Last year at this time, I shared a reflection about stories, and how becoming part of a food co-op makes you more than the follower of a story -- it makes you a part of it, one of the heroes.
We were coming to the end of a challenging year in Chicago -- a tough election (remember when the mayoral election was the big political debate?), concerns about violence, racism, education, finances -- and a general feeling that the city wasn't pulling together as one. The City of Big Shoulders felt like it was...shrugging.
I shared my belief that real change happens through building community, block by block, neighbor by neighbor, table by table. This is what co-ops do, and they do it with a model that works.*
As 2016 comes to a close and we've moved on the national level from shrugging to some kind of convulsing, I come back to these words and realize they're more true now than ever. When the storms outside chase us in, when the conversation turns to shouting instead of listening, when we start to feel we've lost touch with a shared purpose and respect for those who think differently than we do...then it's time to start connecting.
The greatest gift that being an Owner of Chicago Market has brought me is this gift of new connections. Sure, I had friends and family and neighbors before joining the co-op -- you do, too -- but creating positive change means growing beyond our bubbles.
So now I'm connected to Grant. He's a photographer. He's a blues player. He's a kayaker. He knows a lot about farms. And I'm connected to Lisa, who derbies. And Maria, who reads. And Kelly who cooks, and Dan who bikes and Lee who folk-musics and Annette who writes and Heather who tiki-bars and Linn who glöggs and Liat who preserves and Bill who builds.
These connections are already adding joy to all our lives. We're having more fun, doing things we care about, together. We're eating and cooking great food together. And we're building community with a shared purpose: we're going to open a food co-operative here that helps farmers grow, helps families live healthy lives in a healthy world, helps our local economy thrive, and helps us keep connecting with each other.
It's been a year of learning that connections -- who grows our food, who sells it, who shops with us, rides the bus with us, shovels the snow with us, plays with us, prays with us, votes with us, who stubbornly hangs in there loving Chicago and loving America and loving the world with us, despite it all -- well, those connections are what matters.
Being part of a co-op means Committing to Connecting. It's democracy the way it *really* works, where we have shared values but different ideas and needs and we get to know each other, talk, listen, organize to work all that out so we can live those values anyhow. There's no "corporations are people," and no "fake news." No gerrymandering, filibustering or disenfranchising. There's just 1 person, 1 vote and 1+1+1+1+1+...expanding our circle and practicing democracy, trust and optimism. We work these muscles and we know we're gonna build this thing that matters, together. And then we're gonna have a place to grow from and build other things that matter.
We need you to join us. Landlords and banks tell us that we need a bigger Owner base to ensure our best site deal and our financial future. You can become a lifetime Founding Owner for only $250 (or even a $25/month installment plan). You can join us here online. Or send us an email.
There are tangible benefits, of course. And there are also so many joyful, meaningful connections.
Through the end of this year, we are campaigning for 50 new Owners and if we hit our goal, we'll give away gifts from another friendly co-op: an REI Gift Card ($50 value) and an REI co-op membership ($20 value). Come co-operate with us and get really good at democracy. Join our co-op.
I wish us all light, love and local for the holiday season!
Karen Jacobs, Board of Directors
*Food co-ops spend more revenues locally, buy more products locally, buy more organic produce, recycle more plastic, and create more jobs than conventional grocers. For every $1,000 spent at a food co-op, $1,606 goes to the local economy; for every $1 million in sales, 9.3 jobs are created (Yes! Magazine, 2013).