Viroqua Food Co+op Blog

2017 Co-op Association Scholarship Now Available!

Posted by Bjorn Bergman on Mon, Jan 09, 2017 @ 04:38 PM

Viroqua Food Co-op Owner: Is your son or daughter planning on attending a two or four year institution of higher education in 2017? If you answered yes, invite them apply for Vernon County Co-op Association's 2017 Scholarship. The application is now available! 

Read More

Tags: Cooperative, Scholarship, Vernon County Co-op Association, 2017

Farmer Direct Co-op: Producer Co-op to Food Co-op relationship

Posted by Bjorn Bergman on Tue, Feb 02, 2016 @ 12:31 PM

Read More

Tags: small producer, P6, cooperatively-owned business, Cooperative, Co-op/NPO producer

Open Book Management at the Viroqua Food Co-op

Posted by Andrew Anderson on Fri, Apr 04, 2014 @ 01:11 PM

The Viroqua Food Cooperative is undergoing a fundamental shift in the way we run our business and it relies on all the heads in the room.  

A year ago I traveled with two other members of the VFC Management team, Jan Rasikas and Eric Speck, to Zingerman’s Zing Train in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We participated in a three day training based on the principles of Open Book Management. This concept was developed and implemented by Jack Stack at SRC Holdings and expressed in his book The Great Game of Finance. Zingerman’s Delicatessen implemented these same practices in the 1990’s and by 2003 was a completely Open Book Business.  

My assumption walking into the training was that we were going to learn about creative ways to understand balance sheets, read profit-loss statements, and interpret financial statements. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I was completely wrong.

Open Book Management is a system in which everyone in the organization takes responsibility for the effective operation of the business, financial and otherwise.  

This means the business is not being run by a solitary lone figure sitting in an office pulling strings like a puppet master and issuing commands. It also means that our financial information isn’t kept under lock and key and analyzed only by the select few in the inner circle. Instead, the creative forces of all the individuals performing the work are empowered to understand how the business works, why it works and most importantly, what we can do to make things better.

Sounds good, even revolutionary, but is it really possible? If Zingerman’s is any indication of the kind of success that is possible then the answer is a resounding YES! Currently the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses is a 45 million dollar industry with the same small origins as our own dear Co-op.

How does Open Book Management work? It starts with principles we call
 The Three Steps to Great Finance: Know and Teach the Rules, Keep Score and Share the Success.

Read More

Tags: Cooperative, Open Book Management


Posted by Charlene Elderkin on Fri, Jan 11, 2013 @ 03:45 PM

Two organizations focused on cooperatives are stepping in to enable donations in support of recovery efforts after the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy: the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF) and the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF).

Read More

Tags: Cooperative

The Worker Cooperative, A Business Model

Posted by Charlene Elderkin on Mon, Sep 03, 2012 @ 02:41 PM

My name is Kevin Schmidt. I am a clinical social worker/psychotherapist, at Center Point Counseling Services Cooperative, in Viroqua Wisconsin. We opened our doors in December 2011, the first mental health cooperative in the country.

We are a worker cooperative. This means that our 12 clinical and administrative staff are the member-owners of the cooperative.

During this last year of introducing our cooperative to the public, many have asked “So what is a worker cooperative?”  I realized that when we have been answering this question, we generally preface our response “Well, a worker cooperative is a business model…” and then there are a number of ways to end that sentence, to distinguish this business model from others. These distinctions were usually poignant, direct statements about powerful aspects of worker cooperatives, and cooperatives in general. One day, I decided to write down the many ways that we end this sentence, the ways that the worker cooperative is set apart from other business models:

Read More

Tags: Cooperative, Worker Cooperative Business Model

Co-Cycle comes to the Coulee Region

Posted by Charlene Elderkin on Thu, Jul 05, 2012 @ 11:58 AM

National Bike tour raising awareness about the benefits of cooperatives.

When a group of college students from Amherst, Massachusetts learned the United Nations was declaring 2012 The International Year of Cooperatives, it proved to have a galvanizing effect. The announcement prompted the students to create the Co-cycle Project, a youth-led, bike-powered tour linking cooperatives across the United States and designed to draw attention to cooperatives and how they contribute to making the world a better place.

Starting in San Francisco, California on June 2, and ending on Labor Day in Amherst, Massachusetts, members of the Co-cycle Project are making their way across the country, stopping in nine cities where two-day public events and workshops about cooperatives are being held. Through these events and workshops, Co-cycle is raising awareness about the economic, social and environmental benefits cooperatives offer. For more details on event locations and dates, or to join Co-cycle for all or a portion of their cross country trek, check out their website at to see their route. For details on how to join them for the local part of the ride (August 3-5), contact Bjorn Bergman at

Co-cycle’s journey will live on beyond this summer. The journey and events will be chronicled by a student film crew in a documentary (sponsored by the National Cooperative Grocers Association) which will serve as a “Cooperatives 101” tutorial, a vehicle for introductory education about cooperatives. The film will highlight the importance of dedication, innovation, and teamwork in making sustainable change for the future and the value of cooperative action.

From the onset, Co-cycle has been a student-led idea motivated by a wide range of intersecting passions. As the youth of (mostly) America, members of Co-cycle face a world full of complex problems whose solutions, they assert, will require imaginative, creative, and social justice-oriented thinking. They are motivated to learn and teach others about why cooperatives have increasingly become recognized for their ability to address complicated and interconnected local and global issues. And they are driven by hope and inspiration towards a better world.

Find more info about Co-cycle, their project and to follow their journey, visit

From August 3rd-5th, Co-Cycle will be in the Driftless Region! Join us for a Co-Cycle and area Co-ops meet and greet, free and open to the public.

Read More

Tags: Cooperative, Events, co-cycle

Local Food Hub Attracts National Attention!

Posted by Charlene Elderkin on Mon, Apr 23, 2012 @ 01:01 PM

by Bjorn Bergman, 

Promotions and Educational Coordinator

On Monday, April 2nd 2012, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and a number of individuals from USDA Rural Development and the Wisconsin Farm Services Agency visited Viroqua to learn about the developing local food economy in our region.

Read More

Tags: Local, Cooperative, Farm, Produce, Organic

Coulee Region Cooperative Community Grant Fund

Posted by Charlene Elderkin on Mon, Mar 05, 2012 @ 11:59 AM


The Viroqua Food Co-op and its partners, the People’s Food Co-op and Bluff Country Co-op, are pleased to announce the 5th annual request for proposals for the Coulee Region Cooperative Community Fund Grant. This grant fund was established in 2003 by the People’s Food Co-op with a mission to provide supplemental or project-specific funding to local non-profit organizations which have missions consistent with the goals of our co-ops. Priority is given to grant requests for educational projects, development projects and events which have a focus on, but are not necessarily limited to, food and food systems, nutrition, health and well-being, sustainable agriculture, cooperative education and social change.

Read More

Tags: Cooperative

Maple Valley: The Brand of the Organic Maple Cooperative

Posted by Charlene Elderkin on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 @ 01:28 PM

Bjorn Bergman,
Promotions and Educational Coordinator

Read More

Tags: Local, Cooperative, Product Information

23rd Annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference

Posted by Charlene Elderkin on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 @ 10:40 AM

February 23rd - 25th, 2012

Read More

Tags: Local, Cooperative, Events, Food, Farm, Produce, Organic, Sustainability