Weekly Update, 9/12-9/19


Here's a quick update on what our Chicago Market teams have been doing this past week:

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Our 2016-2017 Board of Directors

Owners, we did it! We've elected five new directors to join Chicago Market's board.

Thanks to everyone who voted -- honoring co-op Principle #2 (Democratic Member Control) and supporting these fine candidates who've volunteered their time, talent & energy to our community at a leadership level. They have all been active as volunteers and/or appointed board members now for some time, so they'll hit the ground running and we're excited about their current and future contributions.

We Welcome to Leadership..

Lizzy Appleby is Chicago Market Owner #518. Lizzy has been our Volunteer Recruiter and Trainer for over a year now, as well as active part of our Marketing/Owner Recruiting and Engagement team. We featured her in our very first newsletter's Volunteer Spotlight. She is a community organizer and youth worker, educator, and advocate for social and reproductive justice. She has a Masters degree from the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration. Read Lizzy's statement here to learn more about why she's part of Chicago Market and chose to run for our board of directors.

Linn Austin is Chicago Market Owner #633. Linn was temporarily appointed to fill an open seat on our board earlier this year. She has managed and grown our successful Pop-Up Market series, and is also an active part of the Marketing/Owner Recruiting and Engagement team. Linn was featured as a Volunteer Spotlight in January. She has extensive experience in organizing, event planning and providing content to both small local and large international events. Read Linn's board candidate statement here to learn more.

Larry Gast is Chicago Market Owner #697. Larry joined the Marketing/Owner Recruiting and Engagement team this spring and quickly became a second driving force behind Chicago Market's Pop-Up Market initiative. Larry is a former Owner at his beloved Park Slope Food Co-Op in Brooklyn, NY and he serves as VP of Development for Moishe House, a global non-profit. Read Larry's board candidate statement here to learn more about what motivates his co-op love.

Bill Petty is Chicago Market Owner #420. Bill has been an especially active volunteer with the co-op for over a year now: both the Site Selection team and our Grocery Logistics, Retail and Procurement team have benefited from his participation. He is a retired general contractor with expertise in construction and construction management, and also has extensive experience in non-profit board leadership. Read Bill's board candidate statement here to learn more.

Jen Vest is Chicago Market Owner #532. Jen was temporarily appointed to fill an open seat on our board at the end of 2015. She has been an active part of our Marketing/Owner Recruiting and Engagement team, helping us to define and communicate our co-op's #reasons2own with her own blog post on our site last year. She has also currently taken leadership of a project to update Chicago Market's website (no small feat!). She has over eight years of brand strategy and digital communication experience, as an Account Director at an independent marketing agency. Read Jen's board candidate statement here to learn more about her connection to our honest food community.


We Thank for their Leadership...

We also offer gratitude and good wishes to those Owners who will be stepping off our board of directors.

Esther Dairiam is Chicago Market Owner #690. Esther was featured in this month's newsletter, along with her culinary bookstore Read It & Eat. Esther's strategic, entrepreneurial and management background has been especially valuable to our board this year, as she took on the role of Treasurer and Finance team liaison, organizing spreadsheets and leading countless conversations that have been part of our business plan and financial management.

Malcolm Haar is Chicago Market Owner #14! With the co-op's original Steering Committee, he's been part of every aspect of our founding and direction. On our board of directors, he's been the IT and Database Liaison, has contributed to both the Organizational Development and Marketing teams, and he's always been the first to volunteer as a "pinch player" to help other teams work through strategy and get critical projects done. We're very happy that he remains an active part of our Marketing/Owner Recruiting and Engagement team.

Lance Rantala is Chicago Market Owner #515. He was appointed to fill an open position on our board in late 2015. As CEO of Blue Hawk, a purchasing/distribution co-op, and with experience across a number of other co-ops, he has been able to share practical knowledge, strategic insights and valuable contacts with Chicago Market. He's been part of the Site Selection and Finance teams.

