INTRODUCTION TO THE OZARK COOPERATIVE WAREHOUSE ASSOCIATION
Thank you for your interest in our Cooperative, and if you are a new member, welcome! Ozark Cooperative Warehouse (OCW) is a cooperatively-owned distributor of natural foods and other healthful products, serving members and customers in an eleven state area. OCW is organized under the Arkansas State Statutes for cooperatives.
OCW was formed in 1976 by a group of co-op retail stores and buying clubs, and is a consumer owned business that operates for the benefit of its members and the larger community. We provide scheduled refrigerated and frozen delivery service of over 3500 products. We work hard to keep our expenses low and our prices reasonable. We’re always seeking out new pure and wholesome products that we feel will be of interest to our members.
We work with producers including organic growers and small family farms to support sustainable ecological agriculture and assure purity for our members.
Although anyone may purchase from OCW, memberships are available to pre-order cooperatives (buying clubs) and co-op retail stores. Membership is obtained by requesting an Information Packet which includes a Membership Application. The Application must be filled out and returned, with the $25.00 membership fee, to OCW Customer Services. If a member withdraws, or a membership is denied, the $25.00 fee is automatically reimbursed.
Members must qualify by being consumer owned and generally having goals and purposes that are consistent with those of OCW. The OCW Bylaws clearly state the goals and purposes of OCW and the internationally accepted Co-op Principles.
Virtually all buying clubs, because they are consumer cooperatives by nature, are eligible for membership. All buying clubs are required to join OCW.
There are many advantages to becoming a member of “Ozark Cooperative Warehouse Association,” including:
VOTING RIGHTS: Only our owner/members may vote to elect the Directors for the OCW Board and regional representatives, thereby having control, through the democratic process, over their food supply.
INVESTING IN OWNERSHIP OF THE BUSINESS: Unlike a conventional corporation which sells stock, a cooperative such as Ozark is capitalized by member investment. This is done through 2% of your purchases from the warehouse. This 2% is not built into the prices on our price list, but added as a separate item after your total is figured. We keep track of this investment separately on our computer system. Non-members also pay the 2%, but it does not accumulate as an investment in OCW, it is retained as income by the cooperative. This “membership assessment” is used to purchase equipment, expand the product line and other uses approved by the Board.
PATRONAGE REFUNDS: When the cooperative attains a sufficient level of profitability (as determined by the Board of Directors), annual profits are rebated to the membership in the form of patronage refunds. Until such time as there are excess profits to rebates, all profits are put back into the Cooperative. They are used to invest in additional inventory and to pay the expenses of running the warehouse.
SERVING ON THE OCW BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Only members are eligible to serve on the OCW Board of Directors. The Board meets every two months in Fayetteville. They set long range goals and policies for the cooperative and hire and evaluate a General Manager. This manager then hires and evaluates other employees for the cooperative. The Board reviews and approves annual budgets, financial statements (monthly, quarterly and annually) and generally determines how our progress is keeping pace with our goals. OCW is truly operated both for and by its members.
SUPPORTING A DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION THAT FOSTERS COMMUNITY, CONSUMER EDUCATION AND HONESTY IN BUSINESS PRACTICES: A committed membership is vital to the success of all cooperatively owned businesses. The cooperative exists to serve its membership. Members benefit from being consumer-owners not only by receiving the quality products and services of the cooperative, but also from the opportunity to join together with friends and neighbors within their community in an effort to extent control over the supply of their food, and to share in the spirit of fellowship and mutual cooperation.
To become fully acquainted with the rights and responsibilities of members, please read the Ozark Cooperative Warehouse Bylaws.
OCW PUBLICATIONS AND INFORMATION
The Cooperative Principles (which are used as a purposeful guide by cooperatives throughout the world) are quite specific about the necessity for commitment to on-going education.
OCW is committed to providing its members and customers with information on food, health, nutrition, food production, consumer issues, the economics of cooperative enterprises, and technical assistance for the business operations of our members.
OCW publishes a price list four times per year. The OCW Price Guide contains a current, complete list of the products carried by OCW.
OCW also publishes a monthly newsletter, The Market News. The newsletter provides accurate and interesting information about products, nutrition and health, price changes, delivery schedules and updates, business news of the cooperative, and feature articles of interest.
OCW also publishes a comprehensive Product Catalog. The Product Catalog contains information about OCW products, their nutritional value, uses and preparation. Other educational materials are made available to customers, including several manuals on how to organize and operate food buying clubs, food storage, bookkeeping for buying clubs, natural food cooking, food additives, etc.
An annual membership meeting and educational conference is sponsored by OCW. These membership meetings provide a place where members can network, share information and ideas, and participate in educational programs. Business of the Cooperative is also conducted and the Directors for the Board of the Cooperative are elected from and by the membership. All membership meetings are announced well in advance in the OCW newsletter.
We have interesting authors, teachers and lecturers at these conferences. Past speakers have included such noted authors as Beatrice Trum Hunter, author of the Natural Foods Cookbook, Natural Food Primer, Food Additives & Your Health, and other books.
Because OCW serves a large geographical area, it is divided into five membership “Regions.” Annual membership meetings are held each year in these five regions. Attendance at these meetings is voluntary. We display new products, have interesting speakers and report on the business of the cooperative.
The Regions of the Cooperative are:
Region 1: Kansas, Missouri
Region 2: Oklahoma
Region 3: Arkansas, Tennessee
Region 4: Texas
Region 5: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi
Each of these regions elect one or more Regional Representative from among th4e co-ops in that geographical area. The Regional Representatives plan and coordinate the regional meeting along with their corresponding director and warehouse staff liaison. Regional Reps also help local co-ops by sharing information with groups about good procedures for the long term health of a co-op. Some Regional Reps publish a newsletter for the region or write for the OCW newsletter. Some Reps have the experience to help other co-ops who have reached a bottle-neck in their growth or developments. Reps can also intercede for a group if there is some sort of local problem of which the warehouse staff or Board is unaware. These individuals also host tasting fairs and open-houses in their area with support from the warehouse. They display foods and literature and help people sample new products. We appreciate our Regional Representatives!
If you have any questions about buying from the Ozark Cooperative Warehouse and/or becoming a member, write or call Ozark Cooperative Warehouse (501) 521-COOP. We look forward to the opportunity to serve you, your family and community.