The New Leaf Market in Tallahassee, Florida, formed a committee of its board of directors to do outreach to elected officials in local governance. Their purpose is to introduce the co-op to the legislators in their area and let them know about their activities in the community. The idea to pursue this came out of their board retreat last fall when board secretary-treasurer June Wiaz learned about how Three Rivers Market in Knoxville, Tennessee, had appealed to local government for funds to expand. “It planted in my mind that we could do more outreach to our local governance and let them know about what we offer the community,” she said. “We realized that it can’t hurt to talk with people about why we’re so great.”
The group started out last fall by meeting with everyone who is an elected city commissioner and inviting them to tour the co-op. They also have two state representatives in their area and will be meeting with them in the coming months. Since Tallahassee is in a state capitol, the co-op plans to eventually meet with as many elected officials as they can because they have the advantage of proximity. “Co-ops in state capitols have a great opportunity,” Wiaz pointed out. “People think that doing this is only for the well-connected. It doesn’t have to be that way. Anyone can do it.”
“Sometimes great ideas take time to ferment,” said Wiaz, who says that it may be some time before their efforts pay off, but in the meantime having the ability to discuss who they are is laying the groundwork for important relationships. Future topics for the Ambassador Committee to discuss with legislators include removing barriers to co-op incorporation in Florida and addressing the co-op’s issue with the state appropriating unclaimed patronage refunds.