As always it has been a busy week behind the scenes over here at Eat Local. The most exciting bit of news being that we can finally announce that WE ARE OFFICIALLY HIRING!!!
We are looking for a full time in person General Manager. This is a dynamic role for someone looking for a challenging position that comes with a lot of rewards that will guide ELGB into the next phase of the co-op. We know it’s a lot, but so far amazing people have come out of the woodwork to help Eat Local, so we’re keeping a heightened sense of the possible. We also have a renewed commitment to fair wages and are hoping that the proposed compensation will incentivise wonderful applications.
Please share widely! The position will remain open until it is filled, but we will start interviews right away.
In other news, we had our first official volunteer work-bee at the warehouse on Wednesday, re-organizing the space to make sure that when we do open our doors the packing process is streamlined and efficient. Believe us, we’re counting the days!
On the producer side of things, Jason -our board president and producer liaison- has been in conversations with our veggie producers working on a concerted crop plan for the upcoming growing season. This is something that we have long felt was a good move for the co-op and these conversations make us very excited!
We know you’re all excited to hear about our official relaunch date and while we’re eager to get the doors open again, we want to make sure we’ve ironed out the key wrinkles of the past. And there is progress! Thanks to the wonderful support of Grey County, through the Business Enterprise Centre, we are receiving great guidance from someone with more than 20 years of experience in the local food grocery sector. Our Grocery Guru has shared critical financial insights, as well as assisted with operations and human resources. Board members and additional volunteers are also contributing their expertise in accounting, logistics and financial analysis to set us up with a budget, online store, warehouse and delivery routes that work. While the idea of getting local food to local people is simple in principle, making it happen requires many players and pieces to come together in a finely choreographed dance.
Rest assured, the pieces are coming together and we hope you’ll give us a few more weeks of patience. It won’t be long now!
Eat Local Grey Bruce Update: Here’s What We’re Working On
After the invigorating experience of the AGM, and welcoming a fantastic team of new board members (you can check them out here if you haven’t done so already), ELGB 2.0 had its first official strategic planning meeting.
Last Saturday, members from the new and previous board of directors connected for an afternoon of strategic planning. It was an excellent meeting and helped get everyone up to date on where we are, also getting new input from board members regarding how Eat Local Grey Bruce can put our best foot forward as we get ready to relaunch the store.
During the meeting, we reviewed the history of the organization, how we got to a state of insolvency, and then reviewed all the work that’s been done since the store closure in December (it’s quite a lot when you put it all together!).
We finished the afternoon by breaking into subcommittees and identifying the immediate tasks that need to be addressed before reopening the store, as well as what tasks we want to address as soon as the store is open again.
As mentioned at the AGM, ELGB is shifting its governance structure to include 6 key subcommittees made up of volunteers, board members, and eventually staff that will help oversee the various facets of the co-op. Here’s what is being worked on right now:
Reviewing all products listed in the store based on our current inventory as well as producer inventory so we’re up to date with stock and pricing.
Working on an audit of the web store to find areas where we can improve new member registration and member shopping experience.
Designing a new public website with clear messaging about who we are, how we operate, and how to become a member and order, integrating the shopping experience in a more seamless way.
Reorganizing the layout in the warehouse to ensure that it’s optimized for receiving, packing, and shipping products with a special focus on cold chain improvements to ensure produce remains of optimal quality until it reaches your door .
Restructuring our packing process to get more orders packed efficiently with minimal hands in the least amount of time possible.
Planning and organizing the events from the fundraising campaign including community meals, a celebration party, farm tours, and workshops. It’s going to be a busy year!
Re-evaluating our onboarding process with new members to ensure that they feel well connected to the ELGB community right out of the gate and are confident about how to best participate in ELGB.
Exploring the idea of local ELGB community champions to help with ongoing member engagement and what might be involved in that role.
Optimizing routes and schedules for delivery and aggregation across Grey and Bruce counties.
Re-evaluating delivery fees with a focus on increasing the number and use of local pick up points over home delivery to ensure that we are covering the cost of delivering.
Ensuring that we are tracking all logistics data so that we can continue to make changes to improve efficiency and offer the best possible service .
Human Resources Subcommittee
Establishing what roles we will need to hire for before the store reopens.
