Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Holidays!!

Thanks for helping us grow this year by shopping the West Michigan Co-op. We had a great first year and helped local producers sell about $50,000 worth of food and other items. It's a huge first step towards building a sustainable local food system and you helped make it happen.
Please have a safe and happy holiday and come back and see us in 2008!
Gail Philbin

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Go Green for the Holidays!

Looking for unique "green" Christmas gift ideas this year? Consider giving (or asking Santa for) an annual membership to the West Michigan Co-op!! Annual fees are $35 to shop once a month at our year-round on-line farmers market! If you are interested please send your payment along with the name of the gift recipient and an email address to:

Tara Simmons
Media Rare
1111 Godfrey SW, Ste. S250
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

I will send an email invitation to join the WM Co-op to the gift recipient and mark that person as paid.
* Also available through the co-op are t-shirts for $20 and cloth shopping bags for $25, both with the West Michigan Co-op logo.
All gifts will also be available for purchase this Saturday December 15th between 1:30-4pm at Media Rare for the Member Pick-up.
Thanks and Happy Holidays!!! :)

Monday, November 26, 2007

What goes into the making of a Butterball turkey

Gail sent this out to all the Co-op members today!:

It's hard to read the kind of story you'll see below, but it's important that we all know what goes into the making of those assembly line turkeys many people consume over the holidays. I thought I'd seen it all, but the things mentioned below take the cake. Another reason to eat humanely raised birds from small, local farms:

Comedian host of Real Time with Bill Maher has a piece printed on the popular Huffington Post site headed " George Bush: Pardon All the Turkeys." As a nod to Maher's "New Rules" segment on his weekly show, the piece opens with:
"New Rule: The president can't pardon just one or two turkeys this Thanksgiving. He's got to let them all go."
Maher notes the "torture" of turkeys and writes:
"Take a look at this video, shot just last month at a typical American turkey slaughterhouse, and this one, shot undercover last year at a Butterball slaughterhouse by investigators from PETA, and you'll see that my use of the word is no exaggeration. Butterball employees, taking a page out of the Abu Ghraib handbook, laughed while they kicked, punched, stomped, and even sexually assaulted turkeys."

He writes, "I ask you to do what I'm going to do and pardon a turkey this Thanksgiving. It's not hard. Just eat something else. Not someone else, because it doesn't seem fair to spare a turkey and roast a hunk of pig or cow instead." He questions ethics that would let us "bow our heads in gratitude for our families, our friends and our big screen TVs, and then carve into a creature who lived a miserable life and died a horrible death...."

And he asks Al Gore, "to stop gazing at his Oscar and his Nobel Prize long enough to read the United Nations report that calls the meat industry 'one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at very scale from local to global.'"

You can find the full article online here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Volunteering at the Co-op

During the last shopping round I was able to volunteer during the producer drop off day. Volunteering is a great way to meet the other people who belong to the co-op. The best part about volunteering is that you get to see all the food first hand!

Volunteers are needed every shopping cycle on drop-off and pick-up days. I had a lot of fun helping the producers unload their vehicles. It is a great way to meet the people who are making and delivering our food! After the food arrives, the volunteers go to work organizing all the food into the refrigerators and freezers. It is actually a lot of fun!!

The West Michigan Co-op could not exist without the help of volunteers! We are only needed 2 days a shopping cycle for only about 3 hours a shift! It is soooo easy!!!

On Producer Drop-off days volunteers are needed to help check in products from the producers and help to organize the products for the member pick-up day.

On Member Pick-up days volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks, including greeting members as they arrive, helping members find their correct orders, double check orders to help make sure everything is correct, and collect money at the check-out.

It is easy and fun!!! All you have to do to volunteer is contact Tara Simmons to sign up! See you there!!!

Ed. Note: As of today, if you log in and edit your Member Contact Info, you can now check the "I am available to volunteer" box. This will put you on a list to be contacted for volunteer opportunities. Thanks all!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Creswick Farm Tour

I was disappointed that I wasn't able to make it to the Creswick Farm Tour on October 20th, which wrapped up this years series of farm tours. Did anybody else out there go? How was it?

