$117,603 from the Local Food Fund! Hooray!

LocalFoodFundAnnounce

Everybody was smiling after the big announcement! From L to R: Emma Cubitt (Board), Damian Wills (Local Food Manager), Graham Cubitt (Board), Ted McMeekin (MPP), Richard Adshead (General Manager), Nrinder Nann (Board), & Sarah Botham (Board).

March 14, 2014  –  A huge thanks to the government of Ontario for establishing the Local Food Act last year, along with the Local Food Fund!  The Local Food Fund is designed to support innovative local food projects that celebrate local food, and help create jobs and economic growth in Ontario.

The Mustard Seed has been chosen to develop our Local Food Networks Strategy through a two-year pilot project. The $117,603 grant covers 50% of the expenses for the two year development phase, with the other 50% coming from The Mustard Seed Co-op budget.

Key components of the strategy include:

  • Two full-time positions : Local Food Manager and Marketing & Community Engagement Coordinator
  • Proactive relationship development with local farmers and producers with a goal to work with 200 by the end of the pilot phase
  • Develop clear and effective communication methods on availability and benefits of local food
  • Help producers gauge and understand consumer demand for broad spectrum of local foods
  • Create and host education sessions, cooking classes, farm tours, and other food culture events
  • Develop, implement, and track strategies for effectively promoting local food with knowledge to be shared with partners and funders
  • Empower members and community to align their purchasing priorities for local by finding and stocking a full spectrum of local grocery products

We expect the Strategy to result in 4 new full-time-equivalent (FTE) positions + the two direct jobs in addition to the Co-op’s base operational staffing. This will help grow FTE employment at The Mustard Seed to 18 after five years.

The big announcement of our successful grant proposal happened at the co-op on Friday, March 14th. Our local MPP Ted McMeekin was kind enough to come out to the store to share the good news with a crowd of about 50 members and staff. We are so excited to see how these added resources will help our local food networks flourish!

Media coverage of our announcement:

Hamilton Spectator – Local grocery co-op nabs tasty grant

CBC Hamilton – Mustard Seed Co-op receives $100K in provincial funding

AM900 CHML radio – Interview between Graham Cubitt & Rick Zamperin

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We Still Haven’t Found What We’re Looking For

The mural at the new Citizens Co-op in Gainsville, FL is an inspiration in terms of store design as we look for a site.

The mural at the new Citizens Co-op in Gainsville, FL is an inspiration in store design.

We launched the Co-op’s membership drive less than five months ago, and since then we’ve made incredible progress! We already have over 500 Members and over $200,000 raised in capital.  Our Location Team has been working hard to find the right home for The Mustard Seed.  Unfortunately, this has been a much more difficult process than we had anticipated. After negotiating for an ideal site since February, the landlord returned our deposit this week and said that the space will not be available.  The Team has once again regrouped and is now exploring two other options in order to find a home for the Co-op.  To our growing Founding Membership, thank you for your patience and confidence through this search! We want to keep you in the loop about what has been happening, and why it’s taking so long.

What we’re looking for

Our goal is to find a 3,000-5,000sf ground floor retail location with an accessible entrance and sufficient loading space. The storefront also needs to be convenient for cyclists and pedestrians while having 10-15 vehicle parking spaces.  Proximity to Members is weighted heavily in our decision-making matrix. Appropriate zoning is also essential so we don’t get slowed down with approvals. We anticipate leasing a space, but we are open to friendly investors who want to help buy a building for The Mustard Seed.

Our goal is to create a coherent design aesthetic that is aligned with our underlying values.  The store will be “warm”, “inviting”, and “ecological” – check out our Pinterest site for some ideas that members have shared. We are also considering each location’s potential for future growth. While not immediately necessary, other co-ops have advised that this is an important factor.

Mustard Seed Members at 516

Mustard Seed Members at 516

 

The challenges

Hamilton is experiencing renewal.  We are thrilled to be part of this, but it has meant we have found it much more difficult than anticipated to find a space that suits our needs. So far the Location Team and Board have toured over a dozen potential properties. We thought we were very close with two locations. The biggest challenge we have faced is finding accessibility, a large enough space, parking, affordability, and actual availability all in one location!

The good news

This setback has caused us to re-assess our timelines for opening the Co-op. This may not be a bad thing (although we are all eagerly awaiting the day that we can start stocking our shelves with wholesome local goodness!). This means that we have a little more time to get our financing in order (we still need $300,000 in capitalization, so please invest today), to hire our general manager and other staff, to research better options for the store’s equipment, and for our Sourcing Team to connect with potential local suppliers. While the location roller coaster has been happening, our Membership Team has continued to promote the Co-op at events as we push toward our 800 member targetHere in the Ambitious City, committed people are putting their energy and support behind opening the Co-op within a year, a process which many food co-ops report can take 3-5 years.

Onward

The Location Team has already toured new locations since last week’s disappointment. Our goal is still to open the Co-op within three months of securing a site.  Our location team welcomes any tips you might have about potential downtown buildings – please email operations@mustardseed.coop if you have suggestions.  Thanks for your patience, and we will keep you updated with any news in the weeks ahead!

EmmaSticker

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