PT Food Co-op

The Food Co-op, 414 Kearney Street, Port Townsend, 98368
Port Townsend
Phone: (360) 385-2883

We Ate Local: The Food Co-op Annual Meeting

The Food Co-op Annual Meeting

Eating Local was the focus of our annual meeting this year, held on June 4 at Fort Worden.

We Ate Local

Kristan McCary, director of food services at the fort, really came through for us when we requested that the food be sourced locally. As we all know, in early June local produce can be a bit sparse, but the folks at Fort Worden went to the Saturday Farmers Market and picked up lots of lettuces and veggies to let people put together scrumptious salads, and then they rounded it off with local breads and cheeses. We heard lots of kudos for the food.

Sustainable Connections—Bellingham’s Program to Support Local

Our guest speaker was Sara Southerland, the Food and Farming Program Manager of Sustainable Connections up in Bellingham. Sara spoke about the extensive programs they have to help local producers, farmers, and businesses meet the “triple bottom line”—that is, they help local businesses work not just for profit, but also for people and the planet. We were particularly interested in hearing about their “Food and Farm” program, which includes an “Eat Local First” campaign. In Port Townsend, we do many similar things, but their efforts are both extensive and interconnected .

Sara told us that the Food and Farm program works to grow the market for local food and local farmers by creating connections. She joked that she feels like a matchmaker, connecting farmers and fisherman with restaurants and grocery stores through events like farmer-chef mixers and a Local Food Trade Meeting as well as by partnering farms with chefs, in a sort of “buddy” system. They also supported the formation of a NW Washington Chef’s collective, which has brought together people who are usually competitors, but who found they can learn from each other.

The Food and Farming program also has an educational aspect for business owners and farmers as well as for shoppers. They teach businesses how to differentiate themselves, and for novice farmers, they have a new farmer training program. Sara said that new farmers often start with a passion for agriculture, but they need help with business plans and how to make a profit. Another part of the program is called “Food to Bank,” which provides training and raises money to pay new farmers to provide food to food banks and shelters.

An educational campaign, Eat Local First, is the centerpiece of their efforts to educate shoppers. They began by surveying shoppers to see how people thought of local food as well as the barriers to buying more local products, and discovered two important barriers were a lack of sufficient labelling of local food (in restaurants, for instance) and what to do with local products once you bought them.

To launch the campaign, they asked businesses to take the “local food pledge” to increase by 10% the amount they spend on local food. They then asked their community to try to shift their purchases to local by just 10%, because that figure seemed attainable and not too much to ask. Their mantra became “just one out of ten items in your cart.” Business participants agree the campaign increased sales of local products, but an added benefit was businesses became more willing to work together and co-promote, even when they might seem to be in competition. The business atmosphere become more cooperative!

To promote local food, Sustainable Connections also produces a Food & Farm Finder map and organizes a farm tour as well as an Eat Local Month in September, when restaurants specially feature local food on their menus. They also have Harvest of the Month, when a specific local product is featured in the schools, restaurants, and grocery stores.

All in all, Sara gave us a lot to think about and discuss, and we followed up the next morning with a meeting to bring together people in the community interested in promoting local food to meet Sara and discuss the possibilities for our county. Lots more ideas were thrown into the mix, and we plan to follow up with meetings focused on how to connect and expand the Eat Local efforts in our community.


The Business End of the Annual Meeting

In addition to all this eating local, we distributed our annual report, which details how we are doing toward fulfilling the Food Co-op Ends, that is, our long-term goals. The annual report is available at the front desk at the store as well as online here. General Manager Kenna Eaton reviewed 2016, outlining our progress on our five-year strategic plan as well as reviewing our plans for remodeling our store. (For more information, check out the Store Expansion section of this website.)

Kenna also announced that, due to a profitable year, we were able to give some of that profit to our staff in the form a “gainshare” bonus and we will also have a member dividend distribution again this year. The amount distributed will be less than last year, because we will save some to help with our remodel. The distribution rollout will begin June 19 with notices being sent to our members. (Again, more information is available elsewhere on this website.)


Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to put on the annual meeting.

We’ll see you all next year!


Images from our Annual Meeting

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