Luckily, I see that there is a summary of the whole Farm Tour series on their website.

What great pictures!

I can't wait for next year's farm tours! It's going to be a long winter!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Crane Dance Farm Tour

It's been a little over a week since I attended the first of many Local Farm Tours put together by Farms Without Harm.

The tour was of Crane Dance Farm in Middleville. Crane Dance Farm is a sustainable, regenerative, pasture-based farm.

I haven't ate meat in many years, but I have been buying my eggs exclusively from the local farms, and mostly Crane Dance, for a couple years now. So even though they have beef cows, pigs, sheep, goats, and turkeys, I still wanted to go and see how a small organic, cruelty free farm is run, and where my eggs come from.

It's pretty much amazing. This farm is ran by 2 gals, Mary and Jill. They own the farm and live there and do most of the work all themselves. When they talk, you can tell that they believe animals deserve to live a happy and healthy life.

There are 2 sections to the farm. On one side of the road is the pigs, cows, sheeps, and goats. The other side is where all the poultry are kept.

The pigs are kept in a large fenced area outside and they have little shelters to get out of the sun and take naps. There are also lots of shade trees. These babies were running all over the place!

This was their mom in a mud pit.

The farmers, Mary and Jill, explained that in a normal farm setting these piglets would have had their tails cut off at birth and kept in gestation crates. They would be so stressed because they would not be able to do anything but stand up and sit down, that they would gnaw on each others tails due to stress. The adult pigs have their noses pierced to make it painful when they try to root into the ground, something that they love to do. The adults would have no room for walking either and would only be able to stand and sit all day long for their entire life.

Then we saw some really cute cows.

This hairy one's name was chewbacca :)

You can see from this picture that these cows have lots of room to roam.

This is where the sheep and goats are kept.

Then we crossed back across the street to see the birds.

First up was the turkey house.

These turkeys come and go inside their house, but there is an electric fence around them to keep predators out. They are locked up at night to keep them safe from owls.

Here are some of the chickens:

The eggs you get from these guys are not only brown and white, but some are greenish/blue, some are grey, some are speckled. It's because of the genetic diversity of the chickens. And let me tell you, you have not had an egg until you have tried one of these. They are delicious. The flavor is so much more intense than any store bought egg. Ask anyone who has ate my cupcakes or cakes! :) They make your baking taste awesome!

They also have ducks. I bought some duck eggs, but was a little leary of how I was going to cook them and how they would taste. On Saturday morning I woke up to the aroma of breakfast and got up to find that my husband made french toast with them. It was delicious.

It is important to not be fooled by grocery store free-range eggs, like I was for years. The US Government will let an egg producer label their eggs free-range if the chickens are not kept in battery cages. This DOES NOT mean they are outside basking in the sunshine (like the picture you see above). Often times, these chickens are still crammed inside warehouses with very little room to move around in, they still have their beaks cut off, and they are still very unhappy and treated inhumanely.

After the tour Marie Catrib's gave everyone chorizo hash that they made on site along with some local tomatoes and local cheese from Steve-N-Sons Grassfields Cheese located in Coopersville.

If you would like to sign up for the farm tours, visit Farms Without Harm. The next tour will be on September 22 in Montcalm County at Heritage Acres, an 80-acre Mennonite farm who uses sustainable practices to raise a variety of animals and crops.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Your browser is...

Hi all!

This isn't a typical coop-related post, but I'm "the tech guy," so I thought I'd geek out for a moment and get you all up-to-date on what your computer is running.

Lots of you out there are Windows users - in fact, if you follow the statistics, 19 out of 20 of you use Windows rather than an alternative like Mac OS X, or Linux. It's a Windows world out there. It's likely the vast majority of you are Internet Explorer ("IE") users as well, because it comes with Windows, and it's made by Microsoft. If you're not particularly keen on running your updates, you may even still be using IE version 6 - if you don't know, go to the Help menu, and choose "About Internet Explorer."