Onboarding new volunteers and ensuring that they feel empowered and welcome in the ELGB community.
Ensuring that there are feedback mechanisms for all staff and volunteers to communicate with board members and subcommittees so the flow of information isn’t blocked.
Finance/Debt Restructuring Subcommittee
Establishing an operational budget for relaunch including adjusted margins and lowered expenses.
Working with mentors (we’re lucky to have two!) experienced in the grocery industry to help provide guidance and feedback on how we implement that operational budget.
Developing a full business plan to inform ongoing operations to ensure profitability.
Evaluating the best path forward to pay back producers based on that business plan and operational budget ensuring that the long term viability of the co-op remains intact.
Planning our Reopening
Thanks to everyone who has reached out eager to start placing orders again! We’re really excited to reopen the store, but we want to make sure that everything is well in place before we take the next steps. As you can see from the lists above, there’s a lot of work being done!
When will we be ready? Well, we’re not quite ready to commit to a date just yet but we’re hoping it will be soon. You can stay in touch through the newsletter and our social media accounts to make sure you’ll know as soon as we’re back up and running.
As you know we have reached our crowd-funding goal. We are still in the process of moving all donations from Indiegogo over to Eat Local (consider this your gentle nudge to do that if you haven’t done so already!), but we definitely have a much stronger footing going forward than we anticipated, which feels really, really, good.
Reaching this goal has allowed us to exhale a big sigh of relief, but it also means that the real work of re-launching and (most importantly) restructuring ELGB takes on a whole new sense of urgency. It’s triple time to our double time now!
The first thing is for us producer and eater members, to get together and vote on some important next steps and of course, celebrate this success. We need to ratify a new board and write some amendments to our existing by-laws, so please, please, add it to your calendars and come out to the AGM.
Eat Local Grey Bruce 2023 AGM Thursday, February 16th 7:00pm 278 Cook Street, Meaford
We’ll be presenting financials from the past year, including details from the fundraising campaign, and speaking about our business plan moving forward. The current board is also compiling a list of new roles (for staff and volunteers) as we are hoping that the AGM will be a great opportunity to present the various ways in which you can get involved with the co-op. Most notably, we are in need of a treasurer, so please help spread the word!
If you can’t make it in person, please join us virtually using the link below.
As we move towards a re-imagined Eat Local Grey Bruce 2.0, we’d like to get your input and vision for this cooperative. While our core services will stay the same, we’re looking to make a number of operational changes that will help improve efficiencies and quality of service. We’re also hoping to have our membership feel more empowered and engaged. We’ve got lots of ideas and lots of plans moving forward, but we also want to hear from you!
We are halfway through the crowdfunding campaign and, as you all know by now, the board and committee members have been analyzing our organization and the business that lives inside of it, assessing the ways it has been functional and dysfunctional through the six first years of its life. It feels like we’re in labour pains all over again. While it’s been taxing, there’s also a lot of hope right now. Something new and exciting has begun: a new type of conversation in the Eat Local community.
Just two weeks ago, we asked for help and, despite not giving you much to go on, we received an immediate show of unconditional support, with 115 donations and 145 pledges in the first week alone. To date, we have received $27,721 in donations, 166 pledges of support and 30 volunteer applicants have come forward! This is great progress and we need everyone to continue spreading the word, giving what they can, and asking others to join in. It also bears repeating that this is our last chance to save Eat Local. If we do not reach our goal, the money is returned to donors and the board will file for bankruptcy. If we reach our goal, we have a chance. If we reach our goal, we have a chance to pay what’s owed to producers and continue supporting them in the future.
We also have received many messages asking important questions, and rightly so! “How can I help?” has been a common one. Also: “Tell me more!”. These questions show us that you’re ready to be part of the discussion. So, in the spirit of building a new level of reciprocity and openness, we have put together a detailed report. It’s a brief (OK, a bit long) summary of our journey thus far, some lessons learned and an outline of how we plan to improve. We encourage you to read it so you are up to date on our current activity.
