Grow or Die!

Celebrating 35 Years

The East End Food Co-op (EEFC) is Vancouver’s oldest – and only – consumer-owned grocery store. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the store, too. Honestly, it’s probably the second best part of my neighbourhood, which is located at the Northern end of Commercial Drive – the best part of my ‘hood are the people who live across the hall from me. For the bast two years, I’ve been a member of the EEFC’s board of directors – we do our best to represent the needs of the Co-op’s membership. These needs, wants and ideas range from providing a healthy range of local products, building relationships with ethical vendors, offering a selection of fair trade products amongst our non-local items (like delicious, delicious coffee), and personalized orders.

And, as a member, you get to have a say in what we do and how we do it.

As written about before on this blog, co-operatives are a thing to celebrate. Whether your business is mountain equipment, food in Toronto or professional hockey, it is a refreshing thing to have your shareholders be the very consumers of your product(s) and/or service(s). According to Harvard’s Henry Mintzberg, the future of business will look more like these examples of co-operative, community-minded models than, you know, the non-accountable shareholder and profits-before-people models we have now.

Recent findings show that 99.2% of people on Earth agree with this necessary, from-business-to-community transformation. Unfortunately, we’re quite far away from such a thing.

The Need to Grow or Die

Our world is a chaotic one. Times have been better for the EEFC, not to mention pretty much every other small, community-minded grocery store on Commercial Drive and beyond. Many things have added to our business being in a tough spot. The recession. The Olympics. Opportunistic multi-national food conglomerates. Fuel prices. Razor-thin-operational margins. Pirates. All of these compounding factors have impacted – or are impacting – the EEFC in a negative way.

Like I said, we your help. We need to grow our business or die trying. If you’re a member, you’ve got a stake in this campaign – heck, you’re one of the many owners! So, over the summer, I encourage you to spread like wildfire these Ten Amazing Rumours About the East End Food Co-op:

  1. Member Appreciation Days: Are you a member? Awesome! Do you want to be a member? Awesomer! You get 10% off everything in the store on Wednesdays and Thursdays all summer long!
  2. Doug Smith is a Rock Star: Doug is the EEFC’s fearless leader who also plays a mean bass – if you’d like to know more about Doug’s rockin’ ways, please email me today for exclusive video footage!
  3. Organic, Fair Trade Bananas! What?! Such things exist? Yes. They do. Stop by and check ‘em out.
  4. Great deals. Check out the Manager’s Specials today!
  5. Stop supporting Corporate Socialism. Ridiculous subsidies to agro-business and petroleum-based supply chains have rigged the food-delivery game against local initiatives like the EEFC. Nobody (except Kurt and Monsanto) likes socialism, so reward good, local, sustainable free enterprise by shopping at the EEFC.
  6. The EEFC supports its community. Buy a re-usable cloth bag and a portion of the money goes to a local charity or special cause, like the Stone Soup Film Festival!
  7. BOD Hugs! That’s right, folks. Free hugs. Just track down an EEFC Board Member and let us know what kind of hug suits you best.
  8. Kraft Dinner. Sorry, Rumour 5, but the EEFC listens to its members. Even if those members want Kraft Dinner.
  9. Shopping Carts. The carts are so amazing and agile that a few were taken from the store! Not cool, a-holes. Kinda cool, possibly senile seniors who mistook the carts for their walkers.
  10. Celebrity Appearances. Every now and again some local/international celebrities show up to the Co-op. Thing is, the only way to see them is to make sure you’re in the store every day. Will Trevor Linden stop by and give out free hugs with the Board Members? Yes!*

So there it is. Some 100% absolutely mostly true rumours that you must spread about the East End Food Co-op. We’ve got the best food for the best price from the best people in Vancouver. And we can’t wait to see you again or meet you for the first time!

- JCH

*No! …this probably won’t happen…but it could!

2010: The Year of Your Community

Findings show that happy people are the least likely to make New Year's resolutions

Findings show that happy people are the least likely to make New Year's resolutions

Here we are in 2010. Let’s resolve some stuff. In the early days and weeks of 2010, according to a survey cited by The Happiness Project, about 20% of people resolve to lose weight, approximately 16% strive to quit smoking, and 12% aim to spend less.

These are important goals, for certain, but we as individuals and communities can – and should – strive to have much, much higher expectations of ourselves and, whether one tries to be healthier, thriftier, more responsible, more learned, or more of a leader, following through on resolutions, goals and strategy should be more about our communities than ourselves. After all, no great thing – such as transforming the North American consumer’s relationship with debt – was ever accomplished by an individual. For such things it takes a community. Think about re-framing your resolutions and transform your goals from me to we!

Your goals for the New Year can – and should – totally sync and jive with the needs of your community. For example, setting goals around weight is a tricky business. Any Registered Dietitian, like Simon Fraser University’s Rosie Dhaliwal, will tell you that a physical wellness is about eating a variety of healthy foods that follow the recommendations in Canada’s Food Guide and staying physically active. The binge and purge and peaks and valleys of dieting can be precarious, especially when expectations are not realistic. Recent findings show that diets just plain don’t work, too. In fact, dieting is typically adopted as a short-term solution to weight management and can actually divert you from behaviors likely to be more effective in long-term weight management. Some studies argue that dieting actually leads to weight gain. Finally, making your eating and exercising habits more about lifestyle change than post-Christmas-purging will help you get to know your community. Actively embrace your favourite parts of the 100 Mile Diet – such as cutting down on meat and fish, eating food that is in season and searching for the perfect combination of local organic produce at your friendly neighbourhood farmers markets. Check out Edible Communities to find great local food options near you! It’s just an idea, but a weekly bike ride to a farmers market – where you get to travel slowly and intimately through your community – might be a healthier alternative than taking pills that will force you to be no further than three meters away from a bathroom at all times.

