Zvi Galor

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last update: December 25th 2003

Oklahoma Food Retail Grocery Cooperatives Update: May 10, 2003

 

+ Goal: Our goal is to open Oklahoma Food retail grocery cooperatives throughout the state. The immediate first step is to open one store in the Oklahoma City area, which if successful, would then be replicated.

 

+ Method of business operation: The stores will only sell Oklahoma grown and/or processed foods, Oklahoma made crafts, art, and other such products approved by the Board, and imported food items that are not produced within the state, including coffee, tea, sugar, olive oil, certain herbs and spices not produced in the state, chocolate and cocoa, bananas, citrus. Producers will stock the stores on consignment, and may also rent cubicle space to highlight their products. Producers will pay a commission to the store for the sale of the products; there will be different levels of commission based on identified criteria.

 

The cooperative members will be both customers and producers, and all will have equal voting rights and an equal share in the capital fixed assets of the cooperative, based on their purchase of a membership share in the cooperative. There will be a vice president for customers and a vice president for producers to affirmatively represent the interests of each of the two groups in the cooperative's governance.

 

The members are the ultimate governing authority of the cooperative and elect the officers, the board and various committees, and approve/consent/reject various actions of the board. Each store will have its own store committee, and members will declare a primary store at the time of their purchase of a share for the purpose of electing the store committee, although all members can shop or sell at any of the stores operated by the cooperative. No person may own and vote more than one share, but persons may donate money to buy shares for low income people for whom purchasing a membership share would be a hardship. The price of a membership share may be made in payments. Our present best guess is that a share will cost somewhere between $50 and $150.

During the initial share selling campaign, in advance of the opening of any stores, people may declare a store membership in the following areas. A percentage of their membership share, to be determined by the board, will be placed in escrow to go towards opening a store in their area:

 

+ Oklahoma City metropolitan area

+ Tulsa metropolitan area

+ Muskogee area

+ McAlester area

+ Lawton area

+ Woodward area

+ Clinton area

+ Enid area

+ Stillwater area

+ Ada/Durant area

+Bartlesville/Ponca City area

 

The purpose of this cooperative is not to make a profit or surplus, but rather to provide a marketplace for local Oklahoma food products and for the convenience of the members, a restricted list of certain imported items.

The value of a membership share in the cooperative at all times will be based on the value of the fixed assets of the cooperative divided by the number of members. For the purposes of the initial share selling campaign, which we hope to begin this summer, we will divide the proposed budget by 2,000, which is the number of members we think are necessary, at a minimum, to support such a store. Any surplus from member participation which be refunded at the end of the fiscal year to the members in proportion to their patronage. Any surplus from non member participation may be divided equally among the members or used for capital acquisition, expansion, or replacement.

 

We decided against financing general operations of the cooperative with an annual Sam's Club type fee, but the membership may vote an annual assessment on each member for the purposes of funding cooperative education and social activities.

 

Our goal is to create an enterprise that is (a) socially just, (b) naturally sustainable, and (c) operates on sound business principles. The name of the enterprise will be: Oklahoma Food Retail Grocery Cooperative. The stores will operate under the name "Oklahoma Cooperative Hometown Independent Established Stores," which creates the acronym OCHIES, which can be produced OKIES.

 

Each store will have a commercial kitchen attached, where producers can process or preserve their products and thus add value to them in a way that is in accordance with the food safety laws and health department regulations.

We anticipate that meat (beef, pork, poultry) will be handled in two ways: (1) sold frozen on the premises, either by the cut of the box, and, (2) at a meatless meat market, where offers and details could be posted, and orders taken for later delivery.

 

Customers and producers will buy a membership share in the cooperative in order to shop or sell at the cooperative. Non members can shop at the cooperative's stores, but they will pay a surcharge on their purchases.

We prefer to have smaller stores, and have more of them. We have an internet discussion going about this project at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/okfoodret/ . Everybody is invited to join the conversation.

 

We have held a series of meetings around the state, and the following folks have been elected or appointed to serve on the Organizing Committee of the Cooperative (name, residence, occupation):

 

Robert Waldrop, OKC (pastoral musician and cooperative instigator

Mark Parman, Webbers Falls, (farmer)

Jackie Dill, Coyle (farmer)

April Harrington, Lexington (farmer and herbalist

Kim Barker, Waynoka (farmer)

Mario Tur, Oklahoma City (architect)

Dennis Pierson, Oklahoma City (retired military

Valerie Mettry, Norman (caterer)

Walt Kelly, Norman (mathematics professor)

Jackie Sellens, Norman (student activist)

Lyle Miller, Clinton (farmer)

Kathy Carter White, Tahlequah (attorney

Rev. Jonalu Johnstone, Oklahoma City (religious minister)

 

We are developing a verification system to guarantee the claims of the producers. This will include (1) certified organic, (2) Oklahoma all natural (organic but not certified), (3) for non organic foods, use of pesticides, herbicides, and commercial fertilizers, (4) Oklahoma origin, (5) human treatment of livestock and meat animals.

 

Diana Endicott, of Good Natured Family Farms, a cooperative in the Kansas City area, has agreed to be a consultant to our project, specializing in helping us develop our verification system.

 

+ We have submitted a grant application for a USDA community food grant. As part of that grant project, we put together a first budget, and collected pledges of money, expertise, and other in kind support amounting to more than $100,000. This is a snapshot of our present progress. Much remains to be done, including holding meetings in the Tulsa area. The articles of incorporation have yet to be finalized, and there may be changes in the description above, but this is the direction we are presently heading.

 

It is fortunate that early in our development process, we made the "cyberacquaintance" of Zvi Galor, who answered an email we posted about our project in the Cooperative Business listserv operated by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives. We were not aware of the various nuances and forms of cooperative organization and the implications they can have for the success and development of a cooperative. Through his work, we have been able to access the experience of the worldwide cooperative movement, and most importantly, to learn from its mistakes.

 

From the beginning, we have wanted an enterprise that was entirely owned by, and operated for the benefit of, the members. Thus, his patient explanations of how this works out in practical terms have been very valuable to us in developing our own structure and bylaws, especially the difference between the fixed assets capital of the cooperative and the operating expenses/revenue of the cooperative, and why this is important. It is my belief that understanding these principles and incorporating them into our founding documents will greatly assist us in developing a successful cooperative enterprise..

Robert Waldrop, Oklahoma City http://www.oklahomafood.org

 

 

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