If you are using version 6, and you're on Windows XP, before you read anything else, at least update to version 7. Run Microsoft Update, and just let your computer get download-happy for a while. Trust me, IE 7 is important - it's much more secure (leading to fewer viruses), and as a bonus, it renders pages better as well. While you're there, just tell your computer to auto-install updates. If it's online all day, it needs them to stay secure, and to prevent nasties from crawling onto your hard drive.

That said, I don't really believe that IE is the best browser out there. Version 7 is much better than 6, but it still pales, in my opinion, in comparison to the (free!) alternatives. Those alternatives are:

Firefox (
Safari (
Opera (

Firefox is a free, open source browser from the Mozilla Foundation. Free as in costing nothing but the time to download. Open Source, meaning not only can you install and run the program, but you can also download, edit, and modify the code that creates the program - with the stipulation that you give your changes back to the community. I'm guessing that almost nobody reading this blog really wants to do that, but it's good to know that there's a worldwide community of people maintaining this program, not because they make money at it, but because they use it.

Safari is a free browser from Apple. Today they announced that the new version (Safari 3.0) will be available for Windows as well as OS X - and there's a 'beta' version of the program available for free download. It's not particularly stable, so I wouldn't recommend it as your main internet program just yet. But it's exciting that there's more competition out there. Safari, like Firefox, has an open-source core which handles the rendering of the pages - in fact, the main core of the browser comes from the KDE project on Linux. But unlike Firefox, the program is not entirely open source, so only the core can actually be tinkered with.

Opera is another browser that's been out for a while. They have a paid version, and a free version, but in the free version you have to put up with ads. I don't really like it that much, but it has a good size following, and there's lots of work being done on it - in fact, Opera's software is in many mobile phones, as well as the Nintendo Wii's internet browser.

These alternative all have a little different feel, but they all have the same advantages: they render pages faster than IE, and because they aren't directly tied into your system files, they are far more secure. They still have issues - there are security patches for each of these browsers on a regular basis - but a security issue in Firefox will generally only hurt Firefox, while a security flaw in IE can more often than not do damage to Windows itself!

As a web designer, it's also far easier to develop a web page for any of these other browsers, because they closely follow the World Wide Web Consortium's standards for web page rendering - essentially, they show pages as they are meant to be shown. IE has several 'quirks' in it's display (though IE 7 fixed quite a few of them), so as a designer, I have to make lots of exceptions and code changes - which ultimately slow down the site, so it can play nicely with all the browsers.

So hey, give one of these alternatives a try; see if you like them. I personally use Firefox on my PC and my Mac. It's got some great features and extensions, and it's very snappy showing pages.

-Your Tech Guy

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Little Rooster

Little Rooster Bread Company ( has graciously volunteered to donate all of their proceeds from the current shopping round to the West Michigan Co-op to help defray the costs of the equipment that we have recently purchased, including freezers, coolers, tables, etc. A big thanks goes out to Little Rooster!!! :) A few other members have also made generous contributions. Thank you so much!! We are still a few hundred dollars short. Any little bit will help. If you wish to make a donation to the West Michigan Co-op you can do so at the time of your order pick-up or by contacting Gail at

Friday, May 4, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I first heard of Barbara Kingsolver's new book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life" on NPR's Weekend Edition last Sunday. Having just finished reading her book "Prodigal Summer" (and really enjoying it) I was very excited to learn that her latest book is on the joys of eating locally! Her entire family takes on the challenge of eating locally (in VA) for an entire year and it leads to a welcomed change in lifestyle extending beyond their one year experiment. I haven't yet read the book although I'm really looking forward to it! In the meantime I thought I'd pass on the website address - It offers resources, guides for finding local food (although not complete, I found that many of our co-op producers are not listed in these sources), recipes, and an opportunity to share your own local food stories. You can also hear her interview from last weekend at

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Another Successful Shopping Round for the WMC!

