santa fe community coop

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You Own It!

It’s a simple and quite wonderful concept, a cooperative.

urlYou own the coop based on your patronage, how much you shop. At the end of each year, 20% of the profits get returned to you based on dollars spent at the coop, your patronage. This refund is  called a Patronage Dividend or a Patronage Refund. The other 80% is allocated to each Member, also in proportion to your patronage.

Much of the allocated equity will be reinvested in the coop, either by further reducing the price of food or making capital improvements. The rest will be retained as a capital reserve.

As an incorporated Sub-Chapter T Cooperative, once the Coop distributes 20% of its profits, the Coop will not pay any state or federal taxes. Also, you will not need to pay state or local taxes on your refund.


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santa fe community coop

a new grocery store that bridges the South and North sides

high quality, affordable food

it’s for everyone!

if you’re ready to join, click SIGN UP

if you want to learn more, click LEARN MORE

Community Gathering, Tuesday, November 26,  5:30 – 7:00

La Farge Branch Library, 1730 Llano Street


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$.57 for Organic Yukon Golds, $2.37 for Organic Leeks


Just back from an uplifting and energizing visit to the Park Slope Food Coop. I left Brooklyn confident that the commitment that Joe Holtz, Founder and GM, and Ann Herpel, a General Coordinator assigned to work with new coops, had to their coop was only a part of their heartfelt commitment to spreading the rich culture, fine quality, and reasonable prices that have been the hallmark of their cooperative for forty years. They provided guidance and printouts on governance, labor law, finances, inventory, sales, and refrigeration/facilities. I left with 200 pictures and a 2″ pile of forms that we can tailor to our operations. They generously offered to answer questions as they arise and extended an invitation come back for staff training. Our relationship with the Park Slope Food Coop will save us months of work and costly trial and error.

The most striking features of the cooperative are its incredible diversity – members of all races and ethnicities, all ages, all income levels – and their wonderful food. The coop serves everyone, from hedge fund managers to those on food stamps. At 85% organic, with 84 feet of produce and 8,000 organic sku’s, they offer a wide range of high quality products, including household wares, organic baby products, beauty products, and vitamins, in only 6,000 square feet of selling space. You might wonder at their low $.57 price for organic Yukon Gold potatoes and $2.37 for organic leeks, especially in NY where the cost of food is easily 10%-20% higher than in Santa Fe. The same products at Whole Foods in Santa Fe sell for $1.99 lb. and $3.99. Lest I mislead you, the Santa Fe Community Coop’s shoppers-members-owners won’t experience this level of savings for a while.

And, despite a robust Farmer’s Market, an excellent health food store, several gourmet markets, and the recent opening of aTrader Joe’s, the Coop’s sales have grown more than 20% in the last couple of years, from the $39.4 million reported by Fortune in 2010, to their $48 million in 2012. Joe reminded me that when I was a member, there were only 5,000 members; now there are 16,000+.

Some might say that the reason for Park Slope’s success is that the coop is located in Park Slope, in Brooklyn. But Park Slope boasts a resident count of only 73,595 and historically, the coop has drawn its membership from

Park Slope Food Coop

Park Slope Food Coop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

a mile and a half radius. And while those who live by Prospect Park are quite well off, those who live nearer 4th Avenue are not. And yes, their median income is higher than ours. But I would suggest that healthy, affordable food is even more important in Santa Fe than in it is in Park Slope for exactly that reason. And, with the USDA reporting that food prices will be rising 4% to 7% annually, healthy, affordable food will become even more in demand than it is today.

Taking action to find a more sustainable social and economic model now will create resilience for our community going forward.

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Owners of Our Own Destiny

Humanity at Work, Mondragon’s tag line, is winner of Financial Times 2013 Boldness in Business award. The Spanish, worker-owned Mondragon Corporation, whose brands include the Eroski supermarket chain, is unique in its ability to remain profitable while paying more than 90 per cent of its collective workers more than their peers at rival companies.

