WHAT IS A CO-OP?
About the Co-op
Our vision to connect our community through food.
Our goals are to:
- support community by promoting dry bulk food
- nurture community through shared food activities and events
- sustain community by supporting local growers and food systems.
WHAT IS A CO-OP?
Co-operatives belong to, are operated by, and benefit the people who become members. Because the most important aspect of co-operatives is people, they also enhance the communities they operate in. They are formed by people with like-minded needs and aspirations which can be fulfilled by working together and taking responsibility to support the vision set by the members. The democratic nature of a co-op means that all members are equal decision-makers.
Co-ops worldwide adhere to 7 key principles:
- Voluntary and Open Membership
- Democratic Member Control
- Member Economic Participation
- Autonomy and Independence
- Education, Training and Information
- Cooperation Among Cooperatives
- Concern for Community
HOW WE'RE GOVERNED
The Beechworth Food Co-op is a registered non distributing co-operative without share capital, this means any profits can not be distributed to co-op members and that the Co-Op is equally owned by all Co-Op members. Any profits the Co-Op does make can only be used to improve the ability of the Co-Op to deliver on its aim to service its members. A copy of our endorsed rules of association can be viewed here.
President - Fiona Wigg
Secretary - Lisa Morrison
Treasurer - Sally Kaitler
Volunteer Coordinator - Pammy Walpole
Events - Tristyarna Sheridan
Assets - Dirk de Zwart
2023 AGM President's Report
Welcome to the Beechworth Food Co op (BFC) Annual General Meeting. This report will cover the significant events and decisions of the past 12 months and outline the future direction of the BFC.
The last twelve months have been relatively stable after the upheaval of the previous two years. The focus this year was bedding down the member program Sow it, Grow it! and delivering other events around that program. Our vision ‘Connecting our community through food’ drove activities such as the morning teas on market Saturday where soups and cakes were offered, a Microgreens workshop explaining the intricacies of growing nutritious additions to salads and soups and the annual Patch to Patch event.
The board also remained relatively stable with Pammy Walpole replacing Penny Raleigh and no change to office bearers. We have now completed the sale of all assets, paid an outstanding debt to the ATO and moved our banking from Bendigo Bank to WAW Bank. We have also worked to reduce out fixed outgoings by consolidating bank accounts, reviewing insurance needs and closing down systems associated with the Hub. Further details on finances will be found in the Treasurer’s report.
On the topic of assets, last year we believed we had sold all food containers to Leeanne Broady at the The Love Earth Store in Wangaratta. At the time Leeanne was setting up the store for bulk food and organic sales, was participating in the Start up Shake up program and appeared genuine in her participation in the local food scene. After delivering the containers Leeanne was invoiced for the agreed price $1800 and then made various excuses not to pay. We pursued her for 12 months offering payment plans to which we received agreement but no action, and then discovered in March this year she had closed the store and disappeared. We have since contacted her via the website theloveearthstore and had no response. We considered legal action through VCAT to recover the money but after several discussions decided not to pursue it due to the unlikelihood of success. Leeanne still lives in Wangaratta and is now involved in Lids4Kids.
The relationship with Quercus has not progressed beyond hiring the hall for events, instead we have held discussions with Beechworth Urban Landcare and Sustainability (BULS) to determine where we can co operatively work together. Our monthly meetings are now held in Bunya House where BULS are based, we have agreed to mutually advertise each organisations events, and have formed a joint sub-committee to determine a new direction for Patch to Patch. When opportunities arise there is an intention to hold other joint events.
For some time we have been considering a legacy project utilising part of the money held in our account. At the last meeting the board agreed to a proposal to establish a scholarship fund where $2000 would be disbursed annually for 5 years to an applicant studying food production. The criteria for applicants have not yet been established and more work is required to bring it to fruition, however the aim is to bring agriculture and horticulture into public focus locally and provide support to those wishing to work in those fields.
