Tag: Co-op

  • We have exciting news! | 08.29.2016

    New deli!We have just launched a full scale deli remodel that will bring you a new and expanded salad bar, a hot food bar, new sandwiches, pizza, and a new grab & go case, with new recipes alongside your many favorites. We’re getting new equipment that will help us be more efficient so that we can get you great tasting, quality food quicker than ever before. And it’s just around the corner. This is very exciting news… a real game changer for us.

    And, right now as we are in the thick of this critical time in our co-op’s future, our customer traffic and our sales have reached a concerning low level. Paying our bills during this time of low cash (as a result of low sales) makes it a challenge to keep the shelves stocked with all of your favorite products. This has been a trying time for us. The staff and the Board of Directors, with the help of National Co-op Grocers, have been fighting hard to get us to this point.


    Right now we need our member support more than ever!

    It will help immensely if you can concentrate your purchases at the Co-op as much as possible while we make our market a better place for everyone.



    Look for hundreds of these everyday low prices!

    We continue to have the largest selection of local foods in Billings. That’s important to all of us. And, we offer great, everyday low prices on hundreds of Co-op Basics items throughout the store. We also have screaming Hot Deals that have been a great value for our customers and are changing the hours of our Beer & Wine Happy Hour to better fit your work schedule. Now you can get 10% off all beer and wine from 3pm to 6pm, Monday through Friday.



    Buy a $50 gift card for only $40!

    And if that’s not enough to get your attention, now through the end of October you can purchase a $50 Good Earth Market Gift Card for just $40. That is a 20% savings and there is no limit on these cards, so buy more and save more. Buying a gift card now and using it for future shopping will be a great way for the co-op to generate cash. It’s a “WIN WIN” for all!

    Come in and take advantage of all these great promotions and support your co-op at the same time. Tell your family. Tell your friends. Everyone is welcome. See you in the store and, of course, thank you so much for your continued support of Billings only local food co-op.

    Mike Howard
    General Manager

    Happy Hour 1up Vertical (4)-page-001


  • Board Notes: It’s our 10 year Anniversary! | 02.09.2016

    Pic - LP FairFebruary is a notable month for GEM – it is the month we moved into the great store we have occupied for TEN YEARS!!!!!! That’s right – TEN YEARS!!!!! On February 19 of 2006 we opened for business – it was a Sunday and it was a cold, cold day outside, but everything was warm and wonderful inside. HAPPY 10 YEARS TO ALL OF US. Looking back over the past 10 years brings to mind:

    • The first farm-to-table designated restaurant in Billings. We’ve got the best deli in the region, putting out the best food with the best local ingredients.

    Billings Gazette Reader’s Choice for Best Health Food Store – 5 times!

    Membership in the National Co-operative Grocers Association – helping us save on our wholesale cost of goods.

    Senator Max Baucus working day – the Senator chose GEM for his day of service in the community.

    Senator Jon Tester’s round table meetings upstairs – promoting and supporting local producers.

    Sunday Suppers – GEM started the movement to bring people together over local food prepared by local chefs.

    Earth Day celebrations – come rain or shine, we’re the place to celebrate Earth Day.

    The Farmer’s Market booth – providing a venue for GEM and our local producers to promote each other.

    The Art Walk and the Apple Gallery – we’re so thankful for our relationship with the local arts community.

    • The community of loyal co-op shoppers – we are so much more than a grocery store, we are a community of individuals who value our relationships with each other.

    Local producers – we are so fortunate to have great local producers and great local products every day.

    Newsletter advertisers – we appreciate your ongoing support of the Co-op!


    written by Carol Beam, GEM’s Board President



    Pic - Jon Tester

    Perry McNeese, Jon Tester, and Carol Beam


    We celebrated two annual meetings at the Babcock Theatre in Downtown Billings!


    We’ve been supporting Local Producers since our founding – farmer’s markets, Sunday Suppers, and so much more.

    Pic - SundaySupper4

    Local dining at it’s best at our Sunday Suppers.

    Pic - Patio2

    Our members pitched in and volunteered energy and resources to install a new patio.

    Pic - Max Baucus2

    Former Senator Max Baucus chose to do his Working Day at the Good Earth Market!



  • Seeking New Members for the Local Producer Committee | 11.17.2015

    Do you want to be involved with helping to highlight all of the great local food and the producers that make it for the Good Earth Market? If yes, consider becoming a part of the Local Producer Committee! Here are the details:

    Purpose: The Committee serves to increase awareness and consumption of local foods and products, and Good Earth Market’s unique role as a source of high quality local foods and goods.

    As a member of the Local Producer Committee you will: Educate the community about Good Earth Market and the importance of local, sustainably produced foods and goods, and provide information about where these items are produced and sold. You will also provide support for opportunities and venues that allow local growers and producers to provide products directly to consumers while supporting Good Earth Market.

    Time Commitment: Currently we meet monthly on the Third Tuesday of the month from 5-6, but are flexible given the needs of committee member schedules. There are some weekend events, such as the Local Producer Fair, that we help out with as well.
    If you are interested in learning more, email Maia Dickerson, the Local Producer Committee Chair.

  • So what’s the big deal with our store reset? | 07.16.2015

    IMG_4903We just finished our store reset!  So what’s the big deal?  Read what our GM, Mike Howard, has to say:

    I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about some of the many exciting things happening at our Co-op. As many of you may have already noticed, we have moved things around a little… ok, well a lot. And many of your favorite products are in new locations throughout the store. Our reasons for doing that were

    One, to improve flow and item location to make our Co-op easier to shop, and
    Two, to generate over 150 linear feet of aisle space to expand variety throughout the store.

    150 linear feet of retail space might come as a surprise because now our Co-op feels so much more open. How could we have created that much aisle space? We utilized space better by rearranging the bulk department to add another aisle of product and thoughtfully rearranging product on the shelves to make better use of shelf space. We also decreased the width of the endcaps to generate a more open, welcoming feel. These changes allowed us to add roughly 400 new products throughout the store!

    The reset was a huge, tedious task and it took a lot of hard work and long hours from our staff, many member volunteers, our main distributor (UNFI), plus many other brokers and sales representatives. We all put our heads and experience together and decided, as a team – what are some staple products our Co-op is missing? We went through every section with a fine tooth comb, using national and regional sales data in addition to all our own individual experience and combined knowledge of the natural foods industry. The result is even better then we could have imagined. We have expanded varieties on everyday products in key categories, such as

    – Condiments
    – Nut butters
    – Ethnic foods
    – Packaged grains
    – Soups
    – Pasta
    – Coffee
    – Hot cereal
    – Dried fruit
    – Baking items
    – Packaged spices
    – Snack items
    – Beverage
    – Cold pressed juices
    – Probiotic drinks
    – and so many more!

    If by chance you have not been in for a while, we welcome you to come by and see the improvements we’ve made to our Co-op.

    In addition to the improved variety and flow, we have been working hard on value. The department managers are buying more aggressively so we can have more aggressive prices. Make sure you check out the wall of values as you enter the store and see what great deals are available! And throughout the store we have so many Co-op Deals, Member Prices and Manager Specials to add value and variety to your shopping experience.

    IMG_5263[1]The end result more shoppable store that will reduce the need to shop other stores. Our hope is that you will concentrate your shopping to the Co-op and help us make it stronger.

    If by chance we have not have not met, or you have any questions whatsoever, feel free to ask for me the next time you are in and I would be happy to chat.

    Your Co-op General Manager,
    Mike Howard

    Want to see more pictures?  Check out the album on our Facebook page or our last blog.  Better yet, come to the store and see for yourself!

  • My Co-op is Extraordinary because… | 02.04.2014

    My Co-op is Extraordinary because edit for web

    In October, we unveiled our new board, located at the bottom of the stairs – “My Co-op is Extraordinary because…”.  This space for sharing and caring about what’s great about our co-op, friends, and the good food we eat is already filling up!  Next time you’re in the store, make it your first destination and share what YOU love about your co-op – here’s a selection from the board so far:

    “…I work with the BEST.  PEOPLE.  EVER.  And the Pumpkin Bars are amazing.  And the Kale Salad.  And the Eggplant Parmesan.  And And And…”

    “…Everyone knows you and greets you – I can buy REAL food!”

