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.
What Happens Next?
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).
View board member bios here.