Monday, December 6, 2010

A Circle of Stories

I got back from our marketing co-op meeting just in time to go see Dad in the hospital. He’s 91 and needing some propping up. Hopefully he comes home today.

The co-op meeting was as always, a real opportunity for self-growth. Country Natural Beef is very participatory. We sit in a circle and each member takes a turn at receiving the microphone and voicing their opinion on the decision at hand. As is written in our operating principles, we strive to “listen with respect, speak with respect and communicate openly and honestly.” We welcome our retail partners to the circle as well. One of them commented on the “directness” of our conversations. It can get heated at times, but straightforward communication is one of our hallmarks, and an integral part of the success of the 25-year-old cooperative.

Transparency is also a foundation value of the co-op. We talk openly with our retailers about the costs back at the ranch and how the carcass comes apart, each cut returning its share to the return needed to ensure sustainability of our 100+ family ranches.

Mark hated to miss the meeting. He would have enjoyed the camaraderie, the arguments, the numbers discussions. We’ve spent the last two days trying to catch him up. I told him about Jimmy who runs a ranch in Hawaii, and with all the challenges of ranching on the islands, looks and acts just like the weathered Idaho cowboys I know so well. I told him about my discussion with Pam, and how the “every voice in the room” aspect of Country Natural Beef is so intoxicating to us traditional ranch wives. I told him about Becky from Whole Foods, and Aaron from The Wedge, and how we all, ranchers and retailers alike, share the same passion for connecting consumers with ranching families.

Their stories inspire me, humble me, and make winter just a little bit warmer here in Idaho.  

Rancher/Member Maureen takes her turn in the Circle

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