    “… Best customers ever.  J”

    “…Everyone always has a smile on their face and is super friendly!”

    “…of the people.  The staff, the members, Everyone.  J”

    “…The awesome peanut butter machine!  I want one of my own. Haha!”

    “…We care.”

    “….Every dollar that we spend locally (last year almost 2 million) creates $1.62 in LOCAL economic VITALITY!”

     In response… “Awesome!  Keep on shining.  You guys rock!”

    “…They care and show it!”

    “…Best sandwiches ever!”

    “…thanks for the turkey!”

    “…because it provides healthy and yummy choices of food.  As well as a great environment for me to study and get through college.  Thank you.”

    “…Buying great, local healthy food makes ya feel good on so many levels.”

    “…BEST!  Juice bar ever!  You have helped me stick to my healthy lifestyle change.  Thank you.”

    “…I love the sandwiches.”

    “…Best produce and deli ever!  Ever!”

    “…our team will work all day doing their regular work and an evening event and still put in a full day’s work the next day.”

    “…it’s my community!”

    “…It promotes local producers!”

    “…thank you for the food! J”

    “…You guys are the best!”

    “…I love the co-op.”

    “…We get to meet/know our producers…who are incredible!”

    “…Local, non-GMO food, supporting local farmers/business, supports the community.  And you’re friendly.  J”

    “…people are family.”

    “…Best organic produce in town!”

    In response, “Amen!”

    “…Best cashiers ever!  Love you guys!”

    “…because cooperatives offer an excellent business model that promotes a more sustainable, human, and community-based future in a world where such values are in short supply.  GEM is an amazing example of what a Co-op can be!”

  • New Members of our Board of Directors | 01.20.2014

    Congratulations to our recently elected Board Members!  During the month of October, with voting results announced at our Annual Meeting, you, the members, co-operatively elected Adam Cassie (newly appointed Treasurer), Maggie Zaback, and Theresa Keaveny (Secretary) to our board.

    These three board members join the following individuals on the Good Earth Market board of directors – Carol Beam, President; Kevin Dowling, newly appointed Vice President; Greg Jahn; Heide Mankin; Jeff Kreidler; and Diane Brien.   Learn more about our board of directors here.

    We would also like to thank those who have resigned from the board – Dana Pulis, Peter Tolton and Alan Ostby (former Treasurer).  We greatly appreciate your years of dedicated service to the Co-op, helping to grow our Co-op to where it is today.

    Our board of directors

    Front row left to right:  Greg Jahn, Jeff Kreidler

    Middle row, left to right:  Adam Cassie, Joshua Jackson (General Manager), Carol Beam, Perry McNeese (former General Manager), Diane Brien, Maggie Zaback

    Back row:  Kevin Dowling

  • Meet our New GM | 01.13.2014

    Joshua JacksonHello GEM family and thank you for the warm welcome! I can’t tell you how excited I am about joining the GEM Team, as I believe that the co-op has a lot of opportunity for growth in the Billings community. To start, I would like to provide a little background on myself.

    I believe that I am an energetic, ethical, innovative and egalitarian cooperative manager who values the Triple Bottom Line and believe that profits should serve to support people and place. I also believe that cooperatives are a viable and innovative sector of the economy, which serve to mobilize the skills and savings of all members of the community towards socially beneficial ends – and I personally treasure the values of community, sustainability, education, democracy and autonomy.

    From my experience running a natural food cooperative in Durango, Colorado, as well as over ten years of restaurant management, I have accumulated a number of critical skills needed to be a successful co-op leader. My accomplishments include partnership cultivation, team building, sound financial management, outstanding customer service, strong systems of communication, and clean and consistent branding. With my passion and experience, I feel competent to lead GEM to a fruitful and successful future.

    I truly believe that GEM is already a very successful organization, mainly due to the outstanding support of the community and devoted staff. I don’t think that any major or immediate changes are necessary, although I believe that refining a few areas could prove to provide more for the community and the staff.

    I envision GEM putting more energy into Outreach & Education, including: partnership cultivation with local organizations, building a strong and consistent brand that successfully communicates our vision for community support and success, and strengthening education for our staff and the community. In the store, I would like to build upon systems of efficiency and communication, as well as provide more products and services for our members, including a larger selection of fresh items (deli, produce, meat and cheese) and an expanded assortment of locally produced goods. I also believe that there is some opportunity to fix up the façade of the store including some new signage in the store, some improvement to the floors and more landscaping outside (in the spring, of course).

    With all of that, I can’t tell you how excited I am to work with each and every one of you in accomplishing these goals. I truly believe that there is a lot of opportunity for GEM to be a very influential organization in the Billings community, and I believe that the co-op should not only be trusted for its food, but also be expected to provide education and support for the Billings community – and I can’t wait to get started!

    – Joshua Jackson

    P.S.  I was born in Houston, Texas, in the 70’s, went to Texas A&M University and soon after, moved to Durango, Colorado.  For ten years prior to getting involved with co-ops, I managed restaurant and catering businesses.  Aside from my professional aspirations and love for cooperatives, I enjoy travelling, reading, whitewater rafting, snowboarding, surfing, backpacking, music, and long walks on the beach.

  • A Goodbye from Perry | 01.03.2014


    It is with a heavy heart and mixed emotions, that I write my comments this month.  As you may have heard, I have decided to retire from GEM at the end of the calendar year.  While I won’t be at the Market on a daily basis, I am still going to be an active member of the Co-op and will stay in close contact with the new General Manager and staff.

    Looking back, I can easily say the last 6 ½ years have been the highlight of my working career.  Not only has the Co-op grown exceptionally in both sales and membership, but it has changed me forever.  There in lies what has been truly satisfying.  I have learned the true importance of sustainable local food in our communities and our own lives.  You, the Members and producers, have taught me a whole new set of values that I will carry the rest of my life.  I have made many new relationships/friends that will be with me always.  GEM has become a real community, with cause and purpose, and is having a positive, accumulative impact on the communities we live in.  Please keep it moving forward, I know you will.

    Looking forward I see a bright future for the Co-op, one of both growth and challenges.   I am confident that we have a strong management team and Board in place to meet those challenges.  The Board is well on the way to finding a strong and qualified GM.  Sales so far thisfiscal year are on track to beat not only last year, but to surpass the record sales of the year before Natural Grocers opened.   We are half way to raising the funds for the new produce case remodel.  If you haven’t “Given an Inch”, please consider it soon, as the remodel is a critical part of getting ready for our newest competitor, Lucky’s, coming in February.  As for me, I will be focusing on my family and fencing business with an eye on the Co-op.  I will be available to consult with the Board and new GM, and can see some working member projects that I haven’t gotten around to, and will run for the Board next fall.

    I will ask you all to keep in mind that Good Earth Market is a “Cooperative” and is only as strong as its loyal shopping, supporting, participating Members.  I will count on you to do your part in the years to come and commit to doing mine.

    So to my many newly found friends, and all of the Members, Producers and Staff I wish you well!

    Hope to see you in the coming months,


  • An Attitude of Gratitude | 11.18.2013

    Happy Holidays from the co-op staff!

    On a Friday afternoon, we asked our staff what they were most thankful for…

    Melissa Blaine, Deli
    ….for my job and for the people that I work with.  I’m thankful to have my own place and great friends and family to come over and hang out. It’s the simple things that really matter, like going to get a coffee.  Things people don’t think about.”

    Dan Davis, Produce & Bulk Manager
    …for the health of my baby boy on the way.

    Jennifer Sexton, Cashier
    …the awesome fall and for rain.

    Margaret Murray, Deli
    …for change.

    Teresa Regan, Deli
    …to be alive, to be free, to be a mother, and to have a wonderful place to work.

    Tracy Treinen, Office Manager & Meat Buyer
    …for family and friends.

    Nolan Fry, Deli
    … to be alive and relatively healthy.  I’m doin’ pretty good.

    Chris Webb, Deli
    …for my wife, my two daughters, and my two dogs.