In the last week, we’ve had almost 150 community members pledge to make regular orders from ELGB with 83% of those pledges committing to a weekly or bi-weekly ordering regimen. These pledges represent a wider community support for Eat Local and give us the confidence to move forward. This commitment allows us to develop a more accurate plan for the future of a resilient organization. If you haven’t already, please take the pledge today so that we know we have your support and please forward to neighbours, friends, family and co-workers.
We have a long way to go, but we remain hopeful because we know that Eat Local’s vision is simple and beautiful. Eat Local moves us toward resilient, local food systems that are both equitable and ecologically sound. We have an opportunity here to unite, with community at the core of our work, and healthy, sustainable foods on our plates.
For the first time since the inception of Eat Local (2016) producers and eaters are getting the same newsletter. We (the board) are doing this quite intentionally, because we recognize that one of the major mistakes we’ve made as an organization is a failure to effectively engage the broader membership. We’ve always strived to be transparent about Eat Local’s financial situation and keep these financials open to the public, but the information has remained in the background and we are working hard to correct that.
ELGB is a cooperative which means that we are all in this together. We want to dispel any notions of a disembodied “they” that is running (or ruining) Eat Local. There is no they, only we. Our board is made up of volunteers, both producers and eaters. The coop itself is made up of producers and eaters. Producers and eaters make up the symbiotic relationship of our organization, both essential elements of the cooperative. Ultimately, it is us – producers and eaters together – that will chart the path forward for EL; one that meets the needs of both parties while achieving financial resilience.
So, now that we’re all here together, let’s look at what we have accomplished this week:
We’ve raised over $15,000 in one week. It’s amazing and we feel incredibly grateful to have such a supportive community, but we still have a long way to go. Reaching this fundraising goal is the only option we have to keep ELGB from declaring bankruptcy. We currently have 500 members holding active ELGB memberships: if we all pitch in, we are confident we can reach our goal. Please forward to individuals and businesses that you feel can help. Remember, donations are only collected if we reach our target.
Pledges – In the last week, we’ve had almost 150 community members pledge to make regular orders from ELGB with 83% of those pledges committing to a weekly or bi-weekly ordering regimen. These pledges represent a wider community support for Eat Local and give us the confidence to move forward. This commitment allows us to develop a more accurate plan for the future of a resilient organization. If you haven’t already, please take the pledge today so that we know we have your support and please forward to neighbours, friends, family and co-workers.
Thank you to everyone who has submitted a volunteer application. Volunteers are going to be vitally important in the ramp up to Eat Local finding its feet again. If you have time, energy, and space to contribute, please consider applying. And of course, don’t forget to invite anyone you think might have the capacity to get involved.
We currently have a group of volunteers working to create a new vision of what Eat Local needs to become. We have been calling this the Turn Around Committee: an ad-hoc group of producers and community volunteers with a knack for numbers who have been poring over various financial records, consultant reports, and strategy docs for the past couple of weeks. Looking towards the future and drawing from the past, this team is aiming to position all of the systems within EL for viable financial health and community connectivity going forward. This includes: ensuring we earn sufficient margins to not only cover costs but generate a surplus, seeking ways to optimize our logistics (EL does a lot more trucking than your grocery store), and investigating several options to address producer payables, because the $115K from the crowdfunding campaign, as we have discussed, is not allocated to cover these. Producer payables form the bulk of the co-op’s liabilities and have been a background issue, a strategy agreed upon by producers at the inception of the co-op (you can read all about it here). Any plans on the table for a new improved ELGB involve no longer than 30 day payment terms for producers: on that one, we’re unanimous. Though the work of this committee is stressful and we intensely feel the pressure to provide answers to you as well as the wider community as to how we’ll be doing things differently, we’ve also appreciated the opportunity to have our ship in dry dock for a bit, rather than trying to repair the hull while it’s at sea.
If this is all coming as a surprise to you, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of the members of the board for clarification.
There are 3 key areas of focus as we move into the New Year:
Fundraising – we need to meet our fundraising goal in order to keep Eat Local alive. We will be continuing to put the pressure on our crowdfunding campaign across social media, reaching out to local businesses for sponsorship opportunities, and looking for grant opportunities to help contribute.
