With beer, balloons, and birthday cake, the Weaver Street Market annual meeting honored the co-op’s 25th birthday on Monday Sept. 9 by celebrating its positive local impact and awarding $1,950 in grants to local organizations.
“Weaver Street to me means community. It means a place to be colloquial, where everybody knows your name,” said Teresa Jimenez, consumer-owner and current candidate for the board of directors. “My kids like to hang out on the lawn. They’ve been doing that since they were one and three, and I know its safe.”
Curt Brinkmeyer, worker-owner and chairman of the board of directors, announced “We’ve done some really cool things supporting local impact, We’re buying more locally, we’re expanding, and helping farmers grow.”
According to the annual report, Weaver Street Market has sold over 100,000 bottles of local milk, over 200,000 loaves of local organic bread, and over 1 million local eggs. In addition, it has donated $39,000 to local schools and kept $830,000 of profits in the community, during 2013 alone.
For Michael Marotta, a member of the board of directors since January and a consumer-owner since 2007, being a part of Weaver Street Market is about giving back to his community. “I joined to actually have a real impact on the environment with people I get along with,” he said.
“It’s about building community. It’s about being able to help organization in a strategic way,” said Marotta.
“We all have differences, but we’re really here for the good of the community.“
To continue giving back to the local community, the Weaver Street Market Cooperative Community Fund selected three recipients for a grant to continue their “innovative and inspiring agricultural projects,” presented by David Beck and the Cooperative Community Fund committee.
Transplanting Traditions Community Farm, a project of Orange County Partnership for Young Children, received $800 to train refugee youth to run their farmers’ market. The three-acre farm provides a growing space for Burmese refugee farmers and grows more than 20 crops native to Burma, formerly known as Myanmar.
Grady A. Brown Elementary School received $750 to install a greenhouse for students to gain hands-on agricultural experience, with an emphasis on organic and sustainable practices. According to the Weaver Street Market annual report, “Students will use the experience gained in the greenhouse to start their own gardens at home with seedlings from the greenhouse.”
Finally, TABLE received $400 to launch its new Garden Initiative, which the organization will use to grow a portion of the vegetables needed for its Weekend Meal Backpack Program, which helps students and parents develop healthy eating habits will providing them with hands-on experience growing local produce.
“The criteria the [committee] used reflected three important values,” explained Beck. “A community aspect of sustainable agriculture, a focus on providing young people with first-hand experience growing the fruits and vegetables they’ll eat, and the need to connect low-income families with fresh, local food.”
The funds for these grants come from local events such as the fall and spring wine shows, the Hope for the Holidays purchases, and donated dividends and shares from member-owners and customers.
After the meeting celebrated the successes of the Weaver Street Market thus far, the focus turned towards future goals and how to improve.
“25 years ago when we started Weaver Street Market, what were the possibilities then?” asked Ruffin Slater, general manager and founder of Weaver Street Market. “What impact might we make on the local economy, local food system, and local community? As co-op owners, what difference would our involvement make?”
“25 years later, consider the impacts we made together. Today we have 50 times the number of worker-owners than when we started. We have 100 times the consumer-owners!” Slater said. “Anything we sell is grown locally or produced ourselves in kitchens and bakeries.
“25 years ago, we couldn’t have any local beers, because there weren’t any local beers. Now we have too many to choose from!
“Our co-op has made a difference,” said Slater. “So what can we accomplish in the next decade? What can we accomplish by the year 2020?”
He announced that the co-op has four major goals for the year 2020: make healthy eating accessible, tasty and fun; drive the growth of local and sustainable foods; invigorate downtowns; and use net zero energy, create zero waste, and promote responsible packaging.
These goals were met with cheers and applause from the crowd of approximately 160 community members, most of whom shopped primarily at the Carrboro site.
Featured at the annual meeting was keynote speaker Gar Alperovitz, the Lionel R. Bauman professor of political economy at the University of Maryland and author of “What Then Must We Do: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution,” which was discussed during the meeting.
The focus of his talk was about the current transition period in America, and his vision for a new economic movement.
“You either do something new and get your act together, or it gets worse,” he repeated throughout the night.
He emphasized a system of democratized ownership of wealth in the United States – something he saw reflected in the Weaver Street Market co-op.
“Now we’re seeing worker-owned companies popping up. Why? There’s anger at the corporations,” Alperovitz said.
“Ask the question that comes up – am I beginning to actually do something about that?” he said. “You’re already doing it! That’s what this organization is! You are doing it!
“I see people laying the foundations for a possible transformation – I don’t just see a co-op.”
In true celebration fashion, the meeting was called to order with a bicycle bell from a local business, after all attendees had sampled the locally made sushi, sandwiches, bread, and beer.
As Brinkmeyer put it, “We’ll party all night, but beer gets turned off at 9:00 p.m.”