    Mallory Harman, Deli
    …for water, yoga and wise words.  I’m thankful for my niece, vegetables, & the opportunity to travel.  I’m thankful for snow, the changing trees, & Good Earth Market.  I’m thankful for today.

    Ben Anderson, Lead Grocery Clerk
    …for my friends and family, my job, my car, and my health.

    Connie Brock, Cashier
    …for the privilege of showing up and being seen.  For all that has brought me to this place in my life.  And of course dogs and chocolate don’t hurt anything either.

    Tim Caraway, Deli
    …for my job & family life.  And new beginnings.  And money.  I hate money, but you have to have it.

    Dolly Fansler, Wellness Manager 
    …for opportunities and challenges.  And Google.

    Dawn Gauchay, Deli
    …for freedom and being out of prison after 18 years.  And for my family and my friends and my lady.

    Carole Kiel, Kitchen Manager
    …for my sisters, my heath, and Obamacare.

    Joe Vaden, Cashier and Grocery Clerk
    …for my new family.  I am very thankful for that.  And my Good Earth Market family – they’ve helped me out a lot.

    Sarah Daniels, Produce Buyer
    …for my family.  The very greatest thing – for their support and craziness.  And hot tubs.

    Alicia Weber, Marketing Manager
    …for lots of things, but today I’m thankful for the opportunity to have been able to learn from Perry McNeese for the past six years.

    Bo Walker, Front End Manager
    …for the Good Earth Market and its amazing staff!

    Pam Kemmick, Deli Manager
    …I feel like I’m endlessly thankful for things and it’s hard to define which is most important

  • Holiday Gifts at the Co-op | 11.15.2013

    photo 3

      This year I am going to do all of my Christmas shopping at the co-op, and you can too! Spoil someone you love with a beautiful handmade Alpaca wool hat or pair of socks from Alpacas of Montana. The wool is soft, extremely warm, and will last a lifetime.

    Do you have any wine lovers in the family? Ten Spoon Winery and Yellowstone Cellars both make fantastic wine right here in Montana, and they have a wide range of varietals to choose from. Martinson’s Chocolates make great host gifts for your holiday parties. I particularly love the Back Home Butter Almond Crisp. Maggie’s Organic cotton tights, leggings, and socks are a must-have this time of year and they’re cute to boot! 

    Tumblewood Teas from Big Timber are fresh, flavorful, and make the perfect cup of tea along with the Travelin’ Tumbler, the handiest travel mug you’ll ever own! Handcrafted Kitchen Utensils by Bart Bilden are a must for all of the cooks in your family – I personally own four.

    photo 1

    This Christmas I’m really excited about a new item in the store – native wildflower seeds from Native Ideals Seeds farm. Each seed packet, which is uniquely designed by Missoula artists, contains perennial seeds native to Montana. They are little pieces of art that make awesome stocking stuffers! I am also thrilled about our latest Tiffany Miller designed GEM shirts. Tiffany is a local artist/clothes designer and member of the co-op. These shirts are truly one of a kind!

    Gift certificates are also a great option. Who wouldn’t love a gift certificate to their favorite whole foods grocery store?  You can purchase a gift certificate from any of our cashiers and have your Christmas shopping done in minutes.

    Special order a gift basket!  You pick the size, price & theme, and we’ll do the rest!  Please order 3-5 days before pick up time.  Orders can be placed with a cashier, or give us a call!


    Don’t forget the little items, too – we carry a great selection of chocolate, cards, candles, soaps, lotions and more that make great gifts year round!

    By Rachel Guidi, Grocery Manager

  • Fair-Trade Company’s CEO to Visit Billings | 09.28.2013

    AlaffiaAlaffia, a Fair Trade body care company based in Olympia, WA, is celebrating its 10 year anniversary by sending CEO Olowo-n’djo Tchala on a two month, 8,780 mile, couch surfing tour across the US in a biodiesel van. The money saved on hotel rooms is being donated to their women’s maternal health care program in Togo, West Africa.

    Ten years ago, Alaffia began as a pledge, a pledge to promote gender equality by empowering women and bringing recognition to the indigenous knowledge they possess. Alaffia’s first co-op was made up of 50 women from 20 different ethnic groups, and has since grown to well over 500 women representing 70 percent of the 42 known ethnic groups in Togo. These co-ops are member-owned and exclusively employ women who receive a steady income and are empowered by valuing their traditional knowledge. As stated by Alaffia co-founder Rose Hyde: “In all of the other countries [In Africa] I’ve been in, I’ve never seen anything that compares to it. I’ve never seen a place where women go to work and it’s theirs.”

    As Alaffia grows, so does the number of women empowered, and communities uplifted, through Community Projects in Togo. These include the Maternal Health Program, which provides post and prenatal care for 1,000 women each year; planting 10,000 trees each year through their Reforestation Project, and empowering thousands of students with transportation through Bicycles for Education.

    During the months of September and October Alaffia’s CEO, Olowo-n’djo Tchala, will personally travel the US thanking stores and consumers for their support.

    “The reason our cooperatives continue to exist is the opportunities each and every one of you have given to Alaffia. My objective is to personally visit with you as an extension of my gratitude.” –Olowo-n’djo Tchala

    On Monday, October 21 at 9:00am, Alaffia Co- Founder Olowo-n’djo Tchala will be at Good Earth Market to give a presentation.  You are invited to come meet Olowo-n’djo and hear more about empowerment through fair trade.

    More information about Alaffia: www.alaffia.com.

    Tour information: www.alaffia.com/tour or http://trackmytour.com/3VvFt Twitter: @AlaffiaSkinCare #TheEmpowermentTour

    Facebook: www.facebook.com/AlaffiaSustainableSkincare

    Blog: blog.alaffia.com


  • NCGA Resources for YOU! | 07.25.2013

    In the spring of 2011, we became a member of the National Cooperative Grocers Association (a.k.a NCGA). Your little Co-op is growing up! Joining NCGA has given us access to numerous resources, helping our Co-op remain competitive in the marketplace.

    PrintYou’ve probably noticed many changes already: more competitive pricing, new Co+op Deals sales program, an overall step-up in our operations, the little Co+op Stronger Together logo that peeked its little head and has now become a store foundation. The staff is working very hard to use the resources and implement the programs that work for the uniqueness and individuality of our own cooperative.

    But along with the resources that have improved your shopping experience in the store, NCGA has numerous resources developed specifically for you, the member-owner!

    NCGA’s consumer website. Check it out! You’ll find a plethora of helpful articles – seasonal recipes, how-to’s on gardening and making smart food choices, how to cook just about anything. For you travelers, you can search co-ops anywhere in the nation to ensure you get to eat the tastiest, healthiest food while on vacation. Visit www.strongertogether.coop and “Like” Co+op Stronger Together on Facebook.

    Co+op KitchenCo+op Kitchen
    A brand new NCGA release – 55 how-to videos by co-op experts from around the country, with more on the way! When it comes to cooking at home, choosing the right ingredients and understanding basic kitchen skills can make the difference between a good meal and an amazing one. In the video series, Co+op Kitchen, you’ll find handy hints from chefs and food enthusiasts who love sharing their passion for great food, plus easy recipes for delicious homemade meals.

    From learning about tempeh and how to grow your own sprouts to making a delicious Tempeh Taco and cooking the perfect steak, you’ll want to see what’s cooking in the Co+op Kitchen!

    And, be sure to check out the FREE Co+op Kitchen iPad app for iOs6 on iTunes.

    Co+op DealsCo+op Deals Ads
    Two flyers monthly! Not only do these ads feature the top sales at your Co-op (with big savings!), look inside for tips and information on your food and where it comes from. Check out each issue for information on seasonal produce, cheese, cooking tips; as well as recipes!


    NCGA is providing more resources all the time in an effort to support and build local food and local communities. At the heart of the mission is taking care of the individual member-owner, that’s you!, and building the value around your food choices at the Co-op and the impact it has in our community.




  • Board Notes: The Co-op Triple Bottom Line | 07.19.2013

    THE “2020 CHALLENGE” – This is the 3rd in a series of articles dedicated to the “2020 Challenge”.  The 2012 Year of the Co-op came to an end but in the eyes of the International Co-operative Alliance, 2012 marked the beginning of the “2020 Challenge”. The “2020 Challenge” is simple:

    • Co-operatives will lead in economic, social and environmental sustainability, and
    • Co-ops will be the preferred model for business, and
    • Co-ops will be the fastest growing form of enterprise.