These individuals have each patiently shared their time, skills and knowledge to making great things happen for Chicago Market. Their energy and thoughtfulness will be missed at our board meetings, but we know they’ll continue to contribute in ways big and small. We're so glad they are part of our honest food community!


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Read It & Eat - Chicago's Culinary Bookstore!

Newsletter contributor and Owner #838 Maia Welbel stopped by recently and shared this great review of Read It & Eat: Chicago’s only “culinary bookstore,” dedicated entirely to food!

Chicago Market Owner #690 and former board member Esther Dairiam has created this special and wonderful new space. Inspired by a similar bookstore she once visited in Paris, Dairiam is committed to filling her shop with unique products and delicious experiences. Currently stocking 4,000 volumes and 3,700 distinct titles, most of the books at Read It & Eat are single copy. While customers seeking popular cookbooks are likely to find what they’re looking for, Dairiam also likes to share things that people haven’t come across anywhere else. She notes that online recipes and videos may have become ubiquitous, but they can’t replace the tactile experience of a physical cookbook.

Nor can they build community, but Read It & Eat is designed to do just that!

The store’s layout includes a full kitchen complete with a double oven and plenty of shiny counter space. They hosts book signings, cooking classes, demonstrations, and pop-up dinners. Dairiam says her rule of thumb is that there should be good food involved at every event. Bookcases can be reconfigured to accommodate tables and chairs, transforming the store into a perfect spot for group gatherings.

The shop has become a destination for visitors to the city and locals alike. Stop by and say hi to Esther, who is often at the store. Check out the shelves full of colorful photographs, recipes, stories and breathe deep: more often than not, the air inside is filled with the aroma of cookies baking, olive oil sizzling, or fresh herbs and spices. 

Read It & Eat is located at 2142 N. Halsted, in Lincoln Park.

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Board Meeting Minutes for 8/24/16

Here are the public minutes for the Chicago Market Board meeting of Aug. 24, 2016:

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Weekly Update, 8/23-8/29


Here's a quick update on what our Chicago Market teams have been doing this past week:



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Weekly Update, 8/16-8/22


Here's a quick update on what our Chicago Market teams have been doing this past week:


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Weekly Update, 8/10-8/16


Here's a quick update on what our Chicago Market teams have been doing this past week:

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Visit Chicago's Urban Farms!

Active Chicago Market volunteer Maia Welbel researches urban agriculture. Here’s her great little guide to some of Chicago’s farms that are open to visitors. Check one out – or post on our Owners Facebook page if you’re interested in pulling others together for a group visit!


Upon its founding, the City of Chicago adopted the official motto, Urbs in Horto — Latin for "City in a Garden." This phrase has been upheld in the recent and exciting growth of the urban agriculture movement in Chicago. The city has established itself as a leader in using urban farming and gardening as a mechanism for social activism, sustainable development, improved food access, and economic advancement.

Strolling through one of Chicago’s neighborhoods, chances are you will come across a community garden or a bountiful patch in someone’s yard.

But if you want to learn more about how some organizations are making a difference by growing fresh, healthy food in our garden city, these urban farmers would love to show you around! Click on the name of the farm to get to their website for more information.


Growing Power

Growing Power runs urban farms in Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison. Their mission is to transform neighborhoods through community food systems. They offer on-site workshops and demonstrations focused on growing methods, and run educational outreach programs for adults and children, as well as producing and distributing healthy, affordable food.

Tours offered at Iron Street Urban Farm Tuesdays at 1:00pm, Thursdays at 1:00pm, and Saturdays at 10:00am and 1:00pm. Fee of $10 per person.


The Talking Farm

The Talking Farm is committed to sustainable food production, education, and green urban development. They collaborate with local businesses, civic organizations, and educational institutions. Produce grown on the two-acre Howard Street Farm is distributed to local restaurants, food pantries, farmers markets, schools and individuals. They also run educational gardens at schools throughout Chicago.

