Conference Inspires Diversity, Cooperation, and Strategic Planning

This year’s Up and Coming Food Co-op Conference was nothing short of inspirational. There was a heavy focus on diversity within our co-ops (which we appreciated since inclusivity is part of our vision and mission!) as well as cooperation among cooperatives.

Our crew (of 8 people!) was big enough this year to have the opportunity to cover a wide range of workshops and learn as much as we could about the various areas of building a co-op.

We even had the privilege of asking a number of successfully growing co-ops for advice, how-tos, and inspiration.

There was time, of course, for fun too!

Our team is already working diligently to implement our new knowledge and strategies for continuing to grow, fund, and build this store with our volunteers, owners, local farmers, and vendors.

The Board President, Lacey Reichwald, was asked to speak during this year’s conference. Her session, “Ready, set, CO-OP!” told the story of how, within a month of incorporating, we had150 owners in a rural town with a population of little over 14,000. Participants learned what we did to turbo-charge our ownership growth.

Finally, some GroCo owners who attended the conference from Whitewater took a moment to share a key take-away from the event.

I think it’s amazing to think about how much has changed since we were at this conference last year. Last March the GroCo was just an idea, and one year later it is really happening! --Jennifer Crone

As a first-time attendee of this conference, what struck me most is how many people across the country are working to bring food options to their communities. It was interesting to hear all of the reasons why groups are forming cooperatives. These people are passionate and willing to work hard toward their goals. It is also wonderful to see how much support is out there in the form of established co-ops and other sponsors willing to offer financial, educational and other types of  support to new start-ups. --Tricia Borchardt

This conference pumped me up and helped me develop a solid base for what needs to happen when and how while building our store. My favorite elements of the conference related to remembering that everything you do relates to your vision/mission. I’m excited to see what unfolds this year! --Katy Wimer

Up & Coming continues to be one of the things I look forward to all year. Our team always leave energized and educated! This year was exceptional because we had such a big cohort representing Whitewater and we were able to divide and conquer so many different classes. --Lacey Reichwald

Last year’s Up & Coming was like drinking from a fire hose! This year’s experience was much more manageable, but no less exhilarating! I learned a ton from people who are experts in the grocery industry and from people just like me. Their successes, challenges, tips, tricks, and tools, and most of all their stories about what they’re doing to start food co-ops in their own communities (from Alaska to North Carolina, and everywhere in between) was so incredibly informative. I’m already applying what I learned to what we’re doing here in Whitewater. I already can’t wait for next year’s conference! --Anne Hartwick