Annual Meeting

UPDATE: Our event has reached maximum capacity, a record turnout by far! We knew this was going to be an exciting meeting, and we wanted to make sure we had an accurate count to plan appropriately (so required RSVP’s). Everything we share at the meeting will be promptly available on our web page for all owners to see. Please get in touch with our general manager Matt if you have any questions or concerns: matt@astoria.coop.

Join fellow Co-op owners at the Red Building Loft in Astoria for a delicious meal, great music, and lots of information about our expansion. The meeting is on Sunday September 17 at 5 p.m. and includes:

  • Dinner made with local ingredients by Chef Andrew Catalano
  • Wine tasting with Galaxy Wine
  • Live music by the Columbians (with Spud Siegel)
  • Unveiling of our new store design
  • Launch of our expansion capital campaign
  • Brief annual report from our general manager
  • Board election
  • Raffles and more

The event is free, but please RSVP on our Eventbrite page, so we know how much food to make.

Founding Mamas & Papas

Left to Right: Randy Puseman, McLaren Innes, Stewart Bell, Josie Peper, Richard Hurley, Carol Newman, John Folk & Carol Folk

The concept which grew into our present Co-op came from the Rainbow Family Gathering in 1972. A small group of people in Astoria formed a buying club, and collectively purchased foods in bulk. Our founders raised money by having rummage sales, provided free labor, and opened the Co-op’s first storefront in 1974. It was a small 650 square foot space near the Columbian Cafe. It was called the “Community Store” and its slogan was “food for people, not for profit.”

Back then there were few grocery shopping choices in our coastal region. It was the beginning of a movement toward bulk foods to keep away from packaging. There was less emphasis on organic; the focus was on simple, whole foods. There were bulk grains and beans, spices, cheese (cut by volunteers), raw milk in glass bottles, tofu and miso.

“We had a holistic approach to life and the Co-op was in large part what enabled us to live that lifestyle in Astoria,” said Carol Folk, one of the Co-op’s first board members.

Folk remembers weekly board meetings at people’s houses with “endless discussions” about the details of the bylaws. Forming the Co-op was a painstaking process, and there were many clashes throughout its history, but it was worth it, as its value reigned even greater than the unique food offerings; it was how locals in a rural community connected.

“The food brought us together but it was a platform for sharing a common view about life and politics, our culture and our world views,” Folk said.

At first there were no distributors. Volunteers drove to Portland to pick up supplies. Everything was done by volunteers; even the store’s first manager didn’t receive a paycheck. Josie Peper was the first elected non-paid manager. She coordinated the volunteer workforce.

“The idea of hiring somebody to do carpentry or plumbing: no, we put it out there to the members to find out who could do it,” Peper said.

She held benefits to offset the store’s operating expenses including monthly square dances and potluck dinners with live music at the Netel Grange. Peper eventually took a hiatus from the Co-op to continue her education and others stepped in to run the store.

Some consequences of the Co-op relying only on volunteers started showing. The store was closed often and the shelves were randomly stocked. Throughout its history, the Co-op experimented with several management structures. The store began to function well again when the board hired its first paid manager, Stewart Bell, who earned 75-cents an hour in food credit. Bell recalls that the cost of living then was less, which made this possible.

The Co-op moved to a daily manager structure in which there was a different person each day overseeing the store. Carol Newman was one of them. She says she did it out of goodwill because she wanted to see the Co-op happen.

“Everyone got 75-cents an hour of food credit and we were so democratic until somebody brought up, some of the people shopping in the store were earning 100 bucks an hour; lawyers, doctors, teachers, business people, whatever. There was talk of exploiting ourselves,” Newman said.

Richard Hurley, a former Co-op manager helped form Community Workers Incorporated, a worker’s collective which contracted with the Co-op to operate the store and for the first time, workers started getting paid above minimum wage.

“We definitely felt we were part of a larger movement. We were lighting little candles that would get brighter and spread toward a whole different way of the economy being run. I was enamored with the economic structure hence the worker’s collective because there was always controversy over exploitation of workers,” Hurley said.

The Co-op officially became a consumer-owned cooperative, filing with the state of Oregon in 2004. Before that it was technically a non-profit, but everyone referred to it as a co-op.

When asked what their hopes are for the Co-op as it matures, some founders offer critique including the store carries too much packaged food, and it’s lost the participatory vibe that the Community Store once had. But Bell points out how the changes have been good, and there seems to be agreement among the founders.

“There is a high priority that the workers are paid well. What we got paid was a joke… having a store which can employ people and pay them a decent wage is a wonderful thing,” Bell said.

Nowadays our co-op uses a livable wage model. Starting pay is $11.50 per hour and the average wage is nearly $17 per hour plus benefits. With competitors now offering organic food, this would not be possible without a concerted effort to grow sales by broadening our shopper base and evolving to meet the needs of today’s ownership.

The opportunities our Co-op has to provide good jobs, great food for the community, and a market for local farmers and producers is thanks to our founding mamas and papas for creating and nurturing the Co-op. This article only scratches the surface as there are so many people who contributed to the Co-op’s founding in both big and little ways throughout our 43-year history. It seems more important than ever to reexamine our roots and give credit where it’s due as we plan a future expansion.

