Owner Appreciation Week

Our next owner appreciation week is May 13 – May 19, 2018. Co-op owners save 10% on a shopping trip. Meet local producers and sample food and drinks. We’ve got quite the line up of demos scheduled. See our online calendar for tasting dates and times.

Plus, we’ll be grilling free lunch for you on Thursday May 17. Stop by anytime between 11-1 for tasty, quality food suitable for a variety of diets (vegan and gluten-free included). It’s our way of saying how much we appreciate your continued support!

Everyone is welcome to shop at the co-op, no membership necessary, but ownership does have benefits. Learn more about co-op ownership here.

Please note: equity payments must be up to date to receive the discount, which applies to items in stock and doesn’t stack with case discounts.

Change for Community

Selling groceries might keep our store in business, but giving back to our community is at the heart of what we do. We think this new program will reap big rewards for community nonprofits. There are three ways for you to help: round up your purchase total to the nearest dollar, bring a bag and donate your bean, or share your pocket change.

Our May Change for Community Recipient:
Astoria Parks Foundation provides scholarships for local individuals and families to access health and wellness opportunities through the Astoria Parks & Recreation Department.

Last year the foundation raised $30,000 through several events including Run on the River and awarded nearly 1000 scholarships. Your co-op has been a proud sponsor of the foundation’s events. This summer we’re sponsoring one of the foundation’s Parks After Dark movies: Beetlejuice on June 16.

Let’s raise funds for this awesome organization!  To find out other ways to participate or donate please visit astoriaparksfoundation.com.

Expansion Update: Design Review

By Matt Stanley/General Manager

On May 3rd at 5:30 p.m. at Astoria City Hall, the Astoria Design Review Committee will review the design of the building to ensure it meets local design standards. This is again another public forum where your support is much needed!

We know that our community is excited to see ground break on our new store. Every day a friendly customer asks “when do you break ground?” We have come so far and spent several years on our journey toward realizing the co-op our community and co-op leadership envisions; ample parking, expanded produce, a full service deli with hot food and lots of seating, an expanded offering of meat, an improved work environment for our staff and more. It only seems reasonable that customers and staff would be wondering “when will we start to see the physical manifestation of all our work?” Even in my own work carrying the project forward I must constantly remind myself of a Lao Tzu quote; “Nature doesn’t hurry yet everything is accomplished.”

The work toward our new store really is a “little engine that could” story. Consider how competitive natural and organic foods are these days. Consider the resources at the disposal of our competitors. To do things the cooperative way is to move slower and more conservatively, to listen to our members and the community at-large along the way, and ultimately to make informed and consensus-based decisions that ensure long-term success of our business. Our collaboration with over 150 food co-ops across the country goes a long way toward supporting our local efforts too (again, cooperative power at work).

We’ve surpassed some major hurdles toward making our new co-op a reality. These include everything from finding an ideal site, connecting with a developer-partner who believed in the project, raising our member-sourced capital, securing a necessary zone change from the city, and receiving a conditional approval for the outside lending needed to complete the project. And yes, where we find ourselves today is the culmination of several years of work. More work lies ahead!

Our most imminent hurdle is one more public approval necessary before we can complete engineering of the building and seek building permits. On May 3rd at 5:30 p.m. at Astoria City Hall, the Astoria Design Review Committee will review the design of the building to ensure it meets local design standards. This is again another public forum where your support is much needed! Please show up to help us demonstrate that this project has broad community interest and that our public representatives should make haste in helping us get shovels in the ground.

So how do I answer the daily ask, “When do you break ground?” If we get Design Review approval on May 3rd we can proceed to permitting and potentially break ground this fall. 8-12 months after breaking ground we’ll open our new store. The timeline will remain fluid due to the complexity of the project and the inevitable surprises that will occur along the way. We will continue to keep you updated on our progress. Of course, don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have concerns, ideas, or questions. Your continued support and cheer leading along the way is invaluable to our cooperative spirit. Our persistence and strong vision mean we’ll be saying hi to each other in our new co-op digs before we know it!

Cheers,

Matt Stanley, Co-op GM

Every Day is Earth Day!

Everyday is Earth Day at your co-op! We operate your grocery store with the health of the planet in mind. Here are some examples:

Local Food
Local products at food co-ops around the country average 21% of total co-op sales, compared with a national grocery store average of just 1.8%. This cuts down on fossil fuel-burning trucks from delivering our food.