The farm offers workdays each month when visitors can work for a few hours while learning about horticulture and the organization. Workdays are open to the public and require no prior registration, but visitors must sign a waiver.


Growing Home

Growing Home operates two farms in Englewood and they are the only USDA-certified organic high-production urban farms in Chicago. They provide farm-based training for people with employment barriers, promote healthy community development in underserved neighborhoods, and help people build sustainable life-long careers. 

Tours must be requested two weeks in advance and are not offered on weekends. Fee of $10 per person for groups of five or more visitors.


The Plant

Plant Chicago is a shared production space located in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, which aims to develop circular economies of food production, energy conservation, and material reuse. Their mission is to empower people and businesses to operate more sustainably and self-sufficiently through community-driven programming. The space houses various tenants, who produce small batch coffee, gourmet mushrooms, kombucha, fresh produce and other items, all of which are sold on-site at their farmers market.

Public tours are every Saturday at 2:00pm, and on market days at 11:30am. These include viewings of tech demonstration projects including the algae bioreactor and aquaponics farm. Fee is $7 for students and seniors, and $10 for adults. Private group tours can also be arranged. Contact [email protected].


Windy City Harvest

Windy City Harvest is the Chicago Botanic Garden’s urban agriculture education initiative. The program offers training and educational opportunities to teens and adults, with an emphasis on empowering those with barriers to employment. They manage farms throughout the Chicago area; training and production headquarters are at the Arturo Velasquez Institute, a satellite campus of Daley College.

Tours are offered on Fridays at 11:00am and 12:15pm at the headquarters location where visitors can tour the greenhouse, hoop house, aquaponics system and growing beds. Register here in advance. Fee of $7 for students and $10 for adults. Group tours can also be arranged at six different farm locations; email [email protected].


Metropolitan Farms

Metropolitan Farms is a commercial scale, closed loop aquaponic farming operation in West Humboldt Park. The farm grows herbs, lettuce and fish year-round.

Public tours and events are regularly scheduled. Pre-purchasing tickets is recommended; fee of $15 per person.


City Farm

City Farm is part of The Resource Center, a nonprofit environmental education organization focused on finding uses for overlooked resources. City Farm transforms vacant lots in Chicago into gardens, utilizing intensive recycling and reuse methods to minimize and reverse resource waste. By integrating education, energizing local economies, and beautifying neighborhoods, City Farm works to improve quality of life in Chicago one chemical-free plot at a time.

Tours are offered Wednesday and Saturday through Monday. Contact [email protected] to schedule. Fee of $5 per person.

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Learning From Each Other: Co-op Conferences


One of the seven international values that Chicago Market subscribes to is known as Principle 6 or “P6”: Co-operation Among Co-operatives. P6 holds that co-ops are strongest and most effective when they work together, through local, regional, national and international structures. Grant Kessler, Chicago Market Owner #3 and our Board President, attended two gatherings of regional food co-ops recently, and had a chance to share and bring back valuable learnings for our team. Here’s his report.

Starting a food co-op is hard work…for lots of reasons, but among them is knowledge and resources. If, say, you were a large grocery store chain and you wanted to plunk a new store down somewhere, you’d have the capital, the previous knowledge, and the employees at hand to easily pull it off.

In place of most of those things, startup co-ops have values-driven volunteers and Owners. Super cool, but there is a lot of knowledge and resources lacking in that model. Enter the helpful folks in the co-op world like CDS Consulting and Food Co-op Initiative (FCI). 

Cooperative Board Leadership 101

CDS Consulting is a cooperative of consultants who “specialize in co-op governance, leadership development, expansions, retail improvement, marketing, member services and human resources.” In addition to their direct consulting services, they periodically offer one-day workshops in board leadership development, and Karen Jacobs and I recently attended one they held in Chicago called CBL101 (Cooperative Board Leadership 101).