    The starting point for this “2020 Challenge” is the powerful claim which co-ops make to the outside world – we have a way of doing business that is better than most. We give individuals active participation through ownership, making them more engaged in the success of the co-op. And the co-op business model creates greater economic, social and environmental sustainability.

    There are 5 interlinked themes that will make this decade of the co-op successful:

    1) Elevate participation within membership and governance to a new level.
    2) Position co-ops as builders of sustainability.
    3) Build the co-operative message and secure the co-operative identify.
    4) Ensure supportive legal frameworks for co-operative growth.
    5) Secure reliable co-operative capital while guaranteeing member control.


    Building Sustainability
    Although there are some local exceptions, at present sustainability is not a term that is universally associated with co-operatives. This needs to change by 2020. The co-op movement needs to demonstrate a deep commitment to sustainability, as well as its positive contribution to sustainability in 3 senses – economic, social and environmental. In the sustainable world, having a focus on these 3 senses is often referred to as the “Triple Bottom Line” concept – profit, people and place. Contrast this with the “Single Bottom Line” concept of all other business models – profit. Co-ops have always set out to enable people to have access to goods and services without exploitation. This means trading in accordance with a set of values that believe in the “triple bottom line” approach. By placing human need at the center, co-ops seek to optimize outcomes for a range of stakeholders rather than maximizing the benefit of any single stakeholder.

    So how do we go about measuring the value we produce with our “Triple Bottom Line” approach?

    Economic sustainability (profit)
    There is evidence that a diversity of ownership contributes to a more stable financial sector. The investor-owned company was central to how the financial crisis occurred, with managers acting in the interests of themselves and a very small number of stakeholders. Contrast this with co-operatives. We act in the interests of our members, pursuing value for everyone and making us intrinsically less risky. Take the example of co-op banks and credit unions.  They have never made headlines for causing a financial crisis – in fact, most have quietly grown and prospered because of the co-op business model.

    Social Sustainability (people)
    Among the negative externalities generated by contemporary capitalism are social problems associated with inequities. The study of social capital suggests that societies with higher levels of membership associations do better economically, enjoying higher levels of trust and democratic participation. Co-ops contribute to the stock of a nation’s social capital in ways that traditional businesses do not. The United Nations, for example, urges governments to encourage and facilitate the establishment and development of co-ops, including taking measures aimed at enabling people living in poverty or belonging to vulnerable groups to engage on a voluntary basis in the creation and development of co-ops.

    Environmental Sustainability (place)
    There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that co-ops have a superior environmental record. Much of this is due to the co-op business model and the concerns for the future environmental outcomes. We are less focused on calculating a return on investment and more focused on the greater good (the “Triple Bottom Line”.)

    All of this discussion around sustainability is great but it won’t serve us well unless we help others understand the importance of the “Triple Bottom Line”. As a co-op, we have much to gain from seizing our approach and demonstrating its positive impact. We need to step up to the challenge of advocating for and demonstrating the value of our “Triple Bottom Line” to attract interest from the broader public, policy makers and young people. We need to work closer with other co-op businesses in our market to reinforce the sustainability of the co-op business model. As a board, we will be much more proactive in helping everyone to understand the “Triple Bottom Line”. As a member, you should be as well.

    Next – building the co-operative message and securing the co-operative identify.

    Carol BeamCarol Beam is the president of GEM’s Board of Directors.


  • The Goat and I | 05.20.2013

    Bonogofsky GoatThe Goat and I

    By Alexis Bonogofsky

    Seven years ago, I moved back to the family farm south of Billings and decided to raise goats for meat and weed control. Goats are amazing, versatile creatures that can provide high quality lean meat, milk, fiber and control weeds. Goat meat, or chevon, is the most widely eaten meat in the world and well-managed goats are easy on the land.

     But there are moments – ok, many moments – where I question the wisdom of this decision. As one Wyoming goat rancher put it, “if you can build a fence to keep in water, you’ve found yourself a fence that will keep in a goat 80% of the time.”  I tell most people that our fences are more like suggested guidelines.

     The Wandering Goats

    Goats are unique. They are different than any other type of livestock and will test your patience daily. Why? Goats are browsers, not grazers and act more like bison than cattle. In fact, when looking for a fence that could keep them in I found that goats have the same electric fence requirements as bison.

    Browse makes up about 60% of a goat’s diet but only about 10 to 15% of a cow’s diet.  That means that my goats take a few bites from a plant, move five to ten yards, take another bite and so on. If they had their way, they would be three miles up river by sundown. The neighbor to the west of me came home numerous time last summer to see my goats lounging on his porch with his newly planted flowers eaten and the goats contentedly chewing their cud in the shade, feet dangling off the side. The neighbor to the west of us has at least benefited from the goats quite voracious appetite for leafy spurge.

    But this very characteristic is the reason that goats will continue to grow as a livestock of choice for many producers, large and small. Their browsing characteristics make them ideal for land rehabilitation and weed control without having to use herbicides or other heavy-handed methods. Seven years ago, leafy spurge was taking over in many places on our property. Now, we can’t find a single plant. They also love Russian Olive trees that use tremendous amounts of water and choke out native cottonwoods. They strip the bark and will eat the new shoots until nothing comes back.

    Goat Meat

    But on top of all of the benefits to the land when goats are properly managed, the meat quality and characteristics are phenomenal. It is low in fat, cholesterol, calories, and saturated fat and high in protein. But I’m not going to lie. This part of the business has been the hardest for me. The first time we took a group of goats to the butcher, I cried the entire way home and thought about it for weeks. I kept waiting for that day to get easier but it hasn’t. There is a struggle that I think many producers face on shipping day but there is a need for sustainably and locally produced meat.

    And that is what we can promise our customers. Our goats are happy, healthy and definitely free-ranging.  If you would like more information about raising goats or goat meat, please feel free to contact me at abonogofsky@gmail.com


    How I Learned to Love Goat Meat http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/01/dining/01goat.html?

    Editor’s Note:  GEM does not carry goat meat due to low demand, but you can meet Alexis and have a taste of got meat at the Early Season Farmer’s Market this June!


  • Board Notes: “The 2020 Challenge” Part 2 | 05.13.2013

    As I noted in the last article, the 2012 Year of the Co-op has come to an end, but in the eyes of the International Co-operative Alliance, 2012 marked the beginning of the “2020 Challenge”.  The “2020 Challenge” is simple:

    • Co-operatives will lead in economic, social and environmental sustainability and
    • Co-ops will be the preferred model for business and
    • Co-ops will be the fastest growing form of enterprise.

    The starting point for this “2020 Challenge” is the powerful claim which co-ops make to the outside world – we have a way of doing business that is better than most.  We give individuals active participation through ownership, making them more engaged in the success of the co-op.  And the co-op business model creates greater economic, social and environmental sustainability.

    There are 5 interlinked themes that will make this decade of the co-op successful:
    1)      Elevate participation within membership and governance to a new level.
    2)      Position co-ops as builders of sustainability.
    3)      Build the co-operative message and secure the co-operative identity.
    4)      Ensure supportive legal frameworks for co-operative growth.
    5)      Secure reliable co-operative capital while guaranteeing member control.

    Elevating Participation
    Democratic member participation is the best know feature of the co-operative way of doing business and a major part of what characterizes a co-operative in contrast to traditional businesses.  The individual member has a role to play in a co-op which goes beyond the basic economic relationship of customer, worker or producer.

    Collectively, members own their co-ops and therefore participate in the governance.  Individually, members have a right to information, they have a right to a voice and they have a right to representation.

    There is good evidence to suggest that providing consumers and workers with a voice inside an organization produces better, more intelligent and responsive forms of business.  The social pioneers who established co-ops over previous centuries had a clear vision – they could see that by getting people to collaborate and work together, they could meet both their individual needs and their collective needs (i.e., access to goods and services).

