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Natural Building

Back in Action!

Wahoo! RealFood Williamsburg is now officially back in business with the launch of our new website this weekend. For the past two weeks, we have been doing sample orders with managers only just to make sure all kinks are worked out with ordering/payment/etc., and now we are ready to invite back members of the Williamsburg community to share in the bounty.

To sign up for a membership and start ordering, you can check us out at

www.realfoodwilliamsburg.org

We’ve got updated information on all our farmers as well as managers, and also have a Media Links section where you can see RealFood published in the news. This has been the moment all of us working over the summer have been waiting for, and we hope to have a successful year as we expand our menu, partner with local schools to teach about the importance of local foods, and enrich ourselves with the abundance of the soil and our greater community.

Over the years, every time a manager or member of RealFood meets a new student or person from the community interested in joining the co-op, we’ve had to scribble down our information with a scrap of paper (or anything else on hand) with the hope they would take us seriously.

Thankfully, we are now able to purchase more official business cards and brochures that will convey the message of RealFood more clearly and professionally. As we have worked together to come up with a wording that will accurately frame our mission and current state of operations, it has been an interesting experiment in community decision-making. We have found that there is a balance between the need for decisions to be made by consensus, incorporating the involvement of all managers, and the need for an individual to take a course of action with good faith that it will be in the best interest of the entire cooperative.

The order for both the brochure and business cards were placed last night, and we received a confirmation e-mail this morning with a final copy of the documents. Check it out here, and be sure to ask for a hard copy when we begin operating again this coming semester!

Our New Business Cards!

Our New Business Cards!

Inside Brochure

SHIP

At the farmer’s market on DOG street a few weeks ago, Rachael Tatman, a fellow RF manager, approached the SHIP tent and found a great possibility for a synergistic partnership. SHIP, or the Student Health Initiative Program, run by the James City County school system and the Williamsburg Community Health Foundation , has a mission very much in line with our own:

“to improve health and wellness for WJCC students and staff by supporting and promoting healthy eating and physical activity in the school, home, and community”
SHIP

As it turns out, another manager who is currently abroad in France, Ian Fuller, had already worked with them for a number of years and had established a great working relationship off of which we will be able to build this coming fall. Rachael and I planned a meeting with two women from the JCC to further discuss our plans, one of whom is Denise Corbett, coordinator of the program.

Though they are still very much in formulation, our plans are to to provide children in a wide variety of ages with a program this coming November, just around the time for Thanksgiving. We will be featuring locally-grown, native foods that are seasonal at that time, including squashes, root vegetables, and roasted seeds, in a hands-on (chaperoned) cooking demonstration and workshop. For college students to engage with small children, Denise said, is a powerful way of connecting to a younger generation that is actively seeking leadership and guidance. Since we are seen in their eyes as “older kids” instead of “adults,” we have a lot of sway in developing positive eating habits and helpin them to engage with their food in a powerful way from a young age. As plans formulate, the managers will begin to prepare food orders and course content, but for now it’s enough of a job to contain our excitement for the opportunity to interact with kids and introduce them to concepts of a sustainable food system.

You can find out more about SHIP on their website, http://www.wjcc.k12.va.us/ship/.

Before we can begin to truly advertise ourselves to the community, RealFood is being pushed into a flurry of definitive decisions:

How do we make decisions amongst ourselves?

What, exactly, makes us a cooperative?

How are we going to distribute administrative tasks while making sure to support each other?

What does our new system of ordering look like, and how will it be both functional and usable to all community members?

Past providing fresh food, how can we surpass the barrier of cultural differences in food preference, encouraging ecologically-sound and healthfully-based nutritional decisions no matter an individual’s  background?

How does our mission connect with other organizations at different levels of scale, and how does it fit into the larger picture of our state- and national- food systems?

In expanding to be more inclusive of the community, how much do we focus on engaging and educating William and Mary students on the importance of local foods?

How can we even begin to define local in the undeniable modern context of globalization?

These questions, among others, have been a backdrop for our work – and by no means are they thoroughly answered. I can only guess that this will constantly be a process of learning both for members of the cooperative who have a basic understanding of our current food system (and its faults), those who know less, but are looking to engage with and learn more about it, as well as those who are already entrenched in its labyrinth and depend on it for livelihood (both financial and nutritional). RealFood, in the process of extending into the community, has come into a period of learning and self-definition which will only  help us to understand our mission with a more holistic perspective.

As far as advertising, RealFood’s major challenge and creative project of the summer will be the construction of our new website which can feature a wider variety of foods, list publications which highlight the co-op, advertise upcoming workshops and events, and perhaps most importantly, be edited by the modern managers of the day! Our old site, however beautiful and sentimental, was written in a code that no current members understand, and was thus considered useless past the basic functions of posting and selling new food items each week.

