The Durango Natural Foods continued its efforts to revive its operation Sunday evening at its annual meeting, which kicked off with voting for four positions on its board of directors and a bylaw change that seeks to increase the equity required for membership from $100 to $300.
Currently, members can spread their equity membership dues to $20 paid annually for five years; the change in the bylaws would require a $300 equity membership that could be paid in $20 installments over 15 years.
DNF estimates it will raise $26,000 annually over the next 10 years if the members vote to increase equity requirements.
“This will spread out member investments to fund our capital replacement program over time,” said DNF board member Don Lewis.
In addition, four people – Rachel Bennet, Elise Boyson, Jules Masterjohn and Cody Reinheimer – are running for four positions on the DNF’s seven-member board.
Members have until May 9 to vote, and they can vote at the cooperative, 575 E. Eighth Street, or on DNF’s website. About 30 people attended the annual meeting held at River Bend Ranch.
The cooperative’s tenuous financial situation – it had $150,000 in unpaid bills due to vendors at the end of 2018 – has been turned around largely thanks to a $75,000 loan from a founding co-op member and another $50,000 no-interest loan from a longtime member, Lewis said.
“We’ve nearly payed off our vendor debt, and we are ... covering current expenses with current operations,” he said.
The co-op currently is only $15,000 in arrears, and Lewis said the two vendors that are still owed money have agreed to be the last paid. Also, he said, a payment plan has been worked out with both of them.
DNF also is in the midst of a capital fundingraising campaign with a goal of raising an additional $100,000.
DNF Treasurer Jaime Matthews said if the cooperative is able to raise $100,000 it will gain assistance from the National Cooperative Grocers, which would subsidize the salary of a professional general manager for the DNF for the next three years.
“NCG has the tools in place that we can tap into to further the mission of the co-op,” Matthews said.
Matthews added NCG research shows Durango is ripe for a thriving food cooperative and sees potential not only for strengthening DNF, but to see it thrive as Durango grows.
In addition, Matthews said, La Montañita Co-op in New Mexico has pre-approved a $30,000 loan to DNF and is working out a truck route with DNF that will provide more regional produce to both DNF and La Montañita and should allow for lower prices.
Board member Kelly Rogers said the past several months in which DNF has had to thoroughly re-examine its operation has benefited the cooperative by bringing forward existing members and new members committed to reinvigorating the cooperative.
“A lot of positive energy manifested itself not only to keep the co-op open but to allow it to compete and to thrive,” Rogers said. “We’ve discovered a solid group of people in the community who recognize that the concept of a cooperative model is really important to maintain, and that’s allowed us to make slow, steady progress. We’ve tipped the scales.”