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More board members needed

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Membership in the Elk River Area Food Co-op stands at 431, and organizers would love to hit 500 by the end of the year.

“(At 500) we think we can start looking for space (for a co-op grocery store),” said Kari Froehlich, a member of the co-op board. “We are so close. We just need that boost.”

Lifetime memberships cost $100 and are available online at www.erafoodcoop.com. Or send checks for membership fees to the Elk River Area Food Co-op at P.O. Box 64, Elk River, MN 55330.

Froehlich is one of the original leaders behind the Elk River Area Food Co-op, which incorporated in 2014.

The co-op’s mission is to provide access to high-quality, local, natural and organic food at a fair price, support local farmers and contribute economically to the community.

The co-op is seeking board members. Froehlich said several of their board members have resigned recently mainly due to the demands of busy lives. In particular, she said they need board members with business knowledge as they look at starting a grocery store and launching a capital campaign. They also need a treasurer.

Until they can fill some board positions, Froehlich said they will continue to accept memberships but other co-op activities such as events are on hold.

Board members, who are volunteers, recently went through training with Leslie Watson of CDS Consulting, who works specifically with co-ops.

Meanwhile, while the co-op does not yet have a store, Froehlich said there are currently benefits available to members from the co-op’s partners.

More than 30 farms, businesses and other entities are partnering with the co-op to offer discounts to co-op members on products like pasture-raised meat, produce, seafood, honey, eggs, handmade soap and wellness services.

One of them is Thompson Produce in Nowthen, owned by Ryan and Becky Thompson.

Ryan said they offer co-op members a discount on CSA shares. CSA stands for community-supported agriculture. With a CSA, the customer purchases a share in the farmer’s harvest for the season and receives a weekly box of fresh produce grown on the Thompson’s farm off 201st Avenue. The Thompsons grow 129 varieties of fruits and vegetables.

Ryan and Becky (Hillukka) both are from the Nowthen area and have farming backgrounds. This is the sixth year they have been offering CSAs. Once a co-op grocery store is open, they will supply that operation with fresh produce as well.

Ryan explained one of the benefits of a co-op grocery store: “Basically it’s a central hub for fresh, locally grown produce, is the way I see it. You don’t have to wait for a farmers market.”

The co-op’s projected timeline is as follows:

•300 to 450 members: Develop volunteer base and grow membership.

•450 to 600 members: Begin planning capital drive campaign.

•600 to 800 members: Location selection and capital drive campaign.

•800 to 1,200 members: Finalize budget and hire staff.

•1,200 plus: Celebrate grand opening.

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