; that their decision to revolt was easy and obvious and its execution seamless; that if we had to today, we would do the same thing in a heartbeat. But I think we'd be wrong to assume any of that. 

We should not take for granted the position we are in where, to ensure the co-op survives to strengthen our community well into the future, all we have to do is shop. We don't have to skip out on family or friend time to do a volunteer job most people would scoff at. We don't have to receive deliveries through the window or wait in a line outside the door to get in the store. We don't have to drive to Wisconsin for food. The biggest risks have already been taken by our cooperative predecessors. They faced widespread corporatization and chemicalization of the food system and took action to oppose it, even though it was hard.

Today, we exist among similar uncertainties and no one can tell the future. What will climate change do to our farmland and our relationship to food? How will Amazon's entrance into the grocery game affect food co-ops? With the never-ending pursuit of laboratory-perfected fruits and vegetables, what kind of food will people even be eating in ten years? What remains clear is that it's a really, really good thing we have a reliable alternative. 

1974 was the year that something began in Champaign-Urbana that would bring incalculable benefit to the local community and insulate us from the near-existential threats imposed by corporatization.

The co-op began the very same year President Nixon resigned from office for his role in Watergate. In 2018, that calls to mind an interesting comparison between Nixon and our own FBI-investigated president. Scandal and chaos are teaching us now, as they did then, that the systems that operate above us can do so with ignorance, imprecision, and recklessness. We can't rely on anyone else to do what's best for us. What choices would we be left with were it not for those radical few 44 years ago? What can we learn from the ominous silence that follows that question, and how can we continue to make a difference today?

For tomorrow's sake, challenge what's not perfect today. Take it into your own hands if you don't like it. Better yet, get some more hands and take it on together. That's the co-op. We will never have a perfect food system, but if we don't keep striving, we might be hearing about our fate secondhand. Striving is what drove the van to Wisconsin in 1974.

Questions? Comments? Reach Sam at sam.ihm@commonground .coop
Here are some stories people are talking about. Links are click-able. Articles are intended to highlight a variety of timely issues from a variety of reputable sources and perspectives.

Farm Bill
Sec. of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announces USDA's Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for - 2018 (Wisconsin State Farmer)
Tracking the path of the 2018 Farm Bill: Chances and meanings in this political year (Chicago Sun-Times)
American Indian tribes create an agricultural coalition to impact the next farm bill (Modern Farmer)

Co-op News

Food Waste
Engaging children in the fight against food waste (FoodTank)

Food
- Global Food News: A year in review (FoodTank)
The far out history of how hippie food spread across America (NPR)
Sugar and Sleep: More rest may dull your sweet tooth (NPR)
The Cheese Does Not Stand Alone: How fungi and bacteria team up for a tastier rind (NPR)
Economist Robert Reich speaks with author Michael Pollan (Robert Reich)
Future-focused policies target desertification (FoodTank)
Greening Iraq's refugee camps: "This garden is my kingdom" (FoodTank)
Strengthening food sovereignty in Santee Sioux Nation (FoodTank)

Farming
- To save family farms, we must oppose Monsanto-Bayer merger (FoodTank) 
Can deepwater aquaculture avoid the pitfalls of coastal fish farms? (Yale Environment 360)
The maple syrup shortage is probably worse than we thought (Extra Crispy)
Scientists peek inside the 'black box' of soil microbes to learn their secrets (NPR)
Square Roots: The urban farming accelerator feeding Brooklyn year-round (FoodTank)
Why the ethics of farming are more important than ever (Financial Post) - Western Wisconsin had most farm bankruptcies in the US (Wisconsin State Farmer)
Radical Ecologists v Big Agriculture: The rival factions fighting for the future of farming (Guardian)

Environment

Your burning climate question: Meat and global warming (NY Times)
How California's fires are linked to climate chaos, soil health, and food choices (AlterNet)
Indigenous Costa Rican communities search for solutions to food security concerns (Christian Science Monitor)
Farmland could be used to sustainably offset America's entire carbon footprint -- if the will exists (QZ)
- Biodiversity for resilience against natural disasters (FoodTank)
Honeybees help farmers, but they don't help the environment (NPR)

FoodTank Interviews
Breaking the cycle of industrial farming, poverty, and poor health (FoodTank)
Why healthy humans and ecosystems need healthy soil (FoodTank)
Youth participation in food system is integral to making positive change (FoodTank)
Veterans are able to help the farmer who wants to retire (FoodTank)
Food and Agriculture: The cause of and solution to climate change (FoodTank)
Why Co-op? A personal story
by Charles Delman, Board member

I was first introduced to co-ops as a sophomore in college, when I joined an on-campus cooperative living arrangement. About twenty of us shared a small building and decided among ourselves how rooms would be distributed and how the common bathrooms would be utilized.  We did not maintain the building -- the university did that, but we did share in a very important aspect of college life:  food.  We shared a common food supply, purchased with a fund to which we all contributed equally, and took turns preparing five or six common meals per week, cleaning up after them, and baking bread for common consumption.  One evening per week someone baked cookies and we came together in the common room to munch, socialize, and discuss co-op issues and business matters.

As a co-op member I became part of a supportive, caring community of peers.  In spite of the rigors and challenges of going to college, navigating the wider world of relationships and politics, and "finding myself" as an adult, this community provided me with one of the happiest times in my life.  I learned to bake excellent bread and to cook and eat good food, skills and pastimes that have benefited my health and given me enormous enjoyment throughout my life ever since.  I made friends I will always cherish, and I learned to resolve conflicts constructively, get along with and learn from a very culturally diverse group of people, and work together effectively to satisfy our common needs and desires.

My housing cooperative, limited in scope as it was, embodied the values that make co-ops of all kinds so special and important.  A co-op is sometimes defined as an enterprise that is also a democratic organization, but that definition does not fully capture cooperative values.  Cooperation is an attitude.  Cooperative democracy is a special kind of democracy, in which everyone works toward the common good and shares equitably in the benefits.  One can also have democracies in which everyone competes to further their own interests, forming coalitions to impose majority rule on those with different interests.  "Democratic" though such a society may technically be, it is not the kind of society I want to live in.  I also believe it is not the kind of society that promotes happiness or cares for the planet that sustains us.

The cooperative attitude extends beyond the scope of the co-op itself.  For example, when the janitors who cared for our college building campaigned and eventually went on strike for better wages and working conditions, we supported them.  Our sense of solidarity, fairness, and the common good extended beyond ourselves to the wider community.

There are producer co-ops, worker co-ops, consumer co-ops, and combinations of these types.  (For example, many food co-ops started as worker-consumer co-ops in which owners also swept the floor and stocked the shelves.)  What they all have in common is, not just democratic control, but cooperative democratic control, of some critical aspect of life.  A worker co-op gives workers control over how to arrange their work, how much revenue to set aside for reinvestment and how to invest it.  A consumer co-op gives consumers control over goods and services available to them.

All this is not to say that co-ops are perfect.  I am not happy, for example, when my electric co-op buys power from coal-fired plants.  We live in an imperfect world, and co-ops make compromises with the world around them.  They can be, yes, co-opted. Yet, because of their structure, co-ops embody the potential to grow better and to better serve the common good.  Cooperation is an attitude.

Questions? Comments? Reach the Board at board@commonground.coop
The next board meeting is: Monday, February 12 from 6:15-8:15 pm, Urbana Civic Center
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Common Ground Food Cooperative | 217-352-3347 |  www.commonground.coop  | 
300 S. Broadway Avenue Suite #166, Urbana, IL 61801

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