FOOD CO-OP FAQs

We’re so excited to be initiating the MARSH co-operative food system! As discussed in previous posts, this system involves the workers-owned cooperative diner, a network of producer-owners, and a membership body of consumer-owners (as well as folks involved in combined and hybrid ways). We had a great first two meetings of diner cooks, chefs, and staff and a wonderful Open House for the consumer/producer side of things. SHARES ARE NOW AVAILABLE!

The diner will open to the public July 1st, 2019 and our first co-op order (merging grocery orders from consumer-members and the first ingredient stock for the diner) will be due June 18.

Find the sign-up form HERE and download the marsh-cooperative-bylaws. Below is a FAQ sheet that you can also download here: MARSH FOOD CO_FAQ and share the flier with your community, download for print or e-mail distribution COOPS_FLYER and, as always, e-mail us with any questions! marshlifeart [at] gmail.com.

MARSH FOOD CO-OPERATIVE Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

 

How does the MARSH cooperative work?

 Individuals and entities become owners of the co-op by purchasing a share. They may cooperate as consumer-owners, producer-owners, worker-owners or any combination of these.

Consumer-owners use the co-op as a grocery store
Producer-owners supply farmed/gardened and prepared food items
Worker-owners run the diner and are paid $15/hr in addition to receiving diner profits.

ALL shareholding owners 1) make decisions cooperatively and are represented on the board 2) may use the licensed kitchen and space at cost to hold private and public events and pop-ups, prepare foods/meals/packaged items for the co-op and for sale elsewhere and may purchase ingredients and supplies through the co-op 3) adapt, restructure, and relate to the co-op as needed and as oriented around values of social equity, environmental justice, and sustenance economics.

How much does the co-op cost to join?

$100, regardless of whether you are joining as a consumer, producer, worker, or some combination/hybrid cooperation. This is a one-time purchase of a share and you can hold your share for a lifetime, or for however long you want to be involved. Shares are reimbursed if the holder wishes to leave the co-op.

How do I get a subsidized share? If I want to subsidize someone else’s share(s), how can I do this?

Request a partial or full share subsidy through the sign-up form, noting the amount you need. To subsidize someone else’s share, check that option on the sign-up form. Donated subsidies are fully tax-deductible if you contribute them via check or online (HERE)

If I’m a consumer-owner, how do I order and pick-up my items?

Order (online soon) starting June 18, 2019 or come to the diner in person and we’ll help you put in your order. Your groceries will come to the diner and be ready for pick-up 2-3 days after the cooperative order.

Where do co-op groceries, household items, and prepared foods come from? Can I sell (for example) my home-grown tomatoes, or my pies, through the co-op?

The co-op orders from UNFI, a wholesale supplier of natural, organic, bulk, and whole foods, sustainable home products, and other items. The co-op also sources food through producer-owners of the co-op including local farmers, home gardeners, small-batch prepared food producers, bakers, cooks, and chefs, so YES! Co-op shareholders can be consumers, producers, or some combination. You may even use the licensed kitchen to make your food items.

How often do I order and pick-up my groceries? When do I pay for my order

Cooperative orders from UNFI may be made once a week, twice a week, or once a month, your choice. Other items, such as local produce and goods and meals produced through the kitchen are available in the diner, on pick-up days, and on-order. Payment is due upon order.

How many items are available through UNFI?

A HUGE number! UNFI supplies a full product range; they are a grocery store supplier. To facilitate easier and cheaper purchasing, the cooperative body may choose to highlight some products (such as flour, brown sugar, etc) so we can order from a shorter list of likely grocery and home items and lower our costs on staple items through bulk buying.

Is there a minimum order I can make? Am I required to order consistently?

Nope! You order whatever, however much, and however frequently or infrequently you want.

If I join the co-op as a consumer but then decide I want to be a producer or to work in the diner, do I have to buy another share?

Nope! Shares apply across roles (consumer, producer, worker).

Do I have to be a co-op shareholder to use the kitchen? How much does it cost to use the licensed kitchen to produce prepared foods or hold a pop-up or private event

Yes, the kitchen is reserved for shareholders (worker-owners, producer-owners, consumer-owners). Usage is FREE for worker-owners (i.e. if all costs and profits are shared by worker-owners) for events at the diner or approved food items used solely by and at the co-op and/or diner. At cost is $10/hr to produce foods (as a producer-owner) for the co-op and/or diner as well as other outlets and using (at least some) co-op ingredients. Cost is $12/hr to produce food solely for off-site, private events, or for personal catering, food truck businesses, ideally using (at least some) co-op ingredients.

Can I purchase a share with a group of friends or as an organization?

Yes and no. 1 share = one vote so we discourage collective ownership amongst multiple households as this can create confusion in decision-making. An individual, a single household (queer families, co-op houses, etc are welcome), or a formal organization can join as one entity. Farms and small businesses can join as consumers and/or producers, purchasing 1 share. A group of friends should join individually.

How is the organization structured?

The MARSH co-operative food system is a legal cooperative and a program of the 501(c)3 not-for-profit Spark for the Arts, d.b.a. MARSH. The not-for-profit has a Board of Directors with members nominated by co-op shareholding owners (one representative of consumption, one representative of production, and one representative of workers, voted in bi-annually by the co-operative bodies, as well as four autonomous Board Members). Please also refer to BYLAWS (available on marshlife-art.org under on the FOOD SYSTEM COOPERATIVES page)

Does the cooperative have a manager or lead organizer? How does organizational labor get done beyond those worker-owners cooking, staffing, and operating the diner?

Yes, Beth Neff is the Organizer of the cooperatives at MARSH. She handles general administration (and fun stuff like property taxes on the building) and is the Executive Director of the non-profit Spark for the Arts d.b.a MARSH. Beth purchased 1 share in the co-operative system as a worker-owner and receives a salary equivalent to other worker-owners but does receive a share in the profits. Other administrative and organizational roles may also fulfilled by worker-owners who purchase their own shares. Please see BYLAWS for full legal language and duties breakdowns.

 

Other FAQs such as (below) should be discussed with the co-op Organizer, Beth Neff (marshlifeart@gmail.com) and will be addressed at the first Co-op shareholder meeting:

Do I need a business license or a food management license to produce food through the kitchen?

Are you hiring in the diner? How do I become a worker-owner?

If I’m a producer-owner, does the co-op directly buy my products or are they sold through consumer order?

Will this food system interact with existing local infrastructures? (e.g. CSA’s, Farmer’s Markets)

 

 

 

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