Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jan. 12 letter from Liz Rog

Dear Co-op Community,

There has been an overwhelming response to the appeal sent out on Friday regarding our Co-op. I say "regarding our Co-op," because that is exactly what it's about – it's not about Liz Rog. As the person who bears that name, I would like to share with you my understanding of the issues before us, and of our responsibilities to the Co-op that we love and need.

I have had the honor and pleasure of holding the position at the co-op that is specifically charged with, among other things, a cornerstone of our stated mission and vision: caring for community, education, outreach, and member services. It's because of that, along with the fact that I've worked at the Co-op for 25 years, that I've become one of the symbols of what we are here for. We sell good food that people need, and we must continue to do that well in order to survive; at the same time, we provide many other significant things. Our membership – indeed, our wider community as well, for we have become a valued and respected institution in NE Iowa – feels deeply connected to our mission. What a treasure! What would any organization give to have such community investment!

My situation has merely been the catalyst for wide discussion about our Co-op's meaning and its future, as we rise up to address whatever it is about this situation that makes us curious or upset. Here are the issues as I see them, listed in order of importance.

We must protect our Co-op – this irreplaceable, courageous, tenacious, living and growing organization that provides us with a vehicle for our best energies in sustainable and just food systems, ecological living, local democracy, and community building. What I'm saying here is, please don't manifest your feelings – whether they be anger, cynicism, desire to stay away from it all, or anything else – as a choice to shop less at the co-op. If we parents are upset with our children, we still love and nurture them so that they can continue to evolve into their best selves. In the same way, we must continue to nurture our dear co-op – economically and, for those who choose, philosophically as well. This is the most important thing!
For where would we be without our Co-op? Where would we find access to the foods that we want to eat, and the opportunity to vote for sustainability with our food dollars?

2. As long as our co-op is alive and well, it can continue to evolve according to our passion for its purpose. We have weathered many storms in the past and come through them with new strength and vision. This could be a golden opportunity to stretch and grow more than ever before! We may be on the verge of a brilliant transformation (along with the rest of the world), with collective wisdom to guide us far. Maybe we will reexamine and reacquaint ourselves with some of our defining systems of governance and communication; maybe we will revisit and renew our dreams; maybe we will reactivate and regenerate our membership. Member involvement is alive and well at Oneota Co-op – the things we could do with this kind of energy!
A special note here, on conversation and conflict: Who among us hasn't had the terrible experience of watching differences of opinion among otherwise friendly neighbors turn to anger and division? We've seen it so many times in our world, near and far. The energy of fear and mistrust is virulent, but we don't have to be a part of it. Can the Co-op community be a model for open engagement that is afraid of neither conversation nor conflict? Could this be the time and place when we choose, rather than closing our ears to another's view, to continue to move toward serious and civil resolution? Let's do it, and when we find ourselves falling into the destructive ways we've seen too many times, let's just start over again with a plan to be kind.

For where would we be without our Co-op? Where else could we have the opportunity to engage locally in a conversation with a group of 3,000 about how to promote democracy, respect, and lasting value?

3. Maybe I will be able to continue to work at the Co-op, and maybe not. I would love to resume my work there, both because I have things to offer, and also because it may be wise (however unconventional) for the Co-op to honor the grassroots, visceral reaction to this layoff and what it seems to represent to our membeship. If I don't continue to serve the Co-op, I am certain that I can find other meaningful work. But my desire to work there pales in comparison to the passion I feel for keeping our co-op healthy and vital. I would never have chosen to be the catalyst for the broad and essential discussions we have begun, but given the realities, I can only hope that the process we are about to enter – possibly a special meeting to address some of these issues, and who knows what after that – is the beginning of a new, active, and exciting era for our Co-op.
For where would I be without my Co-op? Whether I am on staff or an active member, I would be bereft without it. If my recent layoff and the response to it –no matter what the outcome for me – were to harm the Co-op more than it matured us, I would be ashamed and sad, and I would start to think, as some organizations do, that people shouldn't be allowed to work at the same place long enough to leave a mark.

If you are upset about anything at the Co-op, call yourself lucky to have a local co-op to care about and feel invested in. If you are upset that others are upset, just keep coming for the things you want and ignore the rest. If you want to change the world, start right here at home, with your efforts to interact peacefully with others who share many of your same ideas for a healthier world.

The co-op has an incredibly caring, intelligent, and capable staff, with hundreds of years' experience. We have a board of directors that is truly committed to wanting the best future for our Co-op, and has worked very hard to support it. It is awe-inspiring to think of our evolution thus far, and overwhelming to see your support for our values and our future. Keep it alive. Pay attention, listen, talk, act, and keep shopping co-op!

Yours in Cooperation,

Liz Rog

PS. If it's been awhile since you looked over out mission and vision/values statements, you might like to read on.


Oneota Community Co-op
Mission Statement
The Oneota Community Co-op exists to provide its members with:

· Foods produced using organic farming and distribution practices with an emphasis on supporting local and regional suppliers;
· Reasonably priced whole, bulk and minimally packaged foods and household items;
· Products and services that reflect a concern for human health and the natural environment and that promote the well being of workers and communities which produce them.

Oneota Community Co-op
This vision and values statement is a framework for the growth and development of Oneota Community Cooperative.

The Oneota Community Co-op is committed to the full integration of our mission and the cooperative principles which follow the Mission Statement. We recognize that this process will evolve by taking into account local conditions, member input, and the financial security of the cooperative.

We envision a community where producer and consumer cooperatives thrive and are viewed as an integral part of a sustainable economy. Through careful use of its capital resources, we believe that the Co-op should provide for its future needs and for an expanded leadership role in efforts to build a healthy community.

Accordingly, at the policy and operational levels, decisions of the cooperative will be considered in the context of the mission, co-op principles, and the vision described above. Specific goals include the following:

· Reaching out to support local producers and other local cooperative businesses;
· Selecting products which are responsive to members needs and consistent with the mission(in addition to organic practices this may involve other environmentally benign production methods);
· Establishing purchasing relationships which compensate producers directly where possible;
· Building support and action networks with other cooperatives;
· Educating our members and community about the purposes of the Co-op and the potential benefits which accrue to members;
· Working with local and regional organizations to promote sustainable economic activity;
· Developing a social fabric that promotes friendship, sharing and caring for the people in our community.
At Oneota Community Cooperative, we believe that cooperation is a hallmark of successful human endeavors. By expanding our efforts in these areas we can better serve the well-being of our members and the larger community.

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