From the Board President: Board Election Results and Other News

A recent encounter I had with a community member about the Cedar Falls Food Co-op reminded me that no matter how many conversations you have, how many social media posts are created, and how many presentations are made in front of civic groups, the idea of what the Co-op will be is still not clearly understood by many. So even though “Joe” knew about the Co-op, including what the cost of a membership is and that we were searching for a location, I could tell he was still uncertain about many of the details. When you get to the core of his questioning, it was basically this: How is the Co-op different than any other business that might operate in Cedar Falls? Continue reading

From the Board President: See What’s Poppin’ at the Co-op

Before we get into this month’s column, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who helped make this year’s Fall Food Fest a smashing success! From the farmers, producers, and restaurateurs to the musicians, to the face painters, to all the volunteers who helped move tables and chairs, hung posters around town, and more. This is what it means to build community. This is what happens when people work together for a cause. It’s amazing to see. I can’t wait to see all the good things that happen after we open a store!

Now, on to our topic…Continue reading

From the Board President: Board Candidate Filing Deadline Extended

Have you ever served on a board of directors? If so, you probably attended regular meetings, reviewed annual budgets, and gave feedback on programs and marketing plans. All very important work. But your role was likely around continuing the work of the organization.

Right now, there’s a new opportunity you should consider: Serving on a board to help launch an organization. If elected to serve on the board, you will be part of the leadership of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op as it journeys through the single most important event in its history: The grand opening of the store!

The deadline to submit applications to serve on the board of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op has been extended: The new deadline is Wednesday, Sept. 12. Complete details can be found here.

About the Board

One of the distinguishing aspects of your Co-op is the fact that any member can serve on the board of directors. The Co-op fully embraces Cooperative Principal #2, Democratic Governance, and wants you to know that if you’ve got the passion for bringing a full-service grocery story that focuses on local and healthy, and that is an investment in our community, then you should consider running for the Co-op’s board of directors. Each summer there are there positions open on the board, each serving a three-year term.

What does the Board Do?

The Board is responsible for ensuring organizational performance on behalf of all of the Co-op’s owners. Currently, the work of the Board of Directors is geared towards establishing a physical store. Once established, the work will shift to developing clearly stated expectations for the General Manager through written policies; delegating responsibility for, and authority over, the achievement of stated objectives; and monitoring GM compliance with written policies.


On a personal note, having served on the Co-op’s board has been a tremendous experience. In fact, I would say it’s one of the single most important experiences of my life. It has truly been a pleasure to serve our growing membership and help turn our dream into reality.

Please let me know if you have any questions about serving on the board – send me an email and I’ll get you some answers. Thanks for your consideration!


That’s an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often, and one that I urge you to consider.

In cooperation,

Tom Wickersham


From the Board President: More Myths About the Co-op

Before I jump into this month’s article, I want to take a moment to give a shout out to our peer food co-op Prairie Roots Food Co-op, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary. Congrats to another successful start-up food cooperative – one that’s provided a lot of support for our effort here in the Cedar Valley. (We love Cooperation among Co-ops!)

Speaking of starting a food co-op, did you know that the Cedar Falls Food Co-op is getting close to announcing a site location? If all goes well, we should have an announcement by the end of the month. Keep watching our Facebook page for details!

In the meantime, it’s time to revisit an article I wrote a few years ago, The Top 6 Myths About the Food Co-op. I think it’s time to expand that list. So, without further ado, here are 6 additional myths about food co-ops and the Cedar Falls Food Co-op:


Myth #7: The Cedar Falls Food Co-op is like the NewBo City Market

FACT: The NewBo City Market, located near the downtown in Cedar Rapids, is a space filled with separate businesses, operating much like a business incubator. In contrast, the Cedar Falls Food Co-op is one business—a grocery store, which will purchase goods from local growers and producers, and sell those on their behalf. A better picture of what the Co-op will look like is in this video.

Myth #8: Because of its name, the Cedar Falls Food Co-op will only be for Cedar Falls residents

FACT: Anyone can shop the Coo-op! In fact, my wife and I shop at food co-op across the country, often going out of our way to visit food co-ops for lunch or to grab some food for the journey. Not only will the Co-op serve the entire Cedar Valley, it will generate tourism dollars from other folks who stop by on their way through town. Also, don’t forget that unlike businesses like Costco, you don’t have to be a member (or really, owner) to shop the Co-op.

Myth #9: The Co-op will be bad for the farmers markets

FACT: On the contrary, the Co-op will be a boost for the farmers markets. Between promoting/advocating the value of purchasing locally and providing the farmers with yet another outlet to sell their wares, food co-ops across the country work in collaboration with their local farmers markets. One of my favorite examples is the Neighborhood Co-op (Carbondale, IL), which hosts their community’s farmers market in its parking lot. Talk about synergy!

Myth #10: The Co-op will benefit from numerous grants

FACT: While it’s true that cooperatives are sometimes eligible for grants, and that the Cedar Falls Food Co-op was the beneficiary of one such grant ($300 for to help cover expenses to attend the annual food co-op conference), the reality is that grant opportunities are few and far between, especially for us here in Iowa, which doesn’t have as robust a cooperative infrastructure as many other states. Don’t forget that cooperatives are not nonprofits (see previous article).