    But the contemporary consumer world of developed economies is very different than it was when co-ops were founded.  Co-ops started because there was a lack of access to goods and services.  Now there is an over abundance of access to goods and services, making us somewhat complacent and less likely to become “active” participants in much of what we do.  If you are over the age of 50, think about the organizations where you and your parents were active members.  Many of them are gone, and many more are slowing fading into the sunset.

    As a co-op business model, we must continue to rely on active membership to differentiate us from other forms of business.  But let’s face it, the expectations people have (especially younger people) to participation in a membership organization have changed dramatically – looser networked forms of associations are the norm and the division between “member” and “non-member” is less clearly defined.

    A Whole Different Way
    This new reality cannot and must not cause us to abandon our focus on membership.  What we need to do is change the way we think about membership and member engagement.  We need to elevate the participation of membership through totally different channels.  This will mean more than just “liking” us on Facebook.  It will mean developing systems and initiatives that engage members (especially younger members) in comment, conversation, debate and decision making a whole different way.

    I am not sure what the “whole different way” looks like, but I know that GEM has access to resources that are going to help us understand what other co-ops are doing to engage members in a “whole different way”.  The “Challenge 2020” project is already working on finding successful new ways of giving every member a voice – the way they are used to having a voice – so they feel connected and engaged.  Because at the end of the day, the co-op relies on its members to make it successful.  And the only way we will Carol Beamcontinue to grow is by growing our membership – that means engaging members with different interests in different ways than we do today.

    Do you have thoughts on how you would like to have your voice heard?  How do you engage with others today and would you engage with GEM the same way if you could?  I would love to hear from you to better understand how we can better meet your needs as a member to keep you informed, keep you active and keep you engaged.  You can call me at (406) 248-1512, or email.

    Thank you for any thoughts you have on this month’s topic or on the series of topics.  In the next article, we will look at positioning co-ops as builders of sustainability.

    Carol Beam is the President of the Board of Directors

  • 7 Easy Ways to Nourish the Earth at GEM | 04.17.2013

    Green may be the new black, but it’s more than a trend—it’s a permanent shift towards creating a sustainable planet. In fact, taking steps to live a greener life—one that leaves as small an environmental footprint as possible—is part and parcel of living responsibly.

    Sustainable living is serious business, but many effective changes require thoughtfulness more than sacrifice, good habits more than financial investment. In fact, you’ll find that acting with the environment in mind often has a positive impact on your budget, too.

    Reduce, reuse, and recycle” is the green-living mantra. Let these three words steer you in the right direction—with your purchases, at home and at work, even while traveling. It’s fun to see how many opportunities there are for greener choices.

    For starters, here are some simple ways to make a big impact while shopping at your co-op:

    1.  Bring your own bags when you shop. Tied end-to-end, the nearly 4 billion plastic bags discarded around the world each year would circle the earth 63 times. When you do use plastic, be sure to recycle it. But get in the habit of bringing your own cloth bag when you head to the store.  Five years ago on Earth Day, we stopped buying plastic bags, and thanks to all of our members returning plastic bags to us, we continue to keep them out of the landfill.  If you prefer not to use plastic, use a box available by the registers!

    2.  Buy in bulk to eliminate wasteful packaging and save money. Check out the bulk section, where you’ll find everything from beans to grains, nuts and granola, soaps and shampoos. Bring your own jar in, have a cashier weigh it before filling, or use one of our reused, sterilized jars.  Ask a staff person to show you the ropes if you’re new to bulk buying.Carmen and Dan

    3.  Choose products with the least amount of waste – produce without wrapping and trays (or bring your own bags for produce), and a large jar of juice (or concentrate) rather than a dozen juice boxes, for example.

    4.  Use your own container in the deli for coffee or a salad.  Save a plastic container from ending up in the landfill.

    5.  Support green businesses with your purchasing dollars. Sustainable business practices are marketable these days, but so is greenwashing, so be selective. Co-ops have a long-standing tradition of conscientiously supporting ethical business practices.

    6.  Choose nontoxic. Replace chemical cleansers and cosmetics with natural products. Nontoxic cleaners—which you’ll find at your co-op—won’t hurt the water supply, your family, or wildlife. When decorating, explore nontoxic paints, fabrics, carpeting, and flooring. Before remodeling, look into using nontoxic, recycled building materials.

    7.  Purchase locally. Shop at community-owned stores and purchase locally grown food, available all year round. You’ll support neighboring farmers and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time. Co-ops are a great source for locally produced food.

    8.  Choose organic food whenever possible. In addition to health and taste benefits, your selection of organic over conventionally grown food contributes to cleaner air and water; soil enrichment; the reduction of pesticide, growth hormone and antibiotic use; and safer working environments for farmers and their families.

    Small steps can make a big impact.  What small steps have you taken?  Do you have a green living resolution this year?

  • Meet the Intern – Why is local important? | 04.15.2013

    Andi BuckleyHello customers of the Good Earth Market!  My name is Andi Buckley and I am the intern at the Good Earth Market. I will be promoting the Local Producer Map as well as working on other projects, so be sure to keep an eye out for those around town in the next few months. As I began this journey a few weeks ago, I didn’t know what to expect. But a couple of weeks ago, Perry explained to me how important it is that we have local producers in our store. I knew there was more to it than what he could tell me in a short hour.

    Together with the customers that may not know, I want to find out why “local” is so important.

    To start, co-ops, such as the Good Earth Market, are owned and governed by member-shoppers and rooted in principles like community, voluntary and open membership, economic participation and cooperation.  It is because of these principles and practices that food co-ops inherently serve and benefit the communities where they are located.

    The average co-op earns $10 million per year in revenue and provides jobs for over 90 workers. In total, 68% of those workers are eligible for health insurance, compared to 56% at conventional grocers. Co-op employees also earn an average of $1.00 more per hour than conventional grocery workers when bonuses and profit sharing are taken into account.  (Read the full report “Healthy Foods Healthy Communities:  The Social and Economic Impact of Food Co-ops” for more information.)

    I Shop at the Co-op because...Food co-ops purchase from local farmers who, in turn, buy supplies from local sources, hire local technicians to repair equipment and purchase goods and services from local retailers.

    For every $1,000 a shopper spends at their local food co-op, $1,606 in economic activity is generated in their local economy.

    Co-ops help make the people in our community healthier as well as put money back into the economy and we all know how important that can be these days.

    Grocery stores in general do tend to create a large amount of waste. What sets our local co-op apart from the conventional grocery stores around town is what we do with that waste. Co-ops recycle 96% of cardboard, 74 % of food waste and 81% of plastics.  Conventional grocery stores do not come close to these high percentages.

    So now we know how much good our local co-op does for our community. But why should you buy at your local co-op?

    Buying local is especially important to the consumer because the food is going to be fresh and have less chemicals and toxins in it. When food has to be shipped across the country, it could take weeks, even months to reach isolated areas. Another great reason is because you know your local food products.  You know where they are coming from and the opportunity to know the farmer or owner of the product, giving you, the consumer, the satisfaction that you and your family will be eating good food. 

    Buying at your co-op also supports the families who are producing the product. Local farmers who sell to consumers get paid a fair price for their food.

    Local food also keeps taxes down. Farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas most development contributes less in taxes than the cost of required services. Cows don’t go to school, tomatoes don’t dial 911.  Another very great reason to buy local is because local food is an investment in the future. By supporting local farmers today, you are helping to ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow.

    Eating locally can seem overwhelming at first, but with a few small changes you will be on your way to eating healthy and enjoying your local producers food. When starting, think small. Start by spending $10-20 a week in your co-op on local products. Get the same thing every week or try something new!

    Remember, fruits and vegetables have specific growing seasons so stay flexible with your shopping and take advantage of these great options when they are in season. 

    Finding local at Good Earth Market is easy, too.  All the local products are easy to find by looking for the yellow tags around the store or pursuing your free Local Producer Map!

    Check out our blog for more great reasons and fun facts about buying local!

    Meet Andi
    My name is Andi Buckley and I am your Good Earth Market intern!  I have been running around doing a lot of fun things at the store, but of course working hard. I have helped out with preparation for Earth Day, am organizing some pieces of the Early Season Farmer’s Market (June) and am getting the Local Producer Map out into our community and all around the state.  Be sure to keep your eyes open and grab a free copy around town!