This new site should be easy to maneuver and understand, colorful, saturated with positivity and hope for our new regional food system, and (oh yes) functional. Additionally, all of this needs to be bundled into a new, more official branding which will highlight our new nonprofit status and willingness to take the co-op to the next level. That’s right. We’re moving from a .com to a .org!

As we make the switch, though, we are busily at work adding new items and pictures to the store, updating pages of information about managers, farmers, and products, displaying our IRS documents, and listing upcoming workshops on a new backdrop which appropriately characterizes the co-op and our mission statement. The work is manageable split amongst those of us working for RealFood over the summer, but I hope this doesn’t turn into an elongated season of busy work!

Check it out as we work: www.realfoodwilliamsburg.org

Enjoy, and don’t forget to give us your feedback so we can have the website continue to reflect the needs of the community.

501(c)(success!)

And it’s official! Today we received our acceptance letter from the IRS confirming our 501(c)(4) status, which will allow the cooperative a whole new set of opportunities and possible partnerships. Although donations aren’t tax deductible, we are allowed to lobby for certain political parties and movements (including those which will support the creation of local, sustainable food networks). With this exciting new status, though, comes responsibility – we will collectively be responsible for filing annual reports and staying accountable to our members and the greater community. All of our files and necessary paperwork will be posted on the new website as we continue to make updates and polish it into a usable interface for the fall semester.

This new status will also help us to collectively open a bank account (until now, finances have been handled much more “casually”) and stay financially viable in the long term, even if we aren’t turning a profit. With a bank account, we can then hook up the website to be Paypal compatible, completely removing the need for cash transactions altogether! One thing leads to the next, and RealFood will be the hottest cooperative in town. Our next big step, which seems unconquerable now – as did a nonprofit status a few short years ago – is to obtain a more or less permanent space out of which we can host workshops, distribute food, and invite friends to share in the abundance of local farms and gardens. To date, the co-op has led workshops on baking bread (literally from start to finish, including the grinding of the flour), and cheesemaking, from which was born deliciously gooey and satisfying gobs of mozzarella cheese. From here on out, we’d like to expand even further to include keeping chickens, gardening, cooking fresh and local on a budget, jam-making, preserving of all kinds, and more!

The dreams and aspirations are endless, but for now let’s celebrate one victory at a time! Hurrah!

Past, meet Future.

RealFood Williamsburg Community Cooperative, a mouthful in more ways than one.

The co-op, started in 2007 by a group of William and Mary students, was part of an engaged academic project in which the professor challenged the class to make a tangible difference in the community. Since its inception, it has grown tremendously and gained support from far beyond the WM campus borders – students, professors, and community members alike can agree on the group’s mission:

We aim to empower citizens in engaging with and creating new local food systems which will at once nourish our community and begin to replenish the biosphere. Working directly with farmers, teachers, activists, students, and neighbors, we intend on strengthening inherent bonds in the community. By illuminating these existing connections, we can collectively realize the abundance of seasonality and regional food networks. We focus energy on educational outreach, personal empowerment, and setting the standard for a model of interactive, beneficial cooperation.

However, as a result of this fortuitous beginning on an affluent campus, the cooperative has yet to truly branch outward and become an integral part of the food network in the greater Williamsburg region. The generous grant provided to the organization by OCES energized the beginning of the summer with dreams of growing our operations while aligning ourselves against issues of social justice, ensuring our growth would make the co-op more accessible to those who don’t necessarily have the means to visit the Williamburg farmer’s market on DOG street. Though it was named one of the nation’s top farmer’s markets in the Farmland Trust Contest, it remains true that the vendors cater to the wealthy tourists of the area and not those in the local communities who would benefit from all the advantages of fresh produce and food items.

Right now, we are still in the midst of a back-and-forth with the IRS about an official nonprofit status, which we hope will gain the organization a new level of legitimacy and open doors to having a permanent distribution location, regular workshops, and a greatly expanded membership base. Beyond this, we hope to use the summer to re-vamp the existing website or create a new, functional one in it’s stead. At the moment, we are working with an outdated site that was created by managers who are no longer with the organization in a code that no current members understand! Having the ability to create and maintain an online presence that does not unexpectedly drop orders and can be updated regularly to reflect upcoming events, new menu items, and recipes which feature local ingredients will take the cooperative to the next level and further solidify our presence as an active, community-oriented business in Williamsburg. At least, that is the hope. And so the summer begins!