 

Dinner with the Chef

By Terry Andrews/Co-op Owner

In early November I got a call from Matt Stanley (Co-op GM) telling me I was the winner of the Co-op’s prize from their equity drive–and the prize was having a chef cook dinner for me and three friends. It was a wonderful surprise–especially because I hadn’t realized there was a potential prize for paying off my membership. But I had told some friends not long before this, I would like to have a chef show up and cook dinner for me. So it was all perfect the way it unfolded.

photo(66)To make things really special, it was chef Marco Davis who showed up bearing two bags of organic food from the co-op. And in what seemed like some effortless magic, he proceeded to prepare a really amazing dinner. I’m not a food writer so I will do my best to describe this.

The appetizer was thin slices of watermelon radish (the radish is an incredible substitute for a cracker) topped with aged Gouda and roasted yellow pepper, and sauteed slices of Bolete mushroom that I found on my walk and he offered to cook.

Next was a beautiful salad of arugula topped with roasted carrots and parsnips and some crumbled Danish blue cheese.

We had a bit of a breather before the main course while Marco put it together, plated it and brought it to the table, and it was beautiful: chicken with yummy chanterelles in a rosemary cream sauce (oh my), peridot green jade pearl rice and brocolini. As one of my dinner guests said, it made her want to sing!

Finally, dessert was a delicious creation of Marco’s called chai cream pie. You can see all the recipes on his Tuesday (Dec. 2) food blog at http://www.astoriarain.com/.

Marco said he was going to leave, and when we got up to hug him goodbye, we noticed he had quietly cleaned the kitchen! All the dishes were washed and put away.
So thank you Marco and the Co-op for creating a wonderful meal and a delightful evening. I’m already thinking about how to make this happen again. It was such a treat to have someone show up, just like I wished, and cook dinner for me. Membership at the Co-op definitely has its rewards!

Local Organic Cranberry Juice Tasting at the Co-op

Photo by Giles ClementPhoto by Giles Clement

The farmers of Washington state’s first and only certified organic cranberry farm will be sampling out their juice at the Co-op on the first day of our Spring 2015 Owner Appreciation Week.  Stop by the store and try some on Sunday May 10 at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Starvation Alley encompasses a total of 10 acres in Seaview Washington and Long Beach. Jared Oakes and Jessika Tantisook took over the farm where Oakes grew up in 2010. They wanted to farm cranberries organically, but were told by farmers and other experts that it wasn’t possible. They explored that assumption and eventually gained organic certification for their farm.
“It is hard, especially in the beginning because we didn’t have any support. If you want to learn to grow organic apples you could probably find enough stuff on line, call universities, or get advice from professionals. That wasn’t available for cranberries. As new farmers transitioning to organic we lost a lot of production for the first two years, hence the value added products,” Tantisook said.

cranberry juice

Starvation Alley created a brand of juice that attracted the attention of the emerging craft cocktail industry. The farmers sell their product to 70 accounts, mostly bars in Portland and Seattle. They sell their juice and cranberries at farmers markets and locally at Astoria Co-op. The juice is raw, unsweetened and undiluted cranberries. It is not heated or pasteurized which Tantisook says enhances the health benefits and taste.

Starvation Alley Farms is building its research database with a goal of spreading sustainable farming and educating consumers about the food system and the importance of supporting local farmers. They are working with two other cranberry growers on the Long Beach Peninsula to transition to organic certification. There are currently only about 300 acres of organic cranberry farms in the U.S. out of 39,000 total acres of producing cranberry bogs.

Our Parking Lot Gardener at May Lecture

034When our General Manager Matt Stanley asked Horticulturist Becky Graham to take over our parking lot garden, Becky says she had a feeling this would be a very special job, due to the special people who shop and are a part of the Co-op. Becky wants to express what a pleasure it is sharing her skills and passion and we at the Co-op feel the same! We get so many wonderful comments about our garden that makes the parking lot a welcoming space.

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“I’ve met hundreds of people who tell me how they’ve appreciated the garden. The fact they make a point to let me know how they appreciate I, that they went up and touched it and smelled it is even better, or asking about a plant. It is kind of an instant connection. That has brought so much joy to me. It’s been a gift. Sometimes I have to pinch myself,” Becky said.

Our May lecture at Fort George Brewery will feature Becky. She has a business called Harvest Moon Designs, and has not only helped transform the Co-op’s outdoor space, but she takes her knowledge and passion about plants all over the community; from the rooftop of the Hotel Elliot to a healing garden that’s in the works at Columbia Memorial Hospital, for example. “Nature inspires, art follows” is a guiding principal in Becky’s designs.

One might imagine finding Becky’s home garden in Knappa on the pages of Sunset magazine. It is made up of raised beds that include an artful combination of edibles, ornamentals, and found objects such as rusty pipes that have been converted into planters.

