Unwavering Spirit in a Time of Change

By Emile Amarotico, General Manager

It’s been two months since my last update on our Co-op community, but it could just as well have been two years ago, or from an alternate reality! Needless to say, life at the Co-op has changed, and it hasn’t been easy for employees or shoppers. But despite the challenges, it has been an inspiring and reaffirming time that reminds us why we love the cooperative enterprise.

It is impossible not to be proud of the care and compassion the Co-op community has shown since the coronavirus began to impact our daily lives. That started with the Co-op Board of Directors deciding unanimously that 100% of the over $600,000 patronage dividends for 2019 should be returned to owners. In most years, a portion of that amount is retained for future development and reinvestment in Co-op operations, but knowing the financial insecurity that many are facing in light of the pandemic, we wanted to maximize assistance to our community. One shopper let us know they had not yet received any unemployment benefits, so their dividend return was literally keeping food on the table.

For others, the 100% dividend was an opportunity for charity. With the option to donate dividends to the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, over $15,000 has already been donated to help those facing food insecurity.

There’s also been no lack of volunteer support. At the beginning of April, the CDC and other health authorities began to recommend face coverings in public. With the aim of protecting Co-op employees without taking away medical-grade N95 masks from health care workers, a group of six community members, led by board member Julie O’Dwyer, stitched together enough masks for each employee to have a fresh one each day. Thanks again to Joe Dunbar, Erin McConnell, Erica Thompson, board member Trine Ostergaard, Jenni Presley, and Cindy Goodwin for their selfless work. Additionally, we’re seeing neighbors arrive with large shopping lists to pick up groceries for vulnerable neighbors.

Of course, there have been difficulties. We celebrate the diverse backgrounds and viewpoints that the Rogue Valley nurtures, and have tried to accommodate everyone without being overly restrictive. But there’s no blueprint for businesses or individuals on how to navigate a global pandemic, so we know we won’t get it right 100% of the time. Please know that we are looking to healthcare professionals and national examples of other co-ops and grocery stores to keep safety as the main priority. We hope that you’ll continue to support our employees and each other with patience and kindness (and masks, too!).

Summer is just around the corner and we hope that we might return to something resembling where we were this time last year. We will continue to provide great customer service, healthy food, support for local growers and producers, and warmth and caring to the best of our ability and within the guidelines of health experts. Thanks for being part of what makes this Co-op and our community such a great place to be, and for rising to the challenge of doing our best for our neighbors.

More Co-op News

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.

JPR logo

Coronavirus Preparedness at the Co-op

The Ashland Food Co-op acknowledges and shares our community’s concerns about protecting against the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The safety and health of staff and customers is a top priority for the Co-op. We are taking proactive steps throughout our store to maintain a clean atmosphere to work and shop.

We have consolidated store changes below.

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.

Those who are unable or choose not to wear a mask are welcome to use our recently launched eGrocery online shopping and curbside pickup service as an alternative to shopping in-store.

Get to know Ashland Emergency Food Bank

The sixth cooperative principle, "Concern for Community," has become even more important since the pandemic began and economies, locally and globally, started to constrict. To address this, the Board of Directors agreed in April to release 100% of patronage dividends and designate Ashland Emergency Food Bank as a donation option for those dividends - resulting in over $20,000 in donations. And with the early launch of Change for Good register round-up, AEFB was a natural choice to receive round-up donations. 

2020 Co-op Election Results

2020 Co-op Election Results

Ashland Food Co-op owners voted for three open seats on the Board of Directors, and for ten non-profit organizations for the Change for Good register round-up program.

Click a name below to read more about that Co-op Board member.

Co-op Owners Step-Up to Support the Ashland Emergency Food Bank!

AFC and AEFB Press Release - Local Strength!

Release Date: 5-26-2020

In April, the Ashland Food Co-op Board of Directors announced to the community that the Co-op would be returning 100% of the 2019 Patronage Dividend to its owners. The 100% Patronage Dividend return to Co-op owners converted to over $628,000.

The Co-op Board felt in this time of great need it was not the right time for the Co-op to put away funds for the future, but rather to support owners fully so they may have more strength to weather these stormy times.

Free Monday Night Lectures - virtual and recorded

Thanks to the many agile and adaptable experts in the Rogue Valley, the much-loved Free Monday Night Lectures live on - even if everything is moving online.

While we miss seeing community members with a joy of learning showing up at the Co-op Classroom, we hope these recordings teach and inspire you. 


Open letter from AFC Board on Coronavirus Policies

The Ashland Food Co-op has played a critical role supporting our community for nearly 50 years by providing healthy food and a safe place to shop. With the recent COVID-19 shutdown, this support has been even more important and has stretched our organization in ways that we could not have anticipated. We have endeavored to address the needs of both our staff and our customers, hopefully in the most cooperative manner.

Owner Voting on 2020 Co-op Board & more

As an owner of the Ashland Food Co-op, you are an important decision-maker in the leadership of the Co-op! A vital part of your ownership is voting for the Board of Directors.

On the ballot: Vote for Board Candidates and Change for Good Organizations

Vote for Board Candidates
This year, four candidates are nominated for three Board positions: each elected Board director will serve a three-year term. The candidates are Ed Claassen, Mark Gibbs, Carolina Livi and Julie O'Dywer.

A dozen local favorites to explore this summer

The Co-op has always had a focus on supporting the strong local scene of growers and producers - and in these times, it's even more important. Here is just a small selection of some of our favorites from the area.  Help support local businesses next time you stop by the Co-op by picking one of these products.