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!


Photo credit: West End Food Co-op Community Cannery

Market research : what our future members are saying

This word cloud is based on the 613 survey respondents who said they would like to become a member of a community grocery that prioritizes local producers. The responses to the question “How would you want Hamilton’s community grocery to be different than the place where you currently purchase your groceries?” were categorized into 52 themes, weighted according to use, and organized into a word cloud.

The analysis of our market survey is now complete! Thanks to all 1,000 people who took the time to give us input online.  A special thanks to Kaylen Fredrickson, a University of Toronto grad student, and geography professor, food security guru & local Hamiltonian Sarah Wakefield for your invaluable help in deciphering the results. Thanks so much Kaylen and Sarah!

Some interesting trends emerged from the demographics in the group that said they would become a member of the co-op (613 respondents); one that was not surprising is that most of the respondents were female (2.08 female : 1 male) and correlates with how women are often the primary grocery shopper in a household. There was a clear trend in that respondents who are most interested in the co-op were younger (20-39 range), although there was a wide range of ages represented in the survey.

Ottawa St. Farmers Market stall July 2012

Another interesting piece of information relates to current grocery shopping habits for those who would like to become members of The Mustard Seed: 40% of these households indicated that they grow their own food sometimes or frequently. That’s a lot of gardening! Most of their shopping is done at supermarkets (95% sometimes or frequently), farmers markets (79% sometimes or frequently), and specialty grocery (52% sometimes or frequently).

We will continue to use the feedback from the survey to determine what Hamilton’s cooperative grocery will look like – what are the member-owner’s needs and values. Some things that stood out are that it be community-oriented, and that shoppers will feel a personal connection with friendly, knowledgeable staff. They want it to be a place where you can run into friends and make new ones, and where they can learn more about food and the local food system. If you would like to be part of this planning, please email us about how to get involved. We have a meeting planned for September 10th to connect volunteers with teams so we can move this cooperative forward. Join us to learn more!

This word cloud is based on the 613 survey respondents who said they would like to become a member of a community grocery that prioritizes local producers. The responses to the question “Where do you normally get your groceries?” were weighted according to frequency (sometimes or frequently). With your help, soon THE MUSTARD SEED GROCERY CO-OP will be among these options!

How Canadians Shop – ‘conventional’ grocery shopping study by Environics Research Group

August update on the development of The Mustard Seed

August 1, 2012 – The second info night for The Mustard Seed at the Hill Street Community Garden began with sharing about our progress to date, followed by a documentary about the Lexington Co-op in Buffalo, NY.

If you are like everyone else we talk to about The Mustard Seed, you are pretty excited that there is a new grocery store opening in Hamilton in the near future – one that prioritizes local and wholesome food. So are we!

The three main questions we keep hearing from Hamiltonians are: 1) Does the co-op already have a location, 2) When will it open, and 3) What are the next steps in the development of The Mustard Seed? If you haven’t been able to make it out to one of our public outreach events yet, no worries (although we’d love to meet you at one of our future events!). We’ll answer all three questions below and include some of the mapping we have been working on based on our market research.

Map of Hamilton indicating the general location of where survey respondents that said they would like to become members of The Mustard Seed live (65% of total respondents). Many others (29%) indicated that they would likely become members depending on parking, cost, etc.

Map of Hamilton indicating locations of existing grocery stores, including 500 metre radiuses around stores. (Yellow = supermarkets; Dark Blue = medium size stores; Light Blue = corner stores; Brown = ethnic groceries)

1. Location?   We’ve analyzed various location choices based on where future members live and work – because we know the closer the store is to where you live or work the better. We have been doing a lot of walking around looking at potential sites, meeting with a realtor, and talking with people who know a lot about Hamilton leases and real estate like the Hamilton Economic Development office. There are a lot of potential sites out there, but so far nothing jumps out as an ideal location. Some of the factors we have been basing this on include proximity to future members, proximity to existing stores, store size, available parking, cost, and if the storefront suits the values of the co-op. Location is so important, and we are investing time and research into finding just the right space for The Mustard Seed.

2. When?  This depends on a lot of factors, but we hope to have the co-op doors open in the next 6-12 months. Most of the food co-ops we have talked with take 2-4 years in the development stage, so this goal is very ambitious – but possible! One of the big reasons for this is that two of us are working more than part-time on co-op development. When you count it all up, we have contributed over 900 volunteer hours to The Mustard Seed’s development since April, so we’ve been able to really leap forward during the last few months. And while we haven’t found a source of funding to-date, we are planning to apply for a few grants early this fall and are hopeful that these applications will provide us with a much needed source of development funding for things like incorporation and legal fees!

3. Next steps?  We have talked to and/or visited nearly 25 food co-ops already, and will continue to do so in the months ahead. While each food co-op is different, we have been able to learn why they chose different governance models, membership types, loan formats, volunteer options, etc. We are working with food security researchers at the University of Toronto to analyze our market survey, and look forward to sharing those results with you. Our next big steps include incorporation of the co-op, completing our business plan, and growing our membership network. At the same time, we will continue to seek out the right site for the store and work on raising funds.

Members of the Steering Committees for The Mustard Seed and Our Community Food Store, a food co-op in development in St. Catharines, meet to exchange ideas.

Want to help us on this journey? One big way you can help is by telling your friends about this cooperative initiative – which means liking us on facebook, tweeting about us, and linking our blog to your website, as well as by spreading the news by word-of-mouth, of course! In addition, we are looking for people to come alongside us with practical skills:

  • Photojournalism including interviewing local farmers and producers
  • Retail grocery experience
  • Co-op development or board experience
  • Marketing and promotions, including Twitter
  • Branding expertise
  • Event organizing
  • Fund raising:  grant writing, membership campaigns, or personal donations if you would like to help us with development of the co-op, but are not able to volunteer your time right now.

If you have any of these skills and would like to join us, please let us know! The more help we have in the development stage, the sooner The Mustard Seed’s doors will open!