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“I hunt and gather for things that make me weak in the knees. Sometimes I don’t have any idea of how I will use it, but I know I will. I have an old copper washing machine and I know I’m either going to make a water feature out of it or a planter. I play with colors, texture, and materials I love,” Becky said.

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Becky calls the garden her classroom, sanctuary, and playground. Part of her career includes garden coaching, helping others design their own gardens. Becky’s lecture will include photos and information to provide examples of things you can do with raised beds, containers, and art, similar to the Co-op’s garden.

“Mixing food you can grow locally in containers as well as ornamental and plants good for pollinators. I think about birds, honey bees, and butterflies. Some art happens naturally. You look and you see a combination of foliage and there’s a butterfly that lands there… that’s art as well as the things you bring in,” Becky said.

You can meet Becky and learn about gardening and design at the Co-op’s monthly food and wellness lecture, “Beers to Your Health” at the Fort George Lovell Showroom located at 426 14th Street in Astoria on Thursday May 14th at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. There are food and drinks available for purchase. The event is free and open to all ages.

Owner Spotlight with Marni Postlewait

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Q: What is your food philosophy (what do you enjoy eating and feel is healthy)?

A: In our house we focus on “real food”.  To us this means food that is as fresh and local as possible, mostly organically-grown or raised in a way that nature intended, homemade and minimally processed.  This means I prepare a LOT of food in my own kitchen.  We also try to minimize our consumption of grain-based carbohydrates and one member of our family has a recently-discovered wheat allergy so we try to avoid that altogether. The goal is, every meal entirely from scratch including sauces, condiments and salad dressings.  We don’t achieve this 100% of the time, but we do most of the time.

Q: Why do you shop at the Co-op?

A: I shop at the Co-op because it is a convenient place to find many of the organic or specialty products that I love while supporting a local business.  I also believe that every food dollar we spend is a vote in support of what kind of food we want to eat and the practices that are used in bringing these foods to our dinner table.  The less we spend at large, corporate grocery stores that oppose GMO labeling and use practices that overtly deceive consumers, and the more we spend at locally owned stores like the Co-op that provide quality products from quality farms, dairies and other companies, then the quicker we will see a shift in our overall food supply.  This is a shift that I believe is happening, which I think is exciting.

Q: What is your favorite product(s)?

A: Many of my favorite products at the Co-op are in the bulk section.  I love the selection of nuts, seeds and alternative flours.  I also love the selection of farmstead cheeses and other dairy products.  And of course, I buy many of the herbal

supplements and natural remedies.  My husband is especially impressed with the beer selection.

Q: How do you encourage your children to eat healthy?

A: My kids are older now and are able to understand how food affects them and why good nutrition and “clean eating” are important.  I share articles with them that I read on certain subjects so they can have the information themselves.
When they ask for things I’d rather they not have I’ll ask them to read the ingredients.  Learning what many of these hard-to-pronounce ingredients are, is often enough to help them decide on their own to make a better choice.  My kids often hear me say “This isn’t food”.
I also really try to help my children understand how the food they have eaten may be making them feel at a certain time.  About 8 years ago I stopped buying anything with artificial color and immediately noticed a change in their behavior.  It was drastic!  Now they are older and though eating colorful candy is still tempting to them and they occasionally do, they all realize that it doesn’t help them feel and think better, later.

Q: “What are your favorite foods around the holidays?”

A: We celebrate Christmas at our house and that starts soon after Thanksgiving.  Normally we don’t do too many sweet treats, but at Christmas we splurge a little.  Each of the kids gets to help make their favorite treat, and we share with friends and neighbors and enjoy them through the season.  Our big Christmas dinner usually consists of a prime rib roast with all the usual side dishes.  This will be the second year it will come from locally raised, grass fed beef.  And in keeping with my mother’s tradition, who felt like Christmas was her only day off throughout the year, we have our big dinner on Christmas Eve.  It’s all homemade from scratch, and the whole family is involved!  Walt roasts the prime rib, my daughters make pies, my son makes fluffy dinner rolls and I take care of the sides.  Christmas morning is a cheese and egg breakfast casserole with homemade cinnamon rolls.  Both have been made ahead so all we have to do it pop them in the oven.  The rest of the day we snack on the most delicious reheated leftovers, and things like dips, cheese spreads and cold salads that have been made ahead so that we have more time to enjoy the day without spending it working in the kitchen.

Q: What advice would you give to another family who is just starting to focus on feeding their family healthier, less processed food?

A: My advice would be baby steps.  It can be very overwhelming at first.  Try to focus on any improvement you make and not on how much is left to be learned or accomplished.  If most of your meals are processed or packaged, then begin by trying to cook 2 nights a week.  Try to make extra to put in the freezer for a future meal.  Get the whole family involved.  Watch cooking shows or You Tube videos to learn techniques or new recipes.  And don’t be afraid to experiment a little! And then after 6 months or so look back at what you were doing when you started and see how far you’ve come.  You’ll probably impress yourself!

See Marni’s recipe for Spaghetti Squash Au Gratin in our winter newsletter (out soon).