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413. Becoming a Coop

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City: Greenfield
Country: Belgium
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Dan Rosenberg and Addie Rose Holland are the proud owners of Real Pickles in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Real pickles produces raw naturally fermented pickles made from local, organic and sustainably farmed produce. Every year, Dan and Addie purchase about 100,000 pounds of certified organic vegetables within a 50 mile radius and transform it into six different pickle varieties ranging from the zesty ginger carrots to classic dill pickles. They sell their tasty product to over two hundred stores exclusively within the Northeast region of the US.

However, for Dan and Addie getting into the pickling business was not all about, well, business. It was also about owning a company committed to local, sustainable and environmentally responsible practices. In fact, what makes Real Pickles truly stand out from other businesses is its uncompromising stand behind its core values. These include environmental sustainability, nurturing healthy and strong rural communities and a specific commitment to its regional economy.

These values allow Real Pickles to keep money flowing locally, thus supporting rural agricultural communities; to produce clean, safe and additive-free food, thereby contributing to healthy diets; and to be environmentally sustainable, as organic agriculture does not employ chemical fertilizers, GMOs or pesticides. Dan and Addie are so committed to environmental sustainability that they recently relocated to a brand new 100% solar-powered facility.

A key concern for Dan, however, is how to ensure that the principles and values which make Real Pickles so unique and successful remain unchanged over time. He would like to know that the good working conditions of his 12 staff and his sustainable business practices will remain integral parts of Real Pickles even if he were to leave the company in the future.

As a way to make sure that Real Pickles will conserve its sustainable business model Dan and his staff decided to turn the business into a cooperative. This, says Dan, will ensure that his founding values will be inscribed into the cooperative’s guiding principles, thereby making it very difficult to change them in the future if Real Pickles were ever to be sold.

According to the National Cooperative Business Association the guiding principles informing most cooperatives include open membership, economic participation of its members, independence and autonomy, democratic control and a concern for the community in which it operates. The set of principles which Dan and his colleagues have drawn up for Real Pickles include all of these and more. Within its bylaws, Real Pickles has renewed its promise to minimally process only local organic produce, it will always support the dignity of its working members, and continue its exclusive focus on the Northeast regional food system.

Moreover, it renews its commitment to remaining a small business and establishes provisions so that its core values cannot be changed unless there is unanimous consent of all worker-owners. In addition, the cooperative is authorizing the release of only 50 shares of common stock as a measure to check its size, and has established bylaws which discourage the selling of the business for private financial gain.

The overall purpose of the Real Pickles Cooperative, states Dan, “is to operate a small, democratically-organized business helping to build a regionally-based, organic food system that supports ecological and human health.”

The transition into a cooperative provides Real Pickles with the necessary framework which enshrines its values into guiding principles and bylaws. By becoming a cooperative Real Pickles will have laid down the groundwork for a truly sustainable business approach for many years to come.

Author of this story
Giulio Caperchi
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