    I’m originally from a small town in eastern Montana, Fairview. When I graduated from high school, I went to the University of Montana for two and a half years and then transferred to Montana State University Billings to finish my degree in Public Relations. I graduate on May 4, 2013, so it is coming up fast. I have an older sister and brother, and I am the youngest by eight years. I have wonderful parents and a cute little dog, she is half lhasa hapsa and half poodle. Currently, I live here in Billings with one of my very best friends and her seventy-eight pound standard poodle.  He, too, is adorable .

    I have been very blessed with the opportunity Good Earth Market has given me, and I hope I can help them out as much as possible with a couple projects!

  • Board Notes: The 2020 Challenge | 03.29.2013

    The Year of the Co-op, 2012, has come to an end but in the eyes of the International Co-operative Alliance 2012 marked the beginning of the “2020 Challenge”.  The “2020 Challenge” is simple:

    • Co-operatives will lead in economic, social and environmental sustainability and
    • Co-ops will be the preferred model for business and
    • Co-ops will be the fastest growing form of enterprise.

    The starting point for this “2020 Challenge” is the powerful claim which co-ops make to the outside world – we have a way of doing business that is better than most.  We give individuals active participation through ownership, making them more engaged in the success of the co-op.  And the co-op business model creates greater economic, social and environmental sustainability.

    There are 5 interlinked themes that will make this decade of the co-op successful:
    1)      Elevate participation within membership and governance to a new level.
    2)      Position co-ops as builders of sustainability.
    3)      Build the co-operative message and secure the co-operative identify.
    4)      Ensure supportive legal frameworks for co-operative growth.
    5)      Secure reliable co-operative capital while guaranteeing member control.

    Over the course of the next 5 articles, my column will focus on each of these interlinked themes to help us all understand more about ourselves and begin to elevate our thinking to truly embrace the “2020 Challenge”.  Next article will focus on elevating participation.

    In the meantime, you have many opportunities to elevate your participation in your co-op.  You can attend one or more of the many workshops that are offered each month.   And don’t forget to check out the working member opportunities board (near the restrooms).

    One of the unique things about being a co-op is that we are all much more than just shoppers – we are vested owners.  Perhaps each of us should take our own “2020 Challenge” and decide how we can each be a better co-op member.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

    Carol Beam, Board of Directors President

    Carol Beam is the President of the Board of Directors.  Feedback?  Contact Carol!

  • Member Spotlight: Patrick Hill | 01.22.2013

    Linda and Patrick became members of our Co-op in 2006 when we opened our new store.  They both have a long history of interest in natural foods, medicinals and organic gardening.  They pick local berries – buffalo, june and chokecherries – hunt deer, ducks, pheasant and smoke their own fish.  They are in the market regularly and enjoy eating in our deli.

    Patrick is an artist, historian and motivational speaker to young native youth in Crow Agency and surrounds.  Linda is the business office manager at the Crow Agency nursing home.  Both have an interest in mentoring to the young people on the Crow reservation.

    Passionate is the best word to describe this couple – passionate about politics, nature, relationships and connections.  Our conversations ranged from the coal trains headed toAsia, to the local elections, to the multiple dimensions of all living things.

    Recently, Patrick developed a horrible infection due to a fall in a stream while fishing and within a few days, his leg had to be amputated.  It is not anything that either spend any time talking about; they quickly change the subject with a comment about how lucky he is to be alive.  This attitude of dwelling only with the truly important things in life is awe inspiring.  He is adjusting to his new prosthetic leg with the same positivity.

    Linda talks about the similarity in their upbringing and how that has forged a bond that keeps their marriage strong.  They both become animated when talking about their families and community. 

    They are a truly inspiring couple and we are proud to have them as loyal members.

    Patrick Hill’s transparent watercolors will be exhibited in the Apple Gallery from August 1 – September 27, with an opening Artwalk reception on Friday, August 2 from 5:00-9:00pm.

    Written by longtime, dedicated member Vicki VanBuskirk.

  • Hardware Co-ops Help Revitalize Neighborhoods | 12.27.2012

    Revitalized homes in Logan Circle

    Logan Circle is a storied neighborhood in Washington, DC enjoying an urban renaissance; and Gina Schaefer, proprietor of the Logan Circle ACE Hardware is part of it.  Logan Circle is remarkable for its stock of Victorian row houses, many of which are now on the National Register of Historic Places. However, in the hundred years in between when Logan Circle was established and now, the area fell on hard times and experienced the fallout from the 1968 Washington, DC riots. The neighborhood’s Victorians got subdivided into apartments and rooming houses, and the area became derelict and unsafe. About a decade ago, people began to see the value in restoring these properties, and Logan Circle has once again become an attractive place to live.

    Schaefer was driven to do something for a neighborhood in the process of rebuilding. In the urban core of Washington, DC, hardware stores are few and far between. People in the district’s neighborhoods need a hardware store that can cater to the specific needs of hundred-year-old homes and fixer-uppers. Schaefer believed she could make the most of the chance to serve this community by joining the retail hardware co-op ACE Hardware.

    Hardware is a very competitive business; the big box chain Home Depot did $68 billion in sales last year alone.  Being part of a cooperative makes it possible for small scale, locally-based owners to compete. There are three hardware co-ops headquartered in the United States: ACE Hardware, Do It Best, and True Value Hardware.  ACE Hardware is the largest with 4,600 member stores in 60 countries, Do it Best has 4,100 stores in 47 countries, and True Value has 4,700 retails in the U.S. Combined, the three hardware co-ops do $18 billion in annual sales.  They are all organized as retail cooperatives that provide members technical assistance and competitive pricing through their mutually-owned warehouses and distribution channels.

    “I figured that by joining a co-op I’d get more support getting started,” Schaefer said. “I liked the fact that they have regional and district support people who could answer questions.”  She believes the ideas she’s gotten from ACE have helped her grow and be a better retailer.

    Another significant benefit of being part of the ACE co-op is being able to network with other hardware store owners in the U.S.and even abroad.  Currently, Schaefer is in her second term as an active member of the ACE board of directors and she appreciates the opportunity to continue to learn from and give back to other members of her co-op.

    Today, Schaefer operates five neighborhood hardware stores located throughout Washington, DC, and two in Baltimore, MD, all with the same dedication to serve their local communities. Customers like knowing her stores are part of the ACE co-op because many of them specifically want to support co-ops and local enterprises, be it a food co-op, restaurant or an independent bookstore.  Schaefer thinks that this approach to supporting the local economy is a strong factor in Logan Circle’s revitalization. “It’s why we are growing so much,” she said.

    Reposted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop.


  • Values in Action Everyday | 11.08.2012

    We are proud to be part of a movement that proves respecting people is good for business. Millions of consumers around the globe have joined cooperatives for many reasons, including finding that they fill a need for housing, electricity, food, insurance and financial services…the list is endless. What attracts people to cooperation is that their co-ops operate on their behalf with honesty, fairness and transparency—they are based on values not unlike those people aspire to for themselves: self-responsibility, democracy, equality, and social responsibility (www.ica.coop). In the United States, 30,000 co-ops provide two million jobs, and one of every four people is a member of a cooperative.

    These values connect us. Co-ops foster real relationships with their customers by providing service rooted in community. It’s all about trust. For example, at Just Food in Northfield, Minn. they actively support and seek out local farmers such as L & R Poultry and Produce (see more about them in the Celebrity Farmers video), wherein they have a handshake agreement to buy their products each season. The farmers know that the co-op will keep its word, and Just Food shoppers can expect the highest-quality food grown with integrity. At food co-ops, it’s not uncommon for customers to know the real people who stand behind the products available.

    Co-op Values in ActionsCooperative values also transcend co-op size. It doesn’t matter whether your cooperative is so large that it employs thousands of people, or so small you can fit everyone involved in a single room; co-op values remain the same.

    The outdoor adventure retailer REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) is the largest consumer co-op inAmericawith 4.4 million members. Their size allows them to act on their ideals in places all across the country. This has a big impact. In addition to adhering to the stated co-op values, they also take them one step further by actively protecting the environment. That’s what co-ops do. They strive to go above and beyond to do what’s right. At REI, how they operate their stores, the products they carry, and the millions of dollars they have donated to safeguard forests, lakes and prairies, have the end goal of preserving natural spaces and keeping the earth a better place for everyone.

