2020: A vision for the future through Co-ops and local food

As the 2010s come to a close, the “20/20” eyesight analogy couldn’t be more appropriate for the new decade. With our eye on the future, there’s clearly a sense of urgency and awareness of the unique times we’re living in: a changing climate, increases in costs of living, and the shared pressures of a globalized world. 

We face a decision in the coming decade where we prioritize convenience and cost, or community and climate. It’s my hope as General Manager that shopping at the Co-op provides you community through our classrooms and events, as a place to meet and eat with friends, and convivial customer service; and offers hope for our climate, through our local buying practices, and our sustainability and zero waste initiatives. But I also don’t want you to compromise on convenience and cost, because it seems clear that healthy local food and a healthy local economy are intertwined.

Put another way, it’s the way the Co-op has always been run: people, principles, and the planet before profit. And it’s by sticking to this maxim that the cooperative model will continue to thrive in the ‘20s. Shopping at the Co-op is sort of a way to ‘vote with your dollar’ and know that it’s being maximized in our community. Here are a few ways that’s happening:

The planet: We continue to be the most sustainable grocer in Southern Oregon and we’re on pace with our 2030 zero waste goal - now just ten years away. The Co-op’s sustainability coordinator and strategic energy management intern have been working on further reducing energy waste, from simple things like lowering the blinds at night to prevent heat loss, to storewide impacts like lowering the temperature of our water heaters. 

And in 2020, the Co-op joins four other Ashland restaurants for the Rogue To Go reusable take-out container program, set to reduce the amount of take-out waste - a big move for the busiest restaurant in Ashland (yep, the Co-op!). 

One of the biggest greenhouse gas contributors is the factory farming industry, which is why we go to great lengths - but not distances - to get local, grass-fed meats from sustainable producers like Magnolia Farms and Emerald Hills Farms, and to source other meats from responsible and sustainable sources, like Beeler’s Heluka and SmartChicken. Meanwhile we continue to expand our vegan offerings in store and in our kitchen.

Principles: With over $29,000 in grants to non-profits last year, and another $2,450 in donated gift cards, your shopping trips at the Co-op are - in no small part! - helping out the organizations doing important front-line work on food and education in the Valley. Read more about 2019 grant recipients here.

People: We understand that one of the Rogue Valley’s biggest issues is cost of living. To that end, over 70% of our employees earn a living wage and 96% have access to affordable health care. When you shop at the Co-op, you’re supporting over 160 employees and their families who contribute to our community and the local economy. There are a lot fewer than six degrees of separation here in the Rogue Valley - if you don’t already know a Co-op employee, one of your friends probably does!

I’m excited for the sustainable, responsible path that we are on in order to face the challenges of the coming decade. Thank you for being a part of our community and for supporting our efforts to advance it.

In co-operation,
Emile Amarotico 
General Manager


More Co-op News

Masks Required for All In-Store Shoppers

To protect the health of Co-op staff and shoppers, all shoppers and other visitors on Ashland Food Co-op property must wear face coverings over mouth and nose except when dining in an approved area. As of November 11, 2020, face shields will not be permitted unless worn with a mask. 

From the Board: Co-ops Look in the Mirror

By Annie Hoy, Board Secretary and Chair of Owner Engagement Committee

Food Co-ops around the nation proudly display signage saying EVERYONE WELCOME. Or they use the slogan, “Anyone can shop. Anyone can join.” But are food co-ops, and other cooperative businesses, walking the walk? 

November/December GM Update: Overcoming Challenges

It’s probably already cliche to say “it’s been one heck of a year.” There have been challenges a-plenty for all of us, whether we’re working or shopping at the Co-op - but I’m so proud of how all of us have persevered. 

End of year wrap-up on Strategic Energy Management at the Co-op

Hi there. I hope this finds you well. It’s me, Nina Friedman, Strategic Energy Management (SEM) intern for the Ashland Food Co-op. The global and local crises have only devolved into further chaos since we last spoke. As we sit with the reality of coworkers, neighbors, and friends who’ve lost their homes and businesses to the recent fires, and thousands more across the nation losing their loved ones to COVID-19, I imagine many are feeling frozen and powerless to help those that are suffering.

SNAP in the Co-op Kitchen and Thanksgiving

Use your SNAP EBT benefits for all Co-op Kitchen items through November 20th, 2020!

Recognizing the difficulties in food preparation for families who lost their homes in the local wildfires, the State of Oregon has expanded SNAP benefits to be used for hot foods, like made-to-order and hot bar meals from the Co-op Kitchen, through November 20.

And starting on November 16, you can get an early taste of Thanksgiving as the Co-op Kitchen hot bar rolls out the full Thanksgiving spread. 

Black Lives Matter

We acknowledge that the Ashland Food Co-op has not had a culture where all employees and community members felt safe sharing their experiences of discrimination in our store. We apologize for this. We are on a learning journey. We have reached out for help, and are listening to our Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) employees and owners who want to be part of the positive change we seek.

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Vendors & businesses donating to relief efforts

From day one of the Almeda Fires, the Co-op team wanted to help the community. They reached out to vendors across the region and country to ask for their help with products, supplies and food to get to the fire victims.

And that help came through in big ways, getting nutritious food to displaced families, home supplies in high demand, and wellness and food for first responders and firefighters. Thank you for supporting these businesses as thanks for their help in our community's relief efforts.

October news at the Co-op

October is typically Co-op month, to highlight how differently cooperatives do business. But instead of talking about the 7 Cooperative Principles, or the ownership benefits of being part of the Co-op, we only need to look at the past four weeks to see what being a cooperative really means.

As part of the co-op family, you've helped the entire community immensely. 

Support Co-op staff to rebuild

The Ashland Food Co-op is dedicated to helping our community and our staff rebuild after the Almeda Fires in early September. 

For immediate support, the Co-op gave $1,000 to staff who lost their homes in the fires, as well as $250 for food and other household needs for anyone displaced due to a level 3 evacuation order.

We are thankful for the connection that so many of you have to our staff - you depend on us for recommendations, special requests, and quality customer service; and we depend on you for smiles, kindness, and interactions that brighten our day. 

Smoke Safety

There are some straight-forward and helpful ways to look out for your health when smoke is in the Rogue Valley. Here are a few suggestions:

Smoke Safety Tips

10 Things to Do in Ashland (When It's Smoky)

Ashland is a paradise for the outdoors - but sometimes Mother Nature has different plans for us.

When smoke from wildfires becomes an issue, there are still plenty of great activities to enjoy around our wonderful town. Check out this list for some inspiration!

Change for Good in September: Southern Oregon Land Conservancy

For the month of September, Ashland Food Co-op shoppers can round up at the register to support Southern Oregon Land Conservancy. Since 1973, SOLC has been working on multiple fronts to improve land quality and conservation for humans and nature alike. Check out some of the projects below that SOLC has been working on recently. And mark your calendar for Saturday, October 24, as SOLC hosts an Open Lands Day hike and tour on the Rogue River Preserve.

Chatting about community giving with JPR's "Jefferson Exchange"

Recently, Julie O'Dwyer, Ashland Food Co-op board vice-president, joined a panel of guests on Jefferson Public Radio's "Jefferson Exchange" to discuss how the pandemic has led to an even greater need for community giving and support of local non-profits.

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