Experiencia cooperativa

The present, however splendid it may be, bears the seeds of its own ruin if it becomes separated from the future. José María Arizmendiarrieta (Ideologist and driving force behind the Mondragón Co-operative Experience)

Quoting Txema Gisasola, Mondragon’s President, a recent FT article highlights some key aspects of their cooperative model.

“It’s not a perfect system – it has flaws like every model – but we think it’s better than the capitalist model. Some people have said to us, ‘This could be the third way,’ but we do not have aspirations to be the third way of anything. The only thing we promise is that whatever happens, we are all owners of our own destiny.”

“People with very high levels of responsibility earn a fraction of what they would in a listed company,” Nueno, professor of entrepreneurship at the nearby Navarro university,  says. “They are not motivated by salary, but to make the company grow and become more relevant.”

Mondragon – which employs about 83,000 people, of whom half are collective members – is not based on anything revolutionary, but is grounded in efficiency and prudent management, Gisasola says.

“This is not magic. We are in this market, competing in the capitalist world, and the only difference is how we do things and why we do things.”

Their articulation of their co-operative culture is powerful and worthy of emulation. Clearly described in their 2009-2012 planning cycle, their objectives are:

I. Customer focus

  • Strategic and operational alignment with the customer. [Note, Mondragon is a worker cooperative. We are a consumer cooperative. We are the customer! We need to constantly reflect and reinvigorate the value we are providing, to our members and to our community.]

We need “To experience the customer”, to have them constantly in mind at all levels of the organisation, and for them to really perceive the value we provide them with.

II. Development

  • Growth – Renewal
  • Internationalisation
  • Promotion
  • Corporate synergies

The development of the businesses is essential to strengthening them in a sustained way. Development must be based on innovation and the promotion of new activities.

III. Innovation
  • Innovation Management
  • Technological Development

Innovation is the ability that is evident in the capacity to generate new things and significant changes. It involves adapting or adopting something new in business models, management models, technologies, products, services, processes, systems, organisation, brands, patents, etc., which is applicable and generates value for customers and the company.

IV. Profitability

  • Competitiveness

A vital necessity for all companies, the ultimate measurement of their competitiveness, their internal efficiency and the performance of the resources invested in the activity.

V. Involvement in the Community

  • Corporate Responsibility
  • Social Transformation

The company is a social subject that takes on obligations with society that go beyond the creation of wealth. From this responsibility are derived ethical and moral requirements together with the commitment to contribute to progress and the well being of the community in which it operates.

VI. People in Co-operation

  • People development
  • Leadership
  • Co-operative Education
  • People Participation in Subsidiaries
  • Health and Safety at Work

The Co-operative Experience’s organisations are based on the committed and united participation of people. Our key difference in socio-business terms is co-operation.

We can do it! Let’s do it! Let’s make a difference!


Top Rated Raw Goat Milk from New Mexico!

A little research on dairy has started us on our way to developing food policies and standards for the Coop. Of the national distributors, Organic Valley and Clover Farms are among those with the higher ratings, four cows.

three-twinsThree Twins Organic, a delicious organic ice cream manufactured in California, is also highly rated. Of particular note is Coonridge Diary, a local, New Mexico dairy, which was rated five cows, their highest rating, for raw goat milk. Trader Joe’s is among those with the lowest ratings. Horizon is at the very bottom. To find out exactly what the ratings are based on, link to Cornucopia Institute’s dairy survey.

The Cornucopia Institute’s study focused on organic dairy with careful attention to where the organic milk was sourced and how herd replacement animals are acquired. The organic label requires that cows be managed organically from the last third of gestation. Dairies with lower ratings often purchase their replacement cows when they are a year or more old, sometimes from conventional farms. Pasture time with adequate acreage was also surveyed.

Those rated “1” cow out of “5” cows, from lowest to highest quality, were those companies that did not respond to the survey and answer questions about where their milk was sourced, including Trader Joe’s. The Institute points out that there is an inherent limitation in private-label organic products. Organic consumers tend to want to know where their food is coming from and how it is produced, and private-label products are anonymous by their nature. As a case in point, although over 80% of the name-brand organic dairy marketers responded to their survey and are rated in their dairy report, not one of the private-label marketers was willing to tell consumers, openly, where its organic milk was purchased.