The April shopping round of the West Michigan Co-op has come and gone and it was a big success, thanks to the help of many volunteers and the support of about 70 West Michigan residents who shopped to the tune of $3,300.

We've invited an additional 50 members to join for our May cycle, so our numbers will no doubt go up next month! It looks like shopping will take place roughly between May 11 and 17 with the pickup day being May 24. Note: For farmers market season, which monopolizes farmers' time on Saturdays during the growing season, we've switched from a Saturday pickup to a Thursday evening pickup.

This is fun!

Each month it's like Christmas morning -- you forget what you ordered and then on pick-up day it's like opening a present will all these cool, local gifts inside.

On the horizon: We're assembling a board and coming up with by-laws and soon will be figuring out our membership fee structure and surcharges to help us cover expenses like the freelance accountant we hired to handle our money each month. Thanks for your patience as we build this thing!

Monday, March 26, 2007

March Run Success!

Hello, all!

Well, I've tried to get my cohorts to post on here as much as possible, and still, I blog alone. *Sigh.*

But all is well; this month your participation rocketed us to a new record: over $3600. Very well done, and we thank you all.

I wanted to take a moment to tell everybody that I have heard your suggestions, and I've been slowly trying to implement a few:

- Favorites
Favorites have been implemented. Hopefully, you noticed, and marked a few products that you enjoy. Next month, when shopping begins, you'll be able to go into your favorites, and click one button to add all the products available in your favs to your basket. One-click shopping. Then, just go to your basket and update quantities. If you do nothing else on the site for the rest of the week, at least you can get your favorite items every month, easy as pie.

- Invoice/Basket Printing
You've always been able to print your basket & invoice, but today I did a significant amount of work on the appearance of the invoices. This was a request from a producer, so I took some time and fixed some printing issues all around the site.
I also hope to add the ability to view past invoices soon. We do keep that information for record keeping, but it's currently just buried in the database, with no fleshed-out way to view it. I hear you and it's coming ASAP.

- Weight clarifications
During this lull, I hope to work on the view of the products. We do track information on weights, and I hope to make that info available to the membership, so that as you shop, you'll be able to better understand what size your items will be. I want to implement a weight-request slider as well, so you'll be able to ask the producer for a certain weight of item (when it makes sense to have that available).

I'm happy to announce that I now have a few database-savvy volunteers who are going to become the "tech team" here at the Coop. This should help me get these features onto the site as soon as possible!

I thank you all again, and I'll try to get on here and post more often. Stay tuned, and we'll see you soon.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007


The last week has seen a few new abilities for the Coop site. The first is invites - our administrators can now simply invite members via email, and the new member fills in their relevant information. This is more secure for everybody, because the personal info doesn't have to be hand-written, verbalized, or emailed. And it's much more convenient for us as admins.

The invite system will eventually be opened up to general membership. Members will have a set number of 'invites' they can give out, and those invited will have the opportunity to join the Coop. This has the advantage of managing our growth these first few months - we've been getting LOTS of positive feedback, and many, many requests to join.

Adding on to the Invite system is the Producer Request system. Members can simply click a button and enter their business name, and a request for producer abilities is sent to the admins. Once approved, that Member becomes a Producer, and has the ability to list products on the site. This again saves the headaches for our admins of having to coordinate with producers on their company info, and hopefully gets the membership aware of their abilities as producers.

And on a final note, our schedule for the January order cycle is finalized. As follows:
Jan 5-9: Producers can add/edit/delete items from their product lists.
Jan 10-13: The membership can shop.
Jan 13-19: Producers review and fill orders.
Jan. 19 from 8-10 & 4-6: Producers drop off at Alger Heights Foods.
Jan. 20 from 2-5: Members pick up and pay for their orders.

Stay tuned for more, and post below or email with feedback!

-Paul D.
WMCoop "Tech Guy"