Myth #11: It will be expensive to shop at the Co-op

FACT: Prices at food co-ops are competitive with conventional grocery stores. Sure, it’s true that the Cedar Falls Food Co-op will pay workers more than conventional stores, and will give back more to the community (as a percentage of its profits). (And it’s true that our prices might be a bit higher during our first few years after opening.) But the Co-op also benefits from being a member of a national organization and supplier, which will help make some prices even lower than the competition. But even if the prices were a bit higher, wouldn’t that be worth it if you factor in how much money is kept locally, how much co-ops nurture community, and how much co-ops benefit the environment? I thought so.

Myth #12: Opening the doors of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op is inevitable

FACT: The Cedar Falls Food Co-op is close to announcing a location, but that doesn’t mean there’s not much work left to do. In fact, the final stage of opening a $2.5 million business requires a lot of hard work. Many thanks to all the volunteers who’ve helped with this process so far. However, there’s much left to be done – if you are interested in rolling up your sleeves to help with governance, marketing, finance, or events, please drop me a line at


Thanks so much for reading this month’s column. Please let me know if you have other ideas for future articles.

In cooperation,

Tom Wickersham


From the Board President: Finding a Home for the Cedar Falls Food Co-op

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, you need a team.” – John Wooden


Last month, at an event I attended for my nonprofit day job, I was approached by someone who told me that he heard where the Cedar Falls Food Co-op will be located. “That’s news to me!” I exclaimed. Perhaps you’ve heard a rumor (or two?) as well.


Over the years, the Cedar Falls Food Co-op’s board has worked diligently, guiding our development towards the opening of a store much like this one. At each step in the Co-op’s growth, we’ve wrestled with countless issues and have made significant decisions including the name of the Co-op, the amount of a membership, and the qualifications we’ll require from potential general managers.

Continue reading

From the Board President: What Does Maddie Poppe Have to do with the Cedar Falls Food Co-op?

Even someone like me who doesn’t watch a lot of TV couldn’t escape the Maddie Poppe news – Clarksville’s own won this year’s American Idol competition. There were celebrations everywhere. Tons of coverage in the papers and local news stations. “Maddie Poppe Fever” was a thing. And signs everywhere. Clarksville hosted a parade and declared May 15 as Maddie Poppe Day. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds attended Maddie’s concert at the Butler County Fairgrounds.

So, what’s the big deal? Why all the attention? The answer is simple: local pride. As one concert-goer noted, “We may not have any stoplights in Butler Co., but we do have a shining star.” Note the possessive quality of this statement. People in northeast Iowa, and across the state, are taking pride in “one of our own” winning a national contest.

What are YOU proud of about the place you live? Folks in Dyserville are proud of their Field of Dreams. Waterloo is proud of Dan Gable and the Sullivan Brothers. Iowans are proud of the Bridges of Madison County and RAGBRAI. If you’re from Decorah, you’re proud of one of the best breweries in the world.Continue reading

From the Board President: In the Home Stretch! Getting Ready to Enter the Third and Final Stage of Development

After years of planning, we’re finally getting ready for some of the most dramatic steps in the Co-op’s development, namely site selection, the investment campaign, and designing the store. It’s a very exciting time indeed!


This is not to say that writing bylaws and conducting a market study weren’t exciting in their own right, but the final stage is most exciting because this is where the vision turns into reality.

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From the Board President: Don’t Miss Out: The Window of Opportunity to Become a Founding Member is Closing

New Pioneer Food Co-op started in Iowa City in 1971. Oneota Food Co-op began in Decorah in 1973. And Wheatsfield Food Co-op traces its roots in Ames back to 1974. Nearly 50 years later, all three of these food co-ops are still thriving. They have each grown and expanded over the years. But most importantly, all of them have become an integral part of the fabric of their respective communities. These stores are icons, not only in Iowa City, Decorah, and Ames, but also across the U.S. (Check out this picture of a New Pioneer T-shirt I found on display last summer at the Brattleboro Food Co-op in Vermont!)

A 1994 New Pioneer staff T-shirt is part of a quilt at the Brattleboro Food Co-op.

Right now, people in Cedar Falls and the surrounding communities are joining together to build a similar legacy here, a business that’s owned by members of the community for the community. With each new member of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op, we get closer to opening the doors.

But when those doors open for the first time, the window of opportunity to become a Founding Member closes.Continue reading

From the Board President: 9 Things about the Co-op You Probably Didn’t Know

“How many members do we have now?” is a question I’m asked frequently (729 as of writing this). The number of member-owners is a gauge; it helps tell the story of how close we are to opening our doors. But there are other numbers that also tell the story of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op. In the spirit of the “Love Your Co-op” month, let’s dive into some of them. How many of these do you know?

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From the President: Tom’s Annual Grab Bag Full of Year End Updates

The year is almost over, and that means it’s time for my annual grab bag column. Much like the lunches I just had over the recent holiday weekend, the assorted tidbits and details should make a full meal. Enjoy!


New Board Leadership

At the November meeting of your board of directors, we elected new officers and realigned some of our committee leadership. Here are the new or updated roles:

Tom Wickersham, President

Andrew Morse, Vice president

Jess Cruz, Secretary

Scott Wirtz, Treasurer

Brenna Griffin, Membership Chair

Jess Cruz, Communications Chair

Scott Wirtz, Finance Chair

Terry Stewart, Operations Chair

Andrew Morse, Capital Campaign Chair

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