Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Karma Food Co-operative Inc.: Toronto's only Member Owned Food Co-operative Store

I am on the board of directors for Karma, a co-op that has been running for over 35 years. In 1997-1999 I was on the board of director's for Ebytown Food Co-op in Kitchener (now a 30 year old institution). The contrast in experience is baffling to me in many ways and for many reasons but there is one way that my experience with both co-ops is exactly the same - the availability of whole foods at decent prices.

I took a number of pictures yesterday at Karma. I wanted to record some general prices of the food Karma carries with my camera.

One of Karma's idiosyncrasies is that we still do not have an electronic point of sale system. All record keeping is done basically by hand except for some, but not all aspects, of basic accounting/book-keeping. This makes analysis of any data at Karma next to impossible and is rarely done except for the financial statements.

As a board member of a co-operative, and Karma has ten people on it's board, we are elected and mandated by our 1000+ members to ensure the efficient and effective operation of our food store. Remarkably, this has worked for 35 years without many processes implemented to observe, record and analyze product movement through the store. Membership details are casually observed but again, no analysis that I know of has been done.

Karma has nearly gone bankrupt a few times in the past and is currently facing a union drive by it's staff of 10 people. Couple this union with our very weak state of finances (due to a renovation that must happen due to violation of the health code) and this might be the death knell. Might. The vibrant and tumultuous history of Karma's past tells me that we will not likely to die and certainly will not without a fight.

Members of food co-operatives tend to get nearly violent (ahem, figuratively) when loss of their food is threatened. Thus, I'm fairly positive that I will be able to take a similar series of pictures next February in our renovated store and we can compare some prices together and marvel over the increased number of local greens on Karma's shelves (we already provide a few hydroponic products from local farmers and that market is growing). I might even be able to report about the successful implementation of a point of sale system (currently being studied by a very productive committee at Karma). Or point you to a site containing events that you, a member of the Toronto public, can attend to find out more about Karma. Pollyanna-like musings? Time and a round table of 10 passionate board members will tell.

Posted by Picasa

All of my visitors are tracked with google analytics. In an effort to illustrate the ease, necessity, and power of data collection in the age of blogging I have planted this post. If you found this post via a google search for Toronto food co-ops or something similar then I will find out (not who you are - just what you searched for - here is the report of key word searches to this blog for last month). Feel free to leave a comment if this is how you landed - in the interest of data collection of course ;) Comments from others are also welcome!

1 comment:

Wisewebwoman said...

Apropos of your posting I was watching Michael Pollan of the Omnivore's Dilemma on The Hour last night and he was advocating
(1) Only shop around the outside wall of the super market, never venture into the interior. The outside wall carries veggies and whole foods. The inside the processed and rubbish.
(2) Never buy anything that says "new" or "reformulated" or "now adding", etc.
Good advice, I would think.