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The Latest News from Wheatsville

October Is Co-op Month

Every October, Co-op Month gives me a chance to reflect on our special institution – built by thousands of people over the years – and how we fit into the greater co-op world.
By pooling our resources together we create the better, kinder world that we want regardless of outside forces that have different agendas. Last year through your amazing generosity we raised over $155k to support non-profits and community groups here in Austin and have already raised over $100k this year! With over 22,000 Owners we are able to create impact with just pennies and nickels.

Co-op impact nation-wide is impressive too and helps make the world a better place. One recent example is the $150,000 donation made by National Co+op Grocers for the reconstruction of Puerto Rican cooperative businesses destroyed last year by Hurricane Maria. Not only is it a perfect example of Principle 6) Cooperation Among Cooperatives, but also illustrates how our success, support, and commitment locally affects people globally.

Our co-op keeps our shared values in mind as we operate our businesses. It’s a challenge to keep all the plates spinning by: 

  1.  being a financial value to you, our members and shoppers,
  2.  bringing fair prices to our farmers and producers
  3.  offering Livable Wages and Benefits to our front line staff while adjusting to the rising costs of doing business in Austin and
  4.  keeping in mind the various needs of all of our shoppers.

Our product selection spans the gamut from paleo to vegan, from gluten-free to allergen-free. For some, fair trade and organic is the primary decision driver, while for others it’s price. I think we do a pretty good job on this tight rope but because we’re YOUR co-op do want to hear when we’re stumbling. We take your feedback very seriously inside the greater context of all the co-op owners.

Please take a moment this October and soak in the goodness and special-ness of our local co-op and the co-ops of the world. Together we really do a lot of good and we can’t do it without you!

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Co-op Month Vendor Spotlight: Equal Exchange

What is your origin story? Who started the business and why?

Equal Exchange started with an idea: what if food could be traded in a way that is honest and fair, a way that empowers both farmers and consumers? Our founders – Rink Dickinson, Jonathan Rosenthal and Michael Rozyne – asked this question as they envisioned a trade model that values each part of the supply chain. So they took a big risk and plunged full-force into changing a broken food system. In 1986, they started with fairly traded coffee from Nicaragua and didn’t look back.

Three decades later (and with several product lines in the mix), we still face vast challenges. Consumers have been overloaded with labels and certifications, while the Fair Trade movement has been watered down in favor of corporate interests. The whole food industry has continued to consolidate into the hands of just a few big players, allowing concentrated power and deception of choice.


Tell us about Fair Trade.

Fair Trade is a voluntary program utilized by coffee importers and food companies to create an alternative market for traditionally disadvantaged producers in developing countries, usually small scale farmers. The components include:

  • Targeted purchasing of coffee through democratically organized farmer co-operatives.
  • Agreed upon commodity floor prices that provide for a dignified livelihood.
  • Direct exports by producers.
  • A promise by importers to make affordable credit available to the farmer cooperatives.
  • A world-wide network of non-profit certifying organizations.
  • A fee paid by importers and wholesalers to cover the cost of certification.
  • A seal that assures consumers that the product was fairly traded.

Your purchase of fairly traded coffee helps build pride, independence and community empowerment for small farmers and their families. A coffee processing plant in El Salvador, community stores in Colombia, the training of doctors in Mexico, new schools in Peru – these are examples of initiatives co-ops have taken in their own communities with the income from Fair Trade.


Is your coffee certified organic?

All of Equal Exchange’s organic coffee is certified by Oregon Tilth. Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO) is an internationally recognized symbol of organic integrity. The purpose of organic certification is to ensure that the agreed upon conventions of organic agricultural systems are being practiced not only by growers, but also by all the people who handle and process organic food on its journey to the final consumer. To accomplish this, OTCO provides a system which combines strict production standards, verifiable third party inspections and legally binding affidavits to protect the producers and buyers of organic products.


What steps does Equal Exchange take to ensure top quality coffee?

Our concern for the quality of farmers’ lives is matched by our concern for the quality of our coffee. Through our long-term relationships with the farmers and yearly visits to the co-ops, we maintain an intimate knowledge of the coffee harvest and the quality of the beans.

We have a rigorous system for quality control from bean to cup. Each pre-shipment sample is evaluated to meet our standards. When the approved shipment arrives, it is evaluated again for consistency and preparation. After each coffee is roasted, it is individually “cupped” to ensure consistency in the roast and the flavor profile needed for that particular coffee.


Other than coffee, what other products does Equal Exchange produce and what makes them unique?

Most teas come from large plantations where workers have little say. Our delicious organic, Fair Trade teas are sourced from small-scale farmer co-ops in India, Sri Lanka, and South Africa. We are helping to build a different system that values the voice of small farmers, their products, and democracy in trade.