This apple should probably focus less on numbers and more on living a healthy, balanced lifestyle!

This apple should probably focus less on numbers and more on living a healthy, balanced lifestyle!

I chose food as an example because, as many of The Daily Gumboot’s Correspondents will tell you, what we eat truly reflects who we are and what our communities stand for. The tips below work equally well for spending less, smoking less, learning more, and all the rest of it. Personally, I would love to see you the individual and you the community member have fantastically successful years (you can determine your own spectacular success, my friend). You will need to have a sense of urgency – any Incan will tell you that we’re only a few years away from the end of the world, so it’s probably a good idea to start, um, pulling your weight immediately. Here’s how:

  • Write down your “story of 2009″ – be honest; what worked well, what needs improvement, and what does this say about you?
  • This is the year of ____________! Take a page from the playbook of leadership guru Robin Sharma, and set up your “theme” for 2010: is it “the year of financial freedom” or “the year of professional polish” or “the year of listening” or, as I will suggest to my dear friend Jim Clifford, “the year of historical notoriety”?
  • Set goals. And tell people about them. It sounds simple, but less than 20% of people actually follow through on New Year’s resolutions. So, be sure your goals are strategic, measurable, achievable, realistic, and take place along a timeline – make ‘em SMART! Once your goals are set, tell people what they are. This will hold you accountable and also help your community motivate you towards amazing success!
  • List the three things that have to happen for your theme to be realized and your goals to be achieved in 2010. For example, we should all be helping Jim and the team at Activehistory.ca get noticed by the mainstream media with the hope of them rightfully being given a voice at the local, regional, national, and global decision making tables.
  • Ask yourself this question: what will this do to help my community?

For me, this is The Year of Building Relationships that Build Community. The most important relationship I’ve got going is the one with my wife to be, Michelle, who will – if all goes well – still marry me in July 2010. This modest online publication is also expanding its authorial voice with a talented rotation of new bloggers, which will help to expand our grasp empire influence diabolical reach of Johnism ideas from everywhere to even more people in more communities from here to Buenos Aires to Nairobi to Germania to Toronto and back again. I also have a real job that I should probably try really hard to keep, too…and building on the relationships I have will surely help!

Those are my goals, anyway. What are yours?

- JCH

Phil Soloman

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to an ongoing segment here at The Daily Gumboot. It’s called “Get to Know Your Community” and, basically, it goes like this: each and every Sunday we will profile someone from a community somewhere. Each person is asked the same five questions (see below as well as in the “Ideas from Everywhere” page). At the end of the profile, the Gumbooteer (member of this blog’s Editorial Board) who found the person will list their three favourite things about the highlighted community member. Savvy?

Here are some ideas from everywhere. Here is one way that we try to build community. Have fun with it!

Phil, intimidated by the amazing and powerful head shot of Doug Smith, didn't send one along - use your imagination on this one, people!

Phil, intimidated by the amazing and powerful head shot of Doug Smith, didn't send one along - use your imagination on this one, people!

1. Who are you?

I’m Phil Solman, publisher of Edible Vancouver magazine. I’m a Brit by birth, but Vancouver and Greece are my spiritual homes; the places that I feel most ‘me’.

2. What is your favourite community and why?

Am I allowed two favourites? East Van; in particular The Drive, which is a ‘real’ community with tons of owner-operated stores and cafes. Whenever I have free time I gravitate towards The Drive to visit bookstores, coffee shops and to pick up great produce, cheese, meats, etc. The whole area is created for human interaction whereas most shopping streets are designed to shift maximum product in minimum time and have no soul (strip malls!!! Ugh!)
My other favourite community is Edible Communities. It’s not a place; it’s a family of independent magazines from all across North America that are dedicated to rebuilding local food systems in their region. When we get together once a year it’s a great buzz. Imagine publishers and editors from 60 Edible magazines sharing stories, successes and challenges. We are on a mission to change the way North America eats.

3. What do you do for fun?

Spend time with the Editor of Edible Vancouver. No, really! We’re a couple and even though we live and work together, we still love to just hang out with each other, talk and laugh.

4. What is your superpower?

Optimism in the face of seriously negative news.

5. How do you use it to build community?

Pessimism may seem to make sense, but none of us actually ‘know’ the future and pessimism creates a ‘What’s the point’ kind of attitude, so it’s ultimately defeating. I get angry when I see all that’s wrong in our world, but I choose to be optimistic and talk about what’s possible in the future, rather than dwell too much on what’s wrong today. This way I inspire myself (and hopefully others) to work towards making things better.

My three favourite things about Phil are…

1. He is a helper. I met Phil because of his generous offer to use the power of the internet to spread the word about the East End Food Co-op. The EEFC is fortunate to have a champion like Phil, who weaves our modest little grocery store into the story of local food in Vancouver. Clearly, Phil approaches life, the universe and everything with humility, passion and a true sense of connecting communities to improve the world.

2. He likes pirates. First thing we talked about during our meetings were pirates and the role they play on The Daily Gumboot. He knew his stuff about the democratic nature of a pirate crew, shared some interesting ideas on modern piracy, and even taught me a thing or two!

3. Entrepreneurship defines him. Edible Vancouver is beautiful in a myriad of ways. And Phil helps make it so. The way he is using Twitter and other social media to raise Edible’s online presence and leverage their position as the story on local food in the city is truly impressive. He is creative, visionary and, with our help, can take the his publication to spectacular new heights. After all, the world is turning more and more to local products, eh?

As told by John Horn…