    The food co-ops that make up the National Cooperative Grocers Association (the organization behind this site) have over 1.3 million members across a “virtual chain” of over 120 retail food co-ops nationwide. Collectively, food co-ops have a strong social and economic impact. They work with an average of 157 local farmers and producers (compared with 65 for conventional grocers). They contribute to the community with high levels of charitable giving, an average of 13% (compared to 4% for conventional grocers). Plus food co-ops generate more money for their local economy—1.5 times more than conventional grocers. Find more info on how food co-ops do things differently and the impact they have in our Healthy Foods Healthy Communities post.

    Co-ops demonstrate their commitment to ethics by extending them in an ever widening circle. When a co-op makes a profit, you can be assured it was gained through fair business practices, and in most cases, any surplus is reinvested in the co-op or shared equitably among member-owners.

    Some of those co-op value circles start very small and grow into greater influence, changing lives in the process. Four years ago in Whatcom County in Washington state, four women got together to start the Circle of Life Caregiver Co-op.  Theirs is a worker-owned health care co-op dedicated to excellent home care for the elderly and disabled.  In an industry rife with low-pay and apathy towards clients, Circle of Life offers a refreshing alternative, where self-help provides everyone with more options.  

    We know none of the great things co-ops accomplish would be possible without the people worldwide who use co-ops to meet their needs. This year, co-ops are celebrating with us the United Nations declaration of 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives. We are thrilled by the international recognition of co-ops’ fundamental values: that making people and communities our top priority is good business.

  • Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities | 08.22.2012

    Do you love your co-op?  Turns out the store you own does more than just sell good food – across the nation, cooperatives are making a big impact in their communities!  A new study on food co-ops, Healthy Foods Healthy Communities: The Social and Economic Impacts of Food Co-ops*, quantifies the impact co-ops have compared to conventional grocery stores. The study’s compelling results demonstrate the many ways that cooperative businesses like Good Earth Market do well while doing good.

    Unlike their conventional counterparts, co-ops are owned and governed by member-shoppers and rooted in principles like community, voluntary and open membership, economic participation and cooperation. Because of these principles and practices, food co-ops inherently serve and benefit the communities where they are located. For example, the study finds that for every dollar spent at a food co-op, $0.38 is reinvested in the local economy compared to $0.24 at conventional grocers.

    Good Earth Market is one of NCGA’s 128 member and associate co-ops that in aggregate operate 165 stores, generate more than $1.4 billion in annual revenue, and are owned by 1.3 million consumers. Individually, co-ops serve the distinct needs of communities like the Yellowstone Valley. Together, co-ops have the purchasing power to rival conventional grocery chains, and the good business practices to truly make the world a better place.

    I Shop at the Co-op because...Supporting Local Food Systems and Sustainable Foods
    Though “local” has popped up in conventional grocery stores in recent years, retail food co-ops are leaps and bounds ahead of the pack. Where conventional grocers work with an average of 65 local farmers and other local producers, food co-ops work with an average of 157. Likewise, locally sourced products make up an average of 20 percent of co-op sales compared to 6 percent at conventional stores.

    Years after creating the market for organic foods, co-ops are still the place to find them. Of produce sales at food co-ops, 82 percent are organic, compared to 12 percent for conventional grocers. Organics make up 48 percent of grocery sales in food co-ops, compared to just 2 percent in conventional grocers.

    Local Economic Impact
    The economic impact that a grocery store has on its local economy is greater than just the sum of its local spending, because a portion of money spent locally recirculates. Food co-ops purchase from local farmers who, in turn, buy supplies from local sources, hire local technicians to repair equipment and purchase goods and services from local retailers. To some extent, conventional grocers do too, but the gap is still significant. For every $1,000 a shopper spends at their local food co-op, $1,604 in economic activity is generated in their local economy – $239 more than if they had spent that same $1,000 at a conventional grocer.

    Employee Benefits
    The average co-op earning $10 million per year in revenue provides jobs for over 90 workers. In total, 68 percent of those workers are eligible for health insurance, compared to 56 percent of employees at conventional grocers. Co-op employees also earn an average of nearly $1.00 more per hour than conventional grocery workers when bonuses and profit sharing are taken into account.

    Environmental Stewardship
    Grocery stores – co-ops and conventional alike – generate a significant amount of waste. What sets retail food co-ops apart is what they do with that waste. Co-ops recycle 96 percent of cardboard, 74 percent of food waste and 81 percent of plastics compared to 91 percent, 36 percent and 29 percent, respectively, recycled by conventional grocers.

    At a co-op grocer, fresh, delicious food is just the beginning.


    Impact Report – View the full report in Healthy Foods Healthy Communities: The Social and Economic Impacts of Food Co-ops.

    Infographics – View a pdf of the infographics in Healthy Food Healthy Communities Infographics.

    Video – Find the animated video, along with other Co-op related videos on the Stronger Together YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/coopstrongertogether

    *NCGA partnered with the ICA Group – a national not-for-profit research organization – to compile the data used to develop Healthy Foods Healthy Communities: The Social and Economic Impacts of Food Co-ops. The ICA Group compiled data from industry and government resources, food cooperative financial data collected by CoopMetrics for NCGA, and previous NCGA surveys. The ICA Group developed two additional surveys, one targeted to retail food co-ops and the other to the conventional grocery industry.


  • Discover Local Foods | 07.19.2012

    It has become vital to our health in recent years to find safe, healthy foods, especially in light of modern industrial diets and recent food scares.  Buying fresh local food is the easiest way to know where your food comes from and to avoid eating processed food loaded with added sugar, fat and preservatives.  Locally grown food also tastes better because it’s fresher – local producers can grow better-tasting varieties of fruits and vegetables that don’t need to hold up to long-distance shipping.  The case for eating locally grown food is strong, but how do you make it happen?

    Start small.
    Sticking to a strict local diet can be intimidating, so think baby steps – start spending $10 a week on local foods, buying all your potatoes locally, or trying something new each week.  Starting small and phasing in gradually will help these changes become a part of your lifestyle.

    Be adventurous and flexible.
    Exploring new foods will increase your options of eating locally.  Ever tried Jerusalem artichokes, garlic scapes, or black beluga lentils?  All are grown here in our region and can lend variety to your meals.   Fruits and vegetables have specific growing seasons, so stay flexible with your menu planning and take advantage of these delectables while they’re in season.  For cooking tips, find a good cookbook, watch the GEM blog or ask local producers and co-op staff for advice.

    Shop your co-op and Yellowstone Valley Farmer’s Market.
    Food co-ops and farmer’s markets are committed to providing local foods to the community and building a sustainable regional food system.  Shopping these venues gives you an opportunity to purchase local foods and discover new ingredients, meet your local producers, and learn cooking tips and tricks.  Plus, a Saturday morning at the market, with its live music and bustling energy, can add even more enjoyment to your food experience.  At GEM, local products are easy to find by looking for the yellow tags around the store and perusing our free Local Producer Map to see at a glance which products are available.

    Because you value your health, it’s also important to source local foods raised organically or sustainably as they have higher nutritional value and are grown without toxins.  Eating locally doesn’t have to be overwhelming or tough on your pocketbook, but with a few small changes, you’ll be on your way to healthier eating and enjoying Montana’s bounty!

  • General Manager’s Comments: The Co-op/Corporate Difference | 07.06.2012

    by Perry McNeese, GEM’s General Manager

    Photo by James Woodcock

    Working with Alicia, GEM’s Marketing Manager, to promote the International Year of the Co-op caused me to stop and think about what it means to be a part of a Cooperative and how it differs for me as a manager.  The difference hit me immediately as I stepped in the General Manager’s position 5 years ago.  I have always believed in strong customer service, but as a Co-op manager I realize that my customer is now the owner!  Yes, the boss, CEO, and share holder all rolled up into one, the shopper!  Therefore fulfilling your needs is not only important, it is a critical part of my performance standing.  If you aren’t happy, I am not doing my job.