Equal Exchange tea, bag, tag and string are compostable. Or if tea leaves are removed, the bag, string and tag can be recycled. No glue or staples are used in our tea bags.
Our Fair Trade chocolate bars are rich in flavor with a smooth, creamy texture that melts in your mouth. Our organic cacao and sugar are sourced directly from small-scale farmers co-ops in Latin America.


Anything else we should know?

At Equal Exchange we believe that we should expect no less from ourselves and each other than we demand of our farmer partners. For that reason we have organized ourselves as a democratic worker cooperative, now one of the largest in the country.

A worker cooperative is an alternative for-profit structure based upon standard democratic principles. It is not designed to maximize profits, nor returns to investors, but rather to bring to the workplace many of the rights and responsibilities that we hold as citizens in our communities.

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Organic Month Vendor Spotlight: Organic Valley & Organic Prairie

What is your origin story? Who started the business and why?

It all started in 1988. We were a handful of Midwest family farmers fed up with the state of American agriculture. Family farms were going extinct. Our friends and neighbors were discarded by a bankrupt agricultural system, and we were told to “get big, or get out!” Industrial, chemical farming was the only existing option for survival; never mind its effects on our health, our animals, and our environment.

But we didn’t want to be industrial, chemical farmers, and we didn’t want to be at the mercy of corporate agriculture. We had to do something. So one farmer, George Siemon, put up posters calling us to band together, and we did. Family farmers filled the county courthouse (photo below) and we all agreed: there had to be a better way—a more sustainable way—to continue farming in a way that protects the land, animals, economy and people’s health. And that’s how our farmer-owned cooperative was born, with George as CEIEIO.

Before a year had passed, we started selling organic dairy, and people could tell the difference. Our local communities began choosing our premium, organic milk over other options, and we realized that we were certainly right about one thing—people wanted quality food.

Organic Prairie meats are produced by our independent cooperative of organic family farms. We are pioneers of the organic meat industry. We began producing our delicious meats—without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, or pesticides—back in 1996. We insisted on third-party organic meat certification long before federal organic standards were established. We were the first in the industry to ban animal by-products from our cattle’s diet, and we played a vital role in shaping federal organic meat certification standards—the strictest in the industry.

What makes your products unique? Why should someone buy them?

When you spend your milk money on Organic Valley, we give you fresh food you can trust. It all comes from the family farms of our cooperative. With your support, we make real changes in the world one small step—and farm—at a time.

At Organic Valley, we like to keep things honest and simple. Like dairy produced with no added hormones, antibiotics or toxic pesticides. Produce grown the organic way, with none of the toxins or synthetic fertilizers. And cheese made by farmers and artisans who care about the environment, the animals and you—our customers.

Organic Prairie farmers are committed to providing your family with the healthiest, most wholesome meat, raised humanely in accordance with organic principles and practices—respecting the dignity and interdependence of human, animal, plant, soil and global life. We know that meat produced organically is the safest, best choice for our families, and we’re proud to make it available for yours to enjoy!

Why is organic better?

  • Organic farmers use sustainable methods of pest-control. Non-organic farms use toxic pesticides and herbicides. These chemicals are really harmful to wildlife and human health, contaminating our food, air, and water, and accumulating in our cells. Organic farming practices, however, strictly forbids the use of these chemicals—making bees happier and food more nutritious.
  • Research shows that organic foods are higher in antioxidants and other nutrients, like omega-3 and CLA essential fatty acids. And organic crops have been shown to contain significantly less concentrations of cadmium—a toxic metal on par with lead and mercury. Organic food really is better for you. And it tastes better too.
  • Synthetic hormones and antibiotics are frequently given to non-organic farm animals to change their reproductive cycles and speed up their growth. We believe cows are healthiest and happiest when they’re allowed to live without being pumped full of chemicals—it helps them produce the highest quality milk we pride ourselves on.
  • When non-organic farmers feed their animals antibiotics to keep them from getting sick, they kill many of the pathogens—but not all of them. The germs that survive go on to reproduce, leading to antibiotic-resistant infections that pose a real threat to animals and people alike. Instead of relying on antibiotics, our organic farmers use natural holistic measures to promote and maintain animal health—keeping everyone healthier in the process.
  • Genetically engineered crops are a relatively recent invention with potentially harmful impacts on the ecosystem and on human and animal health. We still don’t know a lot about them and organic standards forbid the use of genetically engineered seeds or animals—including clones.


What else would you like us to know?