Restructuring – we will be analysing, exploring, dreaming, and firming up plans to make Eat Local more sustainable so we can get our debts paid off and get back to profitability. It’s clear that there were many flaws in our prior operations that we will need to rectify to avoid ending up in the same situation. As we mentioned above, we are working hard to reevaluate our margins, improve our delivery routes, bring in new members, develop an effective volunteer team and restructure staff roles.
Communicating – we will be publishing regular content over social media, on our website, and through our newsletter so that you know where we are every step of the way. Our goal is 100% transparent engagement so that you feel confident in your commitment to Eat Local. These communications will include financial analysis about where we are and where we need to get and strategies for improving Eat Local in the future.
Meet Our New Board Members
Two board members have resigned since a meeting on December 16th in which the board announced our insolvency to producers. At the time the board had not reached consensus on next steps, and when the suggestion was made to send a call to the broader membership for support, they chose to step aside and make space for people who had hope and energy for this next push.
Since then, three new board members have stepped up to offer much needed support for this one last push: Kel Smith (eater member), Eli McFadden (Funky Fermets, a former producer member) and Kristine Hammel (Persephone Market Garden, former board member, and original producer member). They have joined the remaining four board members: Gerald te Velde (Twin Creeks Farm), Katherine Ngui (formerly AsterLane Bread), Jason Hayes, and Marcelina Salazar (both of Burdock Grove Farm).
As many of you know from our website & recent events, we have been working on launching our Community Bonds campaign! We are excited to invite you all to our official launch on December 3rd at 4 pm at the Eat Local Grey Bruce Warehouse in Meaford with an online option to join also.
Come learn about why we are launching this campaign, what you are supporting by investing, the available bond options, and more! We will have a formal presentation at 4pm, and a time for questions & networking with our staff and Board of Directors. We will have drinks & food available and can give a tour of our warehouse for folks who have not seen it before.
A bit about what a community bond is; A Community Bond is an interest-bearing loan that allows supporters to align their investments with their values while enjoying competitive returns. An investment in our Community Bond Campaign allows you to build a more equitable economy by putting your dollars behind a cause you believe in. By joining our community bonds campaign, you are supporting us in our continued growth. The funding received through community bonds will help us to purchase critical infrastructure that supports the growth needed to succeed long term and continue to create sustainable food systems.
We recommend masks & are excited to welcome you! **Entrance is off William St., Door #16
Sustainability is one of our core co-operative values at Eat Local Grey Bruce. One of the ways we put this value into action is through our waste reduction initiatives – we care greatly about our environmental footprint and invest notable effort into reducing our overall waste.
Did you know that despite the size of our operation, we generally only have one bag of garbage per week? We do generate a couple of bins worth of recycling per week, mostly paper, and continue to work on bringing this amount down as well.
We are most proud of how we’ve managed to offset food waste. We often say that ELGB is as much about building relationships as it is about moving food, and our food waste reduction efforts put this philosophy into action.
We partnered earlier this year to become the home of the Meaford Community Fridge. This program is an initiative of the Community Garden Network of The Sustainability Project, and makes use of a fridge donated by the United Way of Bruce Grey (artwork by Billy Goodkat). Food for the fridge is provided by a combination of community food and garden programs, local gardeners, and ELGB. Members of the community are welcome to come and drop off goods, or take what they need, no questions asked. The fridge is replenished on a weekly basis, with goods that will not last into the following week dropped off at OSHaRE, a community meal program based in Owen Sound, along with any items at ELGB that are nearing expiry or are still fresh but will not remain saleable the following week.
Some of our produce that is past its prime and not ideal for meal programs gets used as animal feed. We do generally have a small amount of composting on a weekly basis – usually part of a standard Meaford green bin’s worth. We continue to aim to catch these items prior to them reaching this state and emphasize offloading as much as possible to be used in the previously mentioned initiatives.
The pandemic saw us have to shelve our beloved green bags in favour of paper bags for a time. A phased approach to return to more sustainable order packaging options is on the horizon! We are finally ready to call our green bags home – it has been fun seeing the many ways they’ve been in use out in the community over the past couple of years, however we know that several of you have been patiently waiting to return these bags – the time has come! Please feel free to leave them out for your next expected delivery, leave them at the drop spot location you make use of, drop them by our warehouse in Meaford, or get in touch to make arrangements.