    That cuts to what I see as the purpose of a Co-op.  For me, the Co-op’s purpose is to service its owners/members with goods and services that match their reasons for buying into the Co-op in the first place.  Additionally, as this primary objective is met, the management and staff must conduct business in a way that keeps the entity viable and growing in both sales and membership. Thus, our first strategic objective, “Strengthen the Co-op”.  That differs from my conventional corporate experience.  Primary objectives were typically tied to market share, return on investment or share price.  It is much more rewarding to please customers than it is to please Wall Street.

    Our second strategic objective, “Make GEM a Great Place to Work” is also much different from my corporate experience.  As I budget and manage expenses, I am charged with pleasing the employees too?  Oops!  Don’t forget they are all member-owners as well.  So rather than seeing where I can cut labor expense, I am looking at where I can improve rewards and work environment.  As examples, we have added health insurance benefit for full-time employees and employees get 10 to 20 percent discounts.  This is a first for me.  We close major holidays so they can have the day off with their families.  We optimize the use of full-time employees rather than keep them to a minimum.   This job is the very first time I have built wage scales considering the “Living Wage” model and it is rewarding.

    The differences between a Co-op and a corporation continue as one looks at our third objective, “Build the Local Sustainable Foods Economy”.  What!?  I/we have to be concerned about something other than our own growth?  Yep!  We must endeavor to help local producers sell their goods so they too can grow.  By contrast, I used to be trained to see how much I could get from a supplier.  Now I am building relationships and trying to find ways to market more of their produce and meats.  Its fun because my boss, you, also want to have access to more and more local!

    I take pride in another Co-op difference.  This is the first time in my 40 year grocery career that I have worked in an Energy Star facility; our 4th strategic objective is to “Build Environmental Sustainability into the Facility”.  With the improvements that have been made to the building, GEM is now in the 96th percentile for supermarkets around the country.  Ah!  What?  Many of the energy improvements were completed by working members and what a difference it makes.  Yes, our customers, being owners, really do want to see the Co-op succeed and step up to help us in numerous ways from construction to laundry to maintenance projects.  Some members even donate money so we can have a nice patio and, most recently, a new bike rack.

    While I am on strategic objectives, just as well mention the 5th strategic objective, which is to “Increase Community Engagement, Outreach and Education”.  Again, something new to me.  Free workshopsNewsletters that educate rather than sell?  Providing Farmer’s Market space free to producers to sell their goods?

    Seems like everyday I run across a decision that is motivated by what is right verses what is profitable.  Not that being profitable is a bad thing, it just needs to be a means to an end rather than what drives everything.  I have to tell you it makes a guy want to come to work every morning.  I want to thank you for not only reading through my article, but for being the center of what makes GEM a great place in so many ways.  I look forward to continuing to serve you.  The reward is your support!


  • Board Notes: What’s your relationship with your co-op? | 05.24.2012

     by Carol Beam, Board President

    Theresa Keaveny and I had the opportunity to attend the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) Western Corridor Training for Boards and Leaders.  The day we spent with our peers from co-ops throughout the west was invigorating.  Our membership is the NCGA co-op not only helps us throughout our operations, but it is a gold mine when it comes to education and training.  Here are some of my take-aways from the day long event:

    NCGA is comprised of 125 co-ops nationwide.  There are 160 stores in 35 states.  To help put it into perspective, NCGA co-ops did $1.5B in sales in 2011 (contrasted to the $10B for Whole Foods).  NCGA’s success has a direct correlation to the success of its member co-ops.  That is one reason why NCGA is spending much of its time and energy these days promoting the growth of the co-op food industry.  Based on data compiled by the NCGA staff, the organic/local food movement is in a growth pattern, especially as it relates to co-ops.   This is one of the key drivers for NCGA’s emphasis on growth in same store sales as well as growth through the addition of new co-ops into NCGA.  Much of what NCGA will focus on going forward will support the growth of food co-ops.

    One fascinating subject covered at this retreat was membership.  All co-ops share the same member characteristics and I will share them with you – describing the least engaged members (customers) on up to the most engaged members (actives). 

    Which on of these best describes your relationship with the co-op?:

    • Customers – people who shop at the co-op but are not members.  Likely to leave the co-op should a competitor offer more convenience, better selection, price, etc.
    • Shopping Members – people who join for the economic benefits.  They do not think of themselves as owners and feel no additional responsibility or loyalty.  They do not perceive a difference between the co-op and a club store.  Primary interest is “what’s in it for me.”
    • Social participants – people who like belonging to the co-op, though they don’t really experience the connection as “ownership”.  They care about what the co-op stands for in the community, but they may not be very clear on what that is.  They read the newsletter, but probably wouldn’t call to comment on an article.  If asked, they will respond to a survey.  They are more likely to attend a co-op dance than the membership meeting.  It is important to provide opportunities for involvement with issues they care about.
    • Member Owners – people who understand that their equity is required to capitalize the co-op.  They think of themselves as owners and they are interested in the governance of the co-op.  They always plan to vote in elections and occasionally they do.  They feel that they should go to the annual meeting, but only rarely do so.
    • Active participants – people who are active in the co-op.  They are the leaders and decision makers who serve or have served on the board or committees.  They pay close attention to what the co-op does and what decisions are made.  They take their ownership responsibility very seriously.  They usually vote in elections and regularly attend co-op functions.

    The goal and challenge for the board and staff of the co-op is to ensure that each person has a high degree of satisfaction with their level of involvement.  The co-op must understand and meet the needs people have at each level before they will be motivated to “move up”.  And as a board and staff, we must always remember that people have the right to select their level of involvement.   We must engage them all.

    Thank you for the opportunity to experience the resources of our membership in NCGA.   It has only served to renew my commitment to the Good Earth Market.


  • 2012 International Year of Cooperatives | 04.23.2012

    Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World

    The United Nations has declared 2012 as International Year of Cooperatives and we, along with co-ops around the world, are celebrating the occasion. Each year, the United Nations seeks to raise awareness of ideas or initiatives that truly make the world a better place. And while we may be a little biased (as a cooperative representing a virtual chain of food co-ops), we’re thrilled about the opportunity to highlight the many benefits cooperatives bring to their communities.  According to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “Cooperatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic vitality and social responsibility.”  We couldn’t agree more.

    International Year of Cooperatives was officially launched at the United Nations New York headquarters in October 2011 with the theme, “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World.”  “Cooperation is a real solution for today’s challenges,” said Charles Gould, the director general of the International Cooperative Alliance.  United Nations “year of” designations may come and go, but for cooperatives, the 2012 spotlight represents an opportunity for co-ops to build on their global presence.

    Cooperatives are all around us—in the U.S. and around the world.  More than a billion people are members of cooperatives and the international cooperative movement has a strong global impact. If the world’s cooperatives were a country, it would be the size of Spain, represent $1 trillion in revenues, and rank as the tenth largest Gross Domestic Product in the world.  This economic activity is all the more impressive because it is generated by people working together in a democratic fashion to meet their own needs while benefiting the local economy and the community.  The United Nations’ acknowledgment of the value of cooperatives is important recognition for of the positive contributions co-ops deliver to our nation and our world.

    The cooperative model is a business model that is based on values and focuses on fairness, transparency and democracy. This values-based focus doesn’t mean standard business practices–like efficiency, effectiveness and profitability—take a back seat. Far from it.  Cooperatives seek excellence in all aspects of their business while upholding their values and principles.

    In addition to cooperative values, most cooperatives adopt a set of seven cooperative principles.  The sixth principle, cooperation among co-ops, is one that will be highlighted in 2012 as co-ops celebrate the year together.

    The International Cooperative Alliance has a goal that by 2020, cooperatives will be the fastest-growing business model worldwide. Indicators so far are positive; interest in cooperatives is already growing.  People around the world play an important role in this development by supporting their local co-ops with their investment and patronage, taking part in creating businesses that serve the greater good and build a better world.

    Be sure to check out http://www.stories.coop or www.2012.coop for more information about the world’s cooperatives and their activities, along with the National Cooperative Grocers Assocation Co-op Video Series.

    Article courtesy of www.strongertogether.coop.