Organic Food
Organic farming methods are more sustainable and have been identified as a key way to slow down climate change. 1 out of every 3 products sold at the food co-ops is organic.

Tackling Food Waste
Did you know we hardly throw any food in the dumpster? In a year we donate about 24,000 pounds of edible nutritious food. The rest local farmers pick up for compost or animal feed. Food co-ops divert about twice as much food as similar-sized grocery stores.

Reusable Bags
When you shop with a reusable bag at the co-op we donate to a local charity through our Beans for Bags program. This reusable bag incentive program has been a great success. In just a few short years since it’s inception it’s helped reduce the use of more than 100,000 single-use paper bags and has resulted in donations of more than $5,000 to local charities. Click here for more information about Beans for Bags.

Co-ops Reduce Impact
Food co-ops have been looking for ways to reduce impact for decades—many co-ops were formed by communities that wanted to buy food grown without synthetic chemicals and get dry goods like flour, oats and rice in bulk to reduce packaging waste. Read more about what our fellow co-ops are doing to reduce impact and benefit the environment.

Fresh Eggs from Backwater Farm

By Emily Renne Vollmer
Photos by Trav Williams, Broken Banjo Photography

A soft clucking from high up in the hay bales reveals a hen nestled on a clutch of eggs. Farmer Bruce Craven mentions in a patiently exasperated tone that some in the flock know that they can fly, and this is one of those hens who flies over the fence, and waits for him to open the door so she can get to her favorite spots in the barn.

Backwater Farm, run by Bruce and wife Desiree, delivers fresh eggs to the Astoria Co-op once a week. Their 40-acre farm on Puget Island is named for the peaceful backwaters of the Columbia River that border their pastures in the form of the East and West Sturgeon Sloughs.

A diverse flock of hens are fanned out across the red stems of mowed buckwheat: Black Australorp, Speckled Sussex, Welsumer, Novogen Brown layers, Americauna and other breeds. The buckwheat cover crop was planted to improve soil tilth after the heavy traffic of pasturing their heritage Lowline Angus beef cattle over the winter. In midsummer, when the buckwheat bloomed, it became a source of nectar for their honeybees, and now the chickens scratch for fallen grain and insects. A henhouse that Bruce custom built on the frame of an old Winnebago trailer can be pulled with a tractor to rotate the chickens through the fields. These integrated natural and sustainability-focused farming practices are central to how Backwater Farm is managed.

The eggs from these free-range chickens are flavorful and have rich orange-yellow colored yolks due to their varied diet. In contrast to chickens raised in confinement, these chickens also lay fewer eggs since they expend more energy when they run about and forage.

In Bruce’s packing room, the eggs fill the cartons in orderly rows with colors ranging from creamy brown to chocolate, and the occasional teal or white egg. They’re packed as ungraded eggs, which means that they aren’t sorted by size so each dozen contains a mixture of small to extra-large eggs. In general the small eggs are laid by younger chickens, and a hen lays larger eggs as she gets older.

While delivering to the Astoria Co-op one week, Bruce was walking in with cartons of eggs when a family approached him and said, “You’re the egg guy?! Can I shake your hand?” They shared that the kids really enjoyed the eggs from Backwater Farm.

Bruce compliments the Astoria Co-op on how great they have been to work with. The Co-op has been understanding of the realities of sourcing from small scale local farms, and they’ve been willing to accept the natural, seasonal fluctuations in egg production, or unexpected demands of the farm that might delay a delivery.

The constant need for problem-solving and creativity is an engaging aspect of farming for Bruce. “More often than not, I don’t decide what I’m going to do; the farm tells me what I’m going to do for the day.” There are frustrations, like the fence he spent several hours on only to have a hen fly over it two minutes after he’d finished. On the other hand they also find themselves part of a community on Puget Island where neighbors will come over to help out when needed. He finds he enjoys the daily variety and physical activities.

Bruce’s first connection with Puget Island was as a place to go fishing when he worked and lived in Portland. While technically retired now, Bruce is too busy to go fishing as he and Desiree build and manage the farm so that the chickens, beef cattle and honeybees contribute to the mortgage. Yet, he says they find their days are pretty rich and full.

