Springing into Spring

Our membership continues to grow with over 450 Mustard Seed founding members supporting Hamilton’s first non-profit co-operative grocery store! Everything is ramping up to our opening this summer. Below is an update of what we have been up to, where we’re going and how you can be involved.membergrowthMar18

DSC_1976Member Packages

All members will be receiving a membership package some info on the Co-op and a window sticker for the outside of your car, house, or business. The membership team will be hand-delivering packages in the next couple weeks to members who haven’t picked up the package at an event. Please put your stickers somewhere very visible and show your support for The Mustard Seed!

Casting Call for Members

We are looking for a diverse selection of Mustard Seed members – from kids to grandparents, farmers to eaters – to represent The Mustard Seed Co-op in our promo video and photo signage. Read more here and please send in your responses by Friday, March 29, 2013.

General Manager Posting

Our GM position was posted on our website in early March as well as in Cooperative Grocer, Sustain Ontario, goodworkcanada.ca, and on various local food, cooperative, and food policy listserves. So far we have had several candidates respond. Please help get the word out so that we can find the right person to run our co-op!

Stay tuned for postings of other store positions in the coming weeks. The Mustard Seed is committed to being a living wage employer and will be a great place to work!

Location Update

We are very close to finalizing a lease for the store’s location in downtown Hamilton; stay tuned for an announcement soon! In the mean time, our Operations team has been busy purchasing various equipment.

Looking for Producers & Suppliers

We have created a supplier form that can be filled out by potential farmers/suppliers or members to ensure we have the best local products on our shelves. Our sourcing team is attending a producer & distributor panel discussion this week and we are beginning to contact producers to build relationships & learn how their farming practices align with our sourcing priorities.

Not yet a Founding Member? – Learn More!

Thinking about becoming a member?  Members are part owners of the business, they represent the collective power of working together to achieve lasting change. The Mustard Seed Co-op needs 800 members in order to open our doors – so join now.  We’re only 350 members away from our goal!

Finance Update & Investing

We have capitalized the Co-op with over $200,000 from our membership already.  But we need another $250,000 to open our doors.  This will go towards equipment (coolers, shelving, commercial kitchen, signage) and inventory – the delicious goodness we’re all waiting to buy! If you have a tax return coming in, a car payment that’s finished, or some savings you want to invest, put that money to work in shaping your community!

You can read more about our direct loan program  at mustardseed.coop/investingfaq. Earn 3.5% interest annually over 4 years while making a positive change in our local economy.

Upcoming Events

We are at a number of upcoming events – check out our Events Calendar for a full listing.

  • Monday, April 1, 10:00am – 3:00pm – booth at Mohawk College’s 2nd Annual Sustainability Fair
  • Sunday, April 7, 10:30am – 12:00pm – Motivations behind The Mustard Seed presentation, Grace Lutheran Church, 1107 Main St. West
  • Friday, April 12, 7:00-9:00pm – booth at James St. North Art Crawl
  • Sunday, April 14, 1:30-4:00pm – booth at the Nourishing Hamilton Fair, Southgate Presbyterian Church, 120 Clarendon Ave.
  • Monday, April 15, 7:00-9:00pm – All Action Team gathering at Mulberry Coffee House – 193 James St N

Come grow with us and help us open our doors!

WestEnd_cannery

Photo credit: West End Food Co-op Community Cannery

Visit to Councillor Pasuta’s Farm

Late last week we were invited to visit the farm of Hamilton Ward 14 city councillor Robert Pasuta. We were reminded of Rob’s focus on the role of farming in Hamilton’s future by a recent article in the Hamilton Spectator, which outlined how he had grown up on his farm and then raised pigs, crops, beef cattle, and his own children alongside his wife, Elaine. What piqued our interest in connecting with him was his comment on a contemporary issue affecting farming, food, and municipal politics: biosolids (processed sewage sludge).

“Personally, I don’t use any of the biosolids. I wouldn’t, knowing what’s in it, and at some point in time, my product is going to end up on someone’s table somewhere…I have a great concern. I think we really need to think hard about this. I’m going to put the emphasis on local food, good food, healthy food.”

We liked that focus on local, good, healthy food. And we were interested in hearing any ideas he might have about how to connect with local farmers in order to increase the breadth of local food we could offer at The Mustard Seed.

Our conversation covered many aspects of contemporary farming, including how the farmer-to-consumer distribution chain has changed in his decades running a farm. Rob shared that one of the biggest challenges for all farmers, but especially fruit and vegetable growers, is finding local people willing to work hard on a farm.  He remembers buses of Italian women coming to pick rutabaga on the farm when he was young – and they were very hard workers!  Today, with food prices so low it’s hard to pay what many people want to earn, and so farmers stop growing labour-intensive crops, or labour comes from abroad.  Recently, Rob and many of his neighbours have stopped raising pigs; his farm was too small to make it work with the extremely tight margins common for today’s industrial producers.

We came out of the discussion with a lot of people to contact:  farmers, processors, distributors, as well as politicians and other community leaders. He encouraged us to present The Mustard Seed vision to the local branches of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, two groups representing contemporary farmers.

Beyond these connections, we appreciated that Rob is also a dreamer (like us!), seeing the potential for new avenues of connecting producers to consumers — like putting up greenhouses on Hamilton’s brown fields, for example. He understands the value of local food, and would like to see creative enterprises connect farmers in rural Hamilton with urban consumers.

Farmers can be dreamers, and they love their land — and Robert Pasuta is no exception. As we were departing he said “Why would I ever leave this place? It’s my home.”  And in the late morning light we could definitely see that he is, indeed, a lucky man. We look forward to connecting with many more farmers like Cllr. Pasuta in the months ahead!

The view from Cllr. Pasuta’s farm is incredible – and not for sale!

Our first community event!

On Saturday night, 50 Hamiltonians gathered in the Hill St. Community Garden for The Mustard Seed’s first official community event.  With gorgeous weather in our favour and July 7 being the International Day of Cooperatives, it was the perfect evening to get to know each other and to celebrate!

The Mustard Seed’s progress to date!

After some great conversation, we gave a brief presentation about the cooperative movement and The Mustard Seed’s vision and progress to date.  By that time, it was getting just dark enough to watch To Make a Farm, an inspiring yet realistic documentary following the lives of 5 young Canadians who embark on making their farming dreams a reality.  For the farmers in the crowd, the stories of joy and struggle rang very true!

A beautiful evening under the stars – thanks to all who came out to celebrate and give us feedback on The Mustard Seed’s future!

We asked people to map out where they live and where they work, and can use this feedback in future decisions about where the store will be. We plan to bring this map to future events.