Discovering That the Co-op is Where You Want to Be: Owner Stories
In the past, residents of Burnsville, Sheryl Haugland and her husband Ross, always passed Valley Natural Foods and maybe stopped in once or twice, but their eating habits were not the best and they didn’t think much about it.
It wasn’t until Ross realized that his chronic headaches were related to eating too many processed foods, did the couple seek out some alternatives, one being shopping regularly at Valley Natural Foods. The couple committed to making a healthy lifestyle change as a family. They began by purchasing sprouted grain bread in their desire to stay away from white flour and that led to experimenting and cooking with many other fresh organic foods. Sheryl indicates that organic food not only tastes better than conventionally grown goods, but it makes her feel better too, giving her more energy and mental clarity to make it through a long work day. Ross feels great too as he starts his day off right with Garden of Life’s Raw Meal replacement, which helps manage his weight and keep him satiated. After several initial visits, the couple trusted the local products and agriculture that Valley Natural Foods supports. Shortly after this, the Hauglands made the decision to become co-op members.
In celebration of Valley Natural Foods’ February members are the heart of the co-op month, the Hauglands relay that they love everything that goes along with being a co-op member. They indicate that the perks of membership, which include the monthly 5% discount, the coupons, the annual patronage refund, and the special sales, are great but what really draws them in is the idea of being an owner. Although they have member number 12776, they don’t feel like a number at all, but instead part of an intimate community that has a family-like feel. To the Hauglands, being an owner means that you belong to something and that you can stand up and have a voice in what you feel is important. Sheryl has a strong desire to become more involved at Valley Natural Foods, including attending classes and talking with the board of directors about her thoughts and ideas.
However, it is the shopping experience that makes everything worthwhile. Sheryl feels like she can walk in and talk to anybody as she takes her time discovering new unique products that she can use to make meals or snacks for her family. She loves to cook and she can find grocery items at Valley Natural Foods that she cannot find elsewhere. In addition, the daily food demonstrations encourage her to try and experiment with new things. Her latest creation is chia seed pudding which involves mixing together one’s desired amount of plain Greek yogurt, chia seeds, vanilla, and almond milk and letting it chill overnight before serving.
Perhaps the most difficult transition was to get their nine-year-old son to make the change with them. However, with a little persistence and tough love, the Hauglands have started to introduce him to more and more fruits and vegetables. Because of this, they have noticed huge improvements in his health along with his ability to focus at school.
When asked about why people should join a food co-op, Sheryl gets excited as she has no problem selling the food co-op to others. She indicates that when talking about Valley Natural Foods to others, she would tell them about the ownership and community aspect, how the co-op can help them to eat better and how it supports local businesses and farmers. “Despite what you think you know about co-ops, if you just go there, it will actually sell itself. I came there (Valley Natural Foods) a few times, and I said, yes, this is definitely where we want to be,” she said.