We hope to make use of our classic green bags as freezer bags by later this year. Their insulative properties certainly make them more suitable for this purpose than paper bags, and we’re sure that folks won’t mind accessing their goods via zipper as opposed to wrestling with staples.
We will be continuing to use paper bags for all other goods for the time being. We were able to source new delivery bins using funds from the Government of Canada’s Local Food Infrastructure Fund. While we currently only use these bins to hold paper bags of orders in our van, we hope to pilot use of our bins at select drop spots at a future time (orders will be packed in bins, and folks can bring their own bags to transport goods home, leaving the bins at the drop spot). Use of bins for home deliveries will be reserved for a later time, once we have the capital funds required to purchase more bins and a suitable tracking system, and the resources lined up to roll the system out. Our upcoming Community Bonds Campaign aims to raise capital for these and other important initiatives!
Bulk Dry Goods
After quite a wait (including a fortuitous delay due to contractor availability that meant we didn’t invest in upgrades in our old warehouse prior to our having to relocate) we are finally getting ready to launch our improved dry goods packaging! Under this new system, plastic clamshells will have gone the way of the dinosaur, with reusable mason jars and paper bags taking their place. Stay tuned for announcements in the coming weeks – we anticipate launch of the program later this fall.
As a non-profit co-operative, we are happy to engage membership participation and are happy for volunteers. If you would be interested in joining our Waste Reduction Committee, or helping with these initiatives at the warehouse level, please send a note to Jeannine, our Executive Director.
Eat Local Grey Bruce Food Co-operative receives $20,000 loan from Harvest Impact by 10C
Social finance investment will fund launch of community bond campaign. Guelph, Tuesday, October 4, 2022 – Harvest Impact Fund by 10C is pleased to announce a social finance loan of $20,000 to support Eat Local Grey Bruce Food Co-operative (ELGB) to support the launch of a new community bond campaign.
Eat Local Grey Bruce is a non-profit cooperative that distributes healthy, locally produced food to Grey, Bruce/Saugeen and part of Simcoe County. It is a vibrant community of eaters, growers and makers of food, supporting each other in their commitment to local food production, ecological practices, healthy eating and meaningful employment.
Many of ELGB’s producer members are small- to mid-scale, diversified farms working to grow and raise food with an emphasis on environmental stewardship. ELGB intends to turn the $20,000 loan from Harvest Impact into $200,000 of community bond investment– allowing all members of the co-operative and region to invest in this next stage of growth.
“Our community bonds campaign will be instrumental in positioning Eat Local Grey Bruce for sustainable growth now and into the future. The Harvest Impact financing provides us the much needed tools and resources to expand. We want to continue to offer an alternative food economy that honours people and the environment above profit,” said Michelle Watson, Director Chair, Eat Local Grey Bruce.
“Harvest Impact invests in companies, organizations and people who are generating social, environmental, or cultural benefits alongside financial returns,” said Julia Grady, 10C Co-Founder and Executive Director. “We are actively encouraging both for profit and non-profit social impact organizations like Eat local Grey Bruce to apply for social financing through Harvest Impact.”
This social finance loan will assist ELGB in contributing to five of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is part of demonstrating how a circular economy can design out waste, keep materials in use and regenerate natural systems. Harvest Impact by 10C is part of Our Food Future and COIL, Guelph and Wellington County’s vision for a circular food system – a system that values, shares and celebrates a diversity of affordable, nutritious and culturally relevant foods that support a healthy, resilient community.
For more information:
Harvest Impact by 10C Julia Grady, (she/her) Project Lead firstname.lastname@example.org harvestimpact.ca
Eat Local Grey Bruce Callum Batten (they/them) Outreach Manager email@example.com eatlocalgreybruce.ca
We had an amazing time at our Local Farm Dinner at Devonwood Farm. Thank you so much to all of your who attended to support us, Sarah and Lonny for hosting us, the servers who helped and all the Eat Local staff who supported. We could not have made it happen without the ever talented Zach Keeshig from Naagan, Richard from VeganCo and Ryan from The Nomad Chef. Please check out their socials posted below & continue to show your support for them.
Below are some photos from the evening, we will be hosting our Gala in October and hope you can join us. More information to come!