Published September 1, 2016 by Food Co-op Initiative
By Adrianna Young from Hondo, Texas.
The staff at FCI loves hearing about the great events that startup co-ops offer. They build membership, teach people about co-ops, and bring the communities together over food, and local food systems. FCI wants to share some of these with you in our blog stories on Great Events.
Hondo Co-op Market in Texas is in Stage 1 development stage, and Adrianna Young is a driving force behind getting this startup launched. Community meetings have moved them forward towards incorporation. They are working hard to show their community—a blend of small town surrounded by farms and ranches—to understand what a co-op is, and why Hondo needs one. Adrianna welcomes questions at firstname.lastname@example.org., and we are glad she is willing to share this first tabling experience with others.
Hello from Hondo, is a rural community in south central Texas with a population of about 9,000 residents. Rich with agricultural resources, farmers and local producers, several of our local farmers provide produce for our two large grocers in town, H.E.B and Walmart. Many of Hondo residents share the common vision that Hondo is an ideal place for a retail food cooperative. We have been inspired by the growing interest in the co-op and the flourishing attendance at each monthly meeting.
We started formally organizing in Spring 2016. Our first outreach event was 4th of July in ‘God’s Country’, the local nickname for Hondo. We chose the annual Independence Day celebration because we felt prepared to start outreach, and the event is a manageable size. As a fledgling startup we had limited workers, but we felt this would be a good first event for us. Committing to the day forced us to get more of our early organizing work done. We needed to table, but first we needed to clarify our mission.
Two weeks beforehand we held a meeting to create our vision statement. We broke into small groups with a list of questions to discuss and answer. After about twenty minutes we read everyone’s ideas and created one vision statement. This would ensure we were all on the same page and could share the same information with our prospective members at our outreach event.
Hondo Co-op Market is a member-owned, locally-focused consumer co-op serving the surrounding Medina community. Hondo Co-op Market provides access to local produce, local services, high quality products at the best possible price and a community space for cooking and wellness classes. Hondo Co-op Market furnishes a central vending location for local producers.
Our goal for the event was to promote the idea of having a retail food co-op in Hondo and to poll interest from individuals that shared the same vision. We also wanted to share food items made with local ingredients. Another intention was to connect with local businesses and local producers and get their feelings and opinion on a food cooperative in Hondo. Our main tool for reaching out has been social media and email.
Preparation for the event was easy and not too expensive. Our local print shop created our banner. ($50) A friend picked it up for me and paid for it, her donation for the event. I purchased a 12 by 12 foot canopy, and attached our banner. Two main tables served for sign-up sheets and informational materials. I created a nice informational flyer to hand out.A homemade soap display promoting support for a local family business. We sold patty pan squash muffins and zucchini bread muffins for $.50-1.00, but we only sold a few. Next time, we will have our treat tables closer to the front of the canopy.
We decided that we would have free art for children—vegetable coloring sheets, bubble wrap art, jewelry making and simple chicken origami activity. The kiddos and families had a blast! (I researched art ideas and purchased the supplies; we had two supporters give $90 collectively to help with material costs). I painted the signs for each art activity and set up three tables for each activity.The tables stayed busy throughout the evening. We stayed pretty busy helping the kiddos with their projects. We had six co-op supporters helping at our booth, some in short shifts and some until cleanup at 11:00 p.m.
This event was a success. Next time, fewer art projects, and more focus on local food and co-op. The art projects became too involved and seemed to take away quality chatting time with prospective members. In the future perhaps an easy coloring page, local food samples, and more local items on display.
Our volunteers were awesome and were confident in Hondo Co-op Market’s vision.They were all very comfortable sharing the benefits of a food co-op in Hondo. For our next event, it might be helpful to have volunteers outside of the canopy greeting supporters. Prep hours for the event ran about 4-6 hours for a small group of volunteers doing research, printing flyers, painting signs, picking up t-shirts from printer. Research art ideas, travel time to San Antonio for materials (35 miles from Hondo).
Advice I can give to another Stage 1 having their first event? Colorful banner, matching t-shirts, a vision statement to communicate to prospective members, meet before your event to plan activities, perhaps create a shift schedule for volunteers, be sure of your focus for the day. I feel we focused on the art projects too much. Bring lots of water to drink and snacks. Have supplies like duct tape, Sharpies, extra poster boards, pens, zip ties for fastening items to your canopy, and light up your canopy! It draws attention. Play music, smile and most of all have fun!
Our next outreach event will be in October at the Camo 5K Run. We are also in the planning stages for Hondo Co-op Market’s Local Taste event. We learned a lot this round, and are really looking forward to doing more outreach and building excitement for our future co-op.
FCI: Why We Like This: Getting the word out that you are planning for a co-op, and talking to community members about what a co-op can mean to your community, is a critical first step for every startup. Jumping in to advocate while you are still learning the co-op ropes may seem scary, but it can create awesome community involvement. Plan continued public events as the behind the scenes work of organizing ramps up, and move towards being able to start your member/owner drive.