Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Interview with Jenifer Angerer of New Pioneer Co-op, pt. 1

New Pioneer Co-op has been providing the Iowa City corridor with fresh, organic, and locally grown food since 1971. For decades, they have paved the way for other Iowa markets interested in providing their own communities with local, organic food. Today, New Pi has expanded to be more than just a grocery store. The market has grown, and New Pi plans to open a new store in Cedar Rapids early next year. The University of Iowa Press asked Jenifer Angerer, the marketing manager, some questions about the expansion, what New Pi offers its members, and the future of buying local and organic.
The original New Pioneer Food Co-op, image from Facebook
New Piooner has expanded to more than just a market. It also encompasses a newsletter, blog, classes, membership, and more. What are some of the most unusual additions to New Pi? What inspired this expansion?
New Pioneer Food Co-op believes that, beyond providing local and organic groceries, supporting the local economy and enhancing our member-owners’ community is one of our primary roles. We accomplish this through our many outreach programs, including, as you noted, cooking classes, gardening classes, and our Soilmates education program, which provides free K-12 education about gardening, composting, and feeding the soil.
New Pi also hosts a community garden for our member-owners called Earth Source Gardens, which is open to the public for educational garden parties each summer. Not only do member-owners get an opportunity to plant their own garden, but they can learn more about gardening and soil management and also have the opportunity to give back to the community by donating their extra produce to the Crisis Center Food Bank.
We continue to expand ways that we can provide community education on organic and local foods, including through our email newsletter, social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest), and our food blog, New Pi Eats.
New Pioneer has been incorporated as a cooperative business since 1971, which means we operate differently than a regular profit-driven business. As a cooperative grocery, we’re owned democratically by our member-owners (who each purchase a lifetime share in the company for $60), and are driven by the Seven Cooperative Principles:
1. Voluntary and Open Membership: 
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
2. Democratic Member Control
: Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
3. Members' Economic Participation: 
Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.
4. Autonomy and Independence: 
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.
5. Education, Training, and Information: 
Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.
6. Cooperation among Cooperatives: 
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.
7. Concern for Community: 
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.
Grinnell Heritage Farm at New Pioneer Co-op, image from Facebook
After many years exclusively in the Iowa City area, you have announced that you will be opening a location in Cedar Rapids. When does the new store plan to be open? How will this new store be different from the Iowa City and Coralville locations? Do you hope to expand beyond the corridor in the future?
We’re very excited to fulfill our member-owners’ long-time request for a Cedar Rapids store. We have submitted our site plan for the Cedar Rapids store to the City of Cedar Rapids and are awaiting its approval (a process that can take over a month), which governs the schedule of the rest of the work that follows. Once the site plan is formally approved, then we will be in a position to finalize the project schedule and announce an opening date. Our Board of Directors bases any decision to relocate or expand to new locations on what is most economically prudent for the Co-op.

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