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  • Writer's pictureHarmony Coop

Harmony Celebrates Co-op Month

Happy October! The leaves are at peak fall color, orange and red and brilliant above our heads and crunching underfoot. Every warm day we enjoy a little bit more than usual since it might be the last one for some time, and it's still been warm enough that we haven't had a hard frost - but we know it's coming. We're still getting used to all the rhythms of the new school year, but we're well on our way, and thinking about the holiday season doesn't seem quite as far away as it did a little while ago. There's a lot going on this month - and we're not talking about trick or treating! We're celebrating three month-long events and one very important day here at Harmony during the month of October.

October is Co-op Month around the world. Originally formed by people in your community who wanted access to healthy, delicious, eco-friendly foods, co-ops remain community-owned to this day. Co-ops – or cooperatives – are owned by the people they serve, democratically controlled by their members (usually through a board of directors elected by their members), and designed to allow people to work together to achieve the same goals (that is, to cooperate). We're all about cooperation here at Harmony! Becoming an owner lets you contribute to the direction of the co-op and participate in the decision-making process, through voting for the Board of Directors or by running for the board yourself.

Co-operatives like Harmony often use dividends as a way of financially “giving back”; Harmony has been profitable enough that we have been able to send patronage dividends (a share proportionate to the amount each person has spent at the co-op in the past year) to all of our owners for the past three years. Any unclaimed dividends are donated; this year, September 27th, 2021, Harmony’s General Manager Colleen Bakken presented Denae Alaman, Executive Director of United Way of Bemidji Area with a check in the amount of $4,149.96 (unclaimed Patronage Dividends). We are proud to partner with United Way and honor them for the important work they do in the community.

October isn't just Co-op Month, though. It's also Fair Trade Month, and that's another concept that's very important to all of us here at Harmony. We're so excited about Fair Trade Month that we're going bananas - organic, fair trade bananas, which are on sale all month long! These have been a customer and staff favorite since Harmony was first a grocery store, so we're all excited to celebrate. It's also Non-GMO Month during October. "Non-GMO" means "not genetically modified", and if you eat organic food you're already eating non-GMO food (it's one of the qualifications for organic certification).

The most important celebration here at Harmony in October is Indigenous People's Day, on October 11th. As a locally owned cooperative we celebrate the cultures that shape who we are as a community, particularly local food systems, ways of sustainable living, and respect for the land & water. We are offering a one-day-only sale for October 11th on some items in the store with historical importance to indigenous as well as settler communities.

Harmony Co-op recognizes that Bemidji sits within Ojibwe territory. The Ojibwe Language Project works alongside greater community endeavors to revitalize and maintain the Ojibwe language for future generations of Ojibwe people as well as raise awareness of language loss and revitalization efforts. In addition to the labeling of native foods, plans are under way to expand the inclusion of Ojibwe language in other aspects of the workings of Harmony Co-op including store signage, community and staff education, and possible future activities this project may bring on.

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