Their assessment of Horizon was scathing; they gave them zero cows.  The largest selling organic milk brand, Horizon, was purchased by Dean Foods, a giant agribusiness specializing in dairy products, Organic Valley (CROPP)with almost $11 billion in sales, also the largest conventional dairy marketer in the country. Horizon operates two corporate-owned farms, in Maryland and Idaho. Their Idaho facility, milking 4000–5000 cows, was originally a conventional factory-dairy that they converted to organic production. It has, according to widespread industry reports, very little access to pasture. Unlike the majority of all organic dairy farmers in the United States, who concentrate on the health and longevity of their cows, caring for them from birth, the Dean/Horizon Idaho farm sells off all their calves. Later, presumably to save money on organic feed and management, they buy one-year-old conventional animals on the open market. These replacements likely have received conventional milk replacer (made with blood—considered to be a “mad cow” risk), antibiotics, other prohibited pharmaceuticals, and genetically engineered feed. Many practices on a farm of this nature put ethical family-scale organic farmers at a competitive disadvantage. In addition, Dean/Horizon purchases milk from other industrial-scale farms, some of which have a history of alleged labor abuses.

Here is what Cornucopia Institute has to say about Straus, a venerable old producer of European style dairy and Organic Valley. Personally, I love Straus’ heavy cream which, especially when hand whipped, has a glorious texture, and I’ve always preferred the taste of Organic Valley.

     Straus Family Creamery

2013 UPDATE:  Though well-respected as one of the first organic dairies in the West, events at Straus Dairy since the initial publication of our organic dairy scorecard have been troubling. However, we are cautiously optimistic that things are changing for the better and we hope that after a site visit we will be able to upgrade the dairy in the scorecard. The vast majority of all organic dairy farmers around the country, and the groups that represent them (in addition to The Cornucopia Institute the three regional producer groups: Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Midwest Organic Producers Association and the Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance), and the Organic Consumers Association, among others, all came to a consensus regarding new rules at the USDA designed to require and ensure genuine, season-long grazing of ALL organic dairy cows.

However, Albert Straus, Straus Dairy owner, testified publicly against the rule making. Appearing on a panel at a symposium sponsored by the USDA on pasture in State College, Pennsylvania, Mr. Straus complained that he would be unable to graze his animals, even at the very low minimums proposed, because of the climate. Other dairy farmers from California on the panel challenged his contention and suggested that maybe he needed to reduce the size of his herd so it was compatible with the amount of pasture acreage he had available. It’s troubling that Straus Dairy would lobby against rule making that would help crack down on the giant corporate dairies that have been skirting the law.

In addition, with great fanfare, Straus Dairy announced that they were generating electricity on the farm from animal waste using a methane digester. The only problem with this technology is… it only works financially when you have lots of manure collected from cows when they are in confinement. A steady supply of manure is needed to run these systems that require hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment. You can’t run them effectively when your cattle are depositing their own manure, as fertilizer, out in your pastures.

Until recently Straus Dairy milked their cows three times a day, unlike almost every other organic dairy in the country, most of whom find it challenging enough moving cows in and out of pasture twice a day. This is consistent with running a high-production dairy operation, which is very hard on the health and longevity of the cattle, but produces more milk. Recently, the dairy’s owner, Albert Straus, stated publicly they had changed to two times a day milking. Now that the USDA is implementing tougher pasturing requirements for dairy cattle, despite the lobbying campaign by factory farms and Straus, we will reevaluate their ranking in 2011 based on their compliance with the law.

The Straus family operates a processing plant and buys additional milk from four neighboring dairies. Their brand is widely distributed in California and, after some represented improvements, has a four-cow rating in our study.