Finally, a strategic planning session was not held this year and the renewal of the Board offers the opportunity to conduct one soon, particularly once an evaluation of this year’s activities has been done.
Patch to Patch was held in early April attracting about 70 participants. Although the day went well, numbers have been declining for a few years now and we feel the format is a little stale. After conversations with our partner BULS we have now formed a subcommittee – Nikki Munroe from BULS and Jane Nicholas from the Co op – to come up with new ideas for how this day might run next year. Thoughts about pollinator gardens, guest speakers and activities mean the day should look quite different and appeal to a broader range of people.
The Sow it, Grow It! program began with a Preserving event at the Quercus Hall in May followed by a freezing cold day making compost and sowing green manure crops in July at Fat Goose Farm. By September the weather had warmed up and we finally had a sunny day for the third workshop on growing seedlings, and pest and disease control, again at Fat Goose Farm. Each event attracted a different group of participants and people who attended were very enthusiastic about the program. The final workshop in the program has been moved to February next year where seed saving will be discussed and demonstrated. Our thanks to Charlie and Fay Robinson for opening up their garden and encouraging everyone into growing food.
The Microgreens workshop from Jane Nicholas was fascinating and a good example of how local people with special skills can contribute and share their knowledge. We learnt how to grow these tasty morsels in small containers at home meaning it’s accessible to everyone. Best of all for those impatient eaters out there, microgreens are ready for harvest in 2-3 weeks.
We also participated in the Quercus Christmas market luring people to our stall by offering panforte and cheese and biscuits. Through this activity we were able to have conversations about the Co op and managed to sign around 15 new members.
This year was the first time we had sought membership fees since fees were waived in early 2021 due to Covid. A call for memberships went out in December 2022 and we currently have 40 memberships of both single and family type. The membership structure is:
$40/annum for families
$20/annum for singles/concession
where members have access to the Sow it, Grow it! program for free. At other events where we need to charge, members will receive a discounted rate. Members also gather for Market Day morning teas where they come together over a cuppa and cake or soup to talk about all things food. Dirk gave a very good talk at one morning tea on pruning.
Membership renewals will be sent out shortly and we encourage everyone to join.
At the last AGM in October 2022, six members were elected to the Board including one new member: Pammy Walpole. Roles are as follows:
President Fiona Wigg
Treasurer Sally Kaitler
Secretary Lisa Morrison
Assets Dirk de Zwart
Events/ Pammy Walpole
Communications Trystyarna Sheridan
I would like to thank them all for their efforts to develop an engaging program of events this year and for their support and contributions to all things Food Co op.
This year two board members are stepping off, Lisa Morrison and myself. Lisa has spent two years on the board as Secretary and took on the additional task of managing our mailing list which had not been reviewed for many years, and consolidating the many files in Google docs. She has been an enthusiastic participant of many events and a source of thoughtful advice to me. I’m sure we all wish her well and hope to see her at the next event.
As for myself, it’s time to go. I’ve been on the board now for five to six years, the last three as President, and have steered the Co op through an enormous change process. After twelve months of relative stability it’s now time for fresh energy and ideas to move the Co op into its’ next iteration. I’d like to thank all board members past and present for the laughter, the hard work, the challenging conversations and the shared ideals that brought us together.
For those of us interested in food production, the conversation about food has changed enormously over the last decade. The words regenerative, bulk purchasing, food miles, closed loops, local food movements and short supply chains all now trip readily from our tongues. We cherish skills in how to grow and process food as they offer connection to a slower way of life embedded in our environment. We are becoming better educated about the impact that our choices have on the environment, and the options to put that knowledge into practice are increasing. There are more opportunities to engage with local food through farmers markets, swap tables and free food fridges and cabinets. The challenge for the Co op is to find the niche in this crowded space that meets member expectations and attracts more like minded souls to join.
I wish the new Board every success as they navigate this challenge moving to the next chapter in the Co op’s history.
Thank you all,
President, Beechworth Food Co op