Expansion Clears City Council

The Astoria City Council approved a rezone necessary for our new store at the Mill Pond site. This moves us another step closer to breaking ground. Design review will be next. We appreciate those who testified and wrote letters in support of the Co-op. It really helped! The land use process is complex, especially in our city that’s rich in history and character and where commercial property is scarce. While traffic was a topic of concern at the meeting–and the vote was three to one–the desire to see our homegrown business thrive was unanimous and we appreciate our city leader’s careful consideration and support. You can read more about what happened at the city council meeting in the Daily Astorian.

Co-op Goes to City Council

Expansion Update by Matt Stanley/Co-op General Manager

Momentum in our co-op is strong! The result of nearly five years of planning and preparation mean we are poised to present our building design plans to city officials, get commitments for commercial loans, and see construction start this summer if everything stays on schedule. The Co-op project has received City of Astoria Planning Commission approval and is set to go before the City Council on March 5 at 7 p.m. We’d love to have you there to voice your support.

Indeed, I think the most asked question since we reached and surpassed our $1.5 million preferred shares goal in the fall is “when do you break ground?” The securing of owner investments was a pivotal step in moving our expansion forward. It demonstrated to our landlord, city staff and officials, the Mill Pond community, and the co-op  staff and board of directors, that there was no doubt about the co-op’s capacity to successfully take what for us is a big step forward; in terms of both size and complexity of operation at the new location.

In addition to the rezone we are seeking from the city council, we are also working on design review applications to both the Mill Pond Homeowners Association as well as the City of Astoria Design Review Commission. Final adjustments to the interior store layout are being made so that we can begin work on mechanical and architectural engineering. Trust that we are working diligently to keep our project on schedule. If we do so we may see the new store open for business by summer of 2019.

Yes Vote for Co-op

The Astoria Planning Commission voted in favor of a rezone request necessary to keep our project on track at a meeting January 24. The city council will have the ultimate say on the rezone. Read more about in the Daily Astorian’s coverage.

The planning commission meeting was lengthy. There were concerns regarding traffic but everyone agreed that they favor the co-op expansion. Following a five-year process which included a market study and looking at sites, we came to the conclusion that Mill Pond was really the only place that would work. In a beloved city where land is scarce no land use decision is ever easy.

As stated in a letter of support by Paul Benoit, who was community development director during redevelopment of the mill site: “The site at the corner of 23rd and Marine Drive has all of the key attributes needed to support a retail establishment and I can think of no better use than the Co-op to finally realize the long-held vision that Venerable Properties and the City had for the site.”

We are overwhelmed by the love and support this community is showing for our co-op. A big thanks to those who provided testimony at the meeting. We couldn’t have gotten this far in the process without you.

Expansion Goes to Planning Commission

By Zetty Nemlowill/Co-op Marketing Director

Before we can break ground on a new store, we must successfully get through the land use process and could use your help. The Astoria Planning Commission meets on Wednesday January 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Astoria City Hall to consider a zone change that’s necessary for our project to move forward, and we’d love to have you there to voice your support.

The property the co-op has leased at Mill Pond is zoned attached housing and we’re proposing it be changed to a local services zone in order to meet our requirements. Under current zoning, a store could be built there as a conditional use; however, it could only be up to 6,000 square feet and we need almost twice that. The city created this provision when planning the mixed use Mill Pond redevelopment in order to prevent a big box store from going there, but planners desired services that would complement the adjacent neighborhood and we think our new store can fulfill that vision.

Indeed, we’ve heard from future neighbors–both residential and workers from the hospital, Astoria’s largest employer–that they’ll be thrilled to walk to the co-op. While we know there is broad community support for our project, we need it voiced in the form of public testimony to the planning commission. Testimony should be based on the criteria contained in the city staff report which can be found here. If you cannot attend the meeting in person, you can also provide your comments in writing and deliver them to city hall or email Planner Mike Morgan at mmorgan@astoria.or.us.

If the commission approves a re-zone, it will then go to city council. The co-op will also need to complete design review with the city and Mill Pond home owner’s association.

While the timeline for opening the new store is fluid, our best estimate is spring 2019. Meantime we’ll be working diligently on land use, financing, layout, and much more. We look forward to communicating with you every step of the way and really appreciate your support; from providing testimony to the planning commission, telling your friends about the co-op, and shopping regularly at your community-owned grocery store.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me zetty@astoria.coop or our general manager Matt Stanley matt@astoria.coop.