  • We’re The Un-Corporation Our farmers own the company. Not the other way around. (That’s why they’re on the packaging!)
  • We’re a cooperative of more than 2,000 small family farms. Organic Valley isn’t a giant corporation. We’re a cooperative of farmers across the country who share the same commitment to growing food the right way. We’re not driven by profits; we’re driven by principles. To make sure we stayed true to our mission, we made our company a cooperative. That means 2,000+ small family farmers own the company, not a bunch of Wall Street suits. And our board is made up entirely of our farmers. One farm, one vote.
  • We used to be a bunch of idealists. And we still are today. We believe in the idea that, if consumers demand high-quality organic food, grown the right way, we could all change the way we treat our land, our animals and our bodies.
  • We’re proudly independent. And we’ll never sell. We’re a bunch of farmers. So, of course we take the long view. We never take short cuts for short-term profits. We’ve always done things our way. And we always will.

SOCIAL NETWORK
FaceBook  Number of Followers: 551k
Twitter Number of Followers:  80k
Instagram  Number of Followers:   41k

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Hey Moms & Dads! Fun for your Kids—Co+op Explorers!


Kids ages 12 and under are invited to become a Wheatsville Food Co+op Explorer and be eligible to receive a free piece of fruit per visit! To become a card-carrying Co+op Explorer, kids simply need to bring a parent or supervising adult to the Hospitality Desk and ask to become a Co+op Explorer. Each child will be issued their very own super official Co+op Explorers membership card, sticker and temporary tattoo.

Once kids are signed up, here’s how it works:

  1. Kids and parents stop by the Hospitality Desk, where we keep the designated Co+op Explorers fruit basket. Each child is eligible to take one piece of fruit and enjoy eating it while shopping.
  2. Once your kiddo has selected a piece of fruit, take a sticker and have them wear it to show off their Co+op Explorer pride!
  3. What should you do with the peels or core? Peels can be thrown away in any of our compost bins. If you don’t see a bin, just ask a staff person.

That’s all there is to it! If you have questions, please ask a staff member.

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LET US MAKE YOU A MEAL

As your schedule fills up and time becomes harder and harder to come by, let the co-op help! We’ve got loads of great options for meals on the go or low-prep meal solutions you can make at home in 30 minutes or less.

QUICK TO FIX
Who’s got time to marinate? We do! Flick on the burner and get cooking without the wait! Our butchers make all of our sausages, mixed burgers, marinades, and rubs right here in house. Packed in Fresh Seal vacuum-packs, these high quality proteins are perfect for a busy weeknight. Always humanely raised, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, and sustainably caught. Just look for the GREEN Quick to Fix label in the Meat Department

HOT FOOD
HOT ROASTED Garlic Rosemary Chickens now available at both stores. Our chickens are fresh out of the oven all day long and are perfect for weeknight dinners - with leftovers! Always humanely raised and antibiotic-free. Pair with a hot side of organic brown rice and black beans for just $1.99, a green crunchy salad, or make your own mix with a rotating selection from our Hot Bar and Salad Bar.

READY to COOK VEGGIES
We’ve trimmed, chopped, dressed, and mixed a variety of fresh veggies (mostly organic) that just need a quick sauté or roasting in the oven. SO EASY! From seasoned cauliflower steaks, stir-fry mixes, or our own kale salad blend – we’ve got your veggies covered. Or, find a variety of pre-bagged one bowl wonders - salad mixes and slaws with dressing, or even snack boxes that include a choice of protein! DONE!

LUNCH TO GO
Order custom sandwiches and smoothies online, pay online, and just run in and pick-up with no wait at BOTH STORES! If you’ve only got 30 minutes – we’ll make sure you’re in and out in a hurry with just what you need.

SHOP ONLINE
You can also skip the whole store and order groceries online with Instacart! Perfect for hectic weeks at the office or home. Do you have an office fridge that needs to get stocked out with stuff you love? Instacart is the way to do it!

$5 DINNER THURSDAY
Join us for $5 DINNER EVERY THURSDAY 5-8pm / BOTH STORES. Our weekly menu always has a vegan and omnivore option - but on occasion we also have gluten-free nights! Fill up your plate or box and enjoy a meal on our patio or take it to go! Both patios now feature mister fans to help keep you cool in the summer AND we have a great selection of games perfect for every age.

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Drinks At Guadalupe!

Meet friends for drinks at the Guadalupe store! We’ve got a full menu of cooperatively made beer and wine, local favorites, and NEW Specialty Drinks.

Our Michelada is 100% VEGAN and made with local Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap pilsner and our housemade Bloody Mary mix with a Spicy Salt rim.

Or how about a colorful and refreshing Peach Basil Rosé Sangria made with La Riojana rosé, peaches, basil, and a splash of champagne? Delicious!

Both patios now have MISTER FANS to keep you cool, FREE WI-FI, board games for all ages, and delicious foods for all diets. Great for MEET-UPS, MEETINGS, FRIENDS NIGHT OUT
and DATE NIGHTS! Join us!

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