They write, “Straus Family Creamery, the first Organic Dairy west of the Mississippi has been producing artisan organic dairy products for over a decade. Straus European-style organic butter is used by leading gourmet restaurants across the country. Straus small-batch super premium organic ice cream, the newest addition to the product line, is available in vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, coffee, and chocolate mint. Straus European-style yogurts are generating rave reviews.

Overall, Organic Valley receives a high rating from Cornucopia Institute. They do, however, use carrageenans in their chocolate milk and their “Ultra Pasturized” cream. Carrageenans are linear sulfated polysaccharides that are extracted from red seaweeds. Their main application is in dairy and meat products, due to their strong interactions with protein. Carrageenan is a vegetarian and vegan alternative to gelatin. Some physicians advise avoiding consumption of foods with carrageenan, especially for people with gastrointestinal symptoms. They are widely used in the food industry, for their gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties. Scientists have raised serious concerns about the safety of carrageenan in food, based on laboratory animal studies showing gastrointestinal inflammation, ulcerations and colitis-like disease in animals given food-grade carrageenan in their drinking water or diet. The animal studies done in 1981 have not been verified by other researchers.

Organic Valley (CROPP)
     Organic Valley (CROPP)

The CROPP Cooperative, starting with cheese, was the first nationwide, commercial organic dairy processor and marketer. Starting with seven dairy farms, they now have hundreds of farmers in all straus-organic-cow-pastureregions of the country and manufacturer a full line of products including milk, butter, cheese, etc. The cooperative also markets milk and other dairy products to manufacturers as ingredients in processed organic food. In addition, they package milk for a number of private-label/store brands around the country.

They write: CROPP (Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools) is a farmer-owned cooperative, dedicated to bringing our member-owners’ certified organic products to market under the brand names of Organic Valley Family of Farms for dairy, juice, eggs, produce, and soy, and Organic Prairie for beef, pork, and poultry.In an era where corporations dominate all facets of business including government, global energy, agriculture, and global food supply, CROPP Cooperative serves small farmers and rural community health. Our cooperative was founded to nurture local communities by keeping farmers on the land, farming.

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Following In Very Successful Footsteps

The Santa Fe Community Coop is modeled after the Park Slope Food Coop, an Imageunconventional, mostly organic, grocery store which been in business for 40 years, hence its url, One of the ten most successful independent grocery stores in the country, the PSFC has purchased three buildings and now has 16,000 active working members. It has a whopping $39.4 million in sales, which translates into a per square foot average of $6,500 compared to Whole Food’s average store sales of $31.2 million and a per square foot average of $838.

ImageKeep in mind that these sales figures are based on Park Slope Food Coop prices, which are significantly lower than Whole Foods prices. This means the PSFC is selling a whole lot more food than Whole Foods for each dollar spent. It also means that Coop members are collectively saving millions of dollars compared to shopping at Whole Foods.

The PSFC estimates that it saves members 20% to 40% on groceries. Extrapolating from USDA numbers on what a “moderate plan” family of four spends on food, shopping at the coop saves them $200 to $400 a month, as much as $4,800 a year.

The reason for the Park Slope Food Cooperative’s success is that it is in business to serve its members. It provides high quality, mostly organic, food at 21% over cost. It can do this because 75% of its labor costs, after product the largest grocery expense, are provided by its members.

Because all members actively participate in running the cooperative during regular and flex work shifts, there is significantly less staffing cost for receiving, inventory management, packaging, shelf stocking, checkout, and cleaning. The money saved on staffing reduces the price of food. Other economies include carefully selected inventory, 9,500 SKUs instead of the customary 50,000, like Trader Joe’s, enabling reduced inventory, leasing and energy costs; reduced use of packaging; and eliminating credit card interchange fees.

Like the Park Slope Food Coop, the Santa Fe Community Coop is a member owned, member operated, member governed consumer cooperative selling nutritious food at affordable prices.

The Park Slope Co-op Makes More Money Than Whole Foods , Grubb Street NY

The rise of the grocery co-op , Fortune

Whole Foods Market Q2 2010 Earnings Call Transcript , Seeking Alpha