What did I learn? For starters, I learned that an effective Board needs to devote time to building skills and wisdom. Karen and I took extensive notes and shared with the team, and we have each committed to giving a short presentation about one topic we covered, at a future Board meeting.

Presenters Ben Sandel and Todd Wallace gave us a fascinating overview of co-op social and economic history beginning with the Rochdale co-op in 1840’s England. Check out this video for a fun little history of the “Rochdale Pioneers.” And did you know that in the 1930’s the Consumer Cooperative Trading Company in Gary, Indiana ran several African-American owned businesses, including a filling station, a credit union and an ice cream and candy store that taught children about small business and economics?  



We covered roles and responsibilities of Board members, including the fiduciary role Board members hold – we are responsible for protecting the best interests of co-op Owners as a group. There was a terrific presentation about “policy governance,” which is a model that sets up how the Board can interact effectively with a General Manager. Chicago Market’s Board has agreed to adopt this model but have not begun the work yet of writing the policies that we’ll need, so this education and discussion with fellow co-ops was very valuable.

The last topic of the day was finances – teaching those “non-accountant type” Board members in the room how to look at financial statements and understand the basics. We even graphed sample balance sheets out with LEGO blocks – sounds silly but hey, some of us are visual learners!


Our favorite quote of the day came from Ally Young of The Dill Pickle co-op, when we were talking about how to talk about the benefits of co-ops for our communities: “I like to talk about co-ops being a part of a regenerative rather than an extractive economy.”

Illinois Startup Day

A week later I was in Champaign-Urbana for FCI’s 4th Annual Illinois Startup Day. FCI is also a co-op that provides information, training, technical assistance and seed capital to startups. Jacqueline Hannah, a long-time friend of Chicago Market and former GM at Common Ground Co-op in Urbana now works with FCI and she programmed a terrific day of teaching, expert outside speakers, and workshops in which folks from other Illinois startups shared recent successes and what they’ve learned.

We began with the topic of co-op Owner growth. Presenters talked about strategies they’ve used to communicate with and recruit new Owners, ranging from Facebook campaigns and ad promotions to in-person events like film screenings, tabling, and even throwing a yearly “birthday party” on the day the co-op was founded. What did I learn that YOU can do right now? Help us improve the reach of our Facebook posts – click the “like” button, click the “share” button, follow and retweet us on Twitter – more “likes” means these feeds will show our posts to more people. You’re on the team – help your co-op make it happen!

Jacqueline then talked about Policy Governance and a couple other co-op Board leaders talk about how they’ve implemented it. Kathy Nash of Prairie Food Co-op in Lombard made it clear that parts of policy can and should be in place way before a General Manager is hired – I’ve taken this to heart and we’ll work on that with Chicago Market’s Board soon.

Another big topic was Owner communication – how does an effective Board communicate with Owners? Are we sharing enough? Are we presenting things in ways that are useful to Owners? Do Owners know they should share their thoughts with us, too? Chicago Market’s Weekly Updates are a step in that direction, but we have new ideas too, thanks to my day in Urbana. Got something to tell us? Come to a Board meeting. Send [email protected] an email. We love to hear from you!

I’ll close with two things. By participating in these workshops we learned that in addition to professional help that CDS and FCI offer, there is incredibly rich information available from our friends in other co-ops. And we can be a resource to others. Co-ops ARE community and the cooperative principles rock!

And this: co-ops are powerful. Take a look at these quick facts Jacqueline shared. In the last 10 years:

    122 new food co-ops have opened nationwide

    93 are still open (76% success rate)

    $1.33 Billion in revenues

    922 full-time equivalent employees

    80,000 member/owners

    127 startups right now

You are part of this incredible movement; you are among these other Owners around the country who want a values-driven grocery store; you are making it happen.

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Weekly Update, 8/2-8/9


Here's a quick update on what our Chicago Market teams have been doing this past week:

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