The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op is throwing a June 22 bash billed as its 40-year anniversary celebration, but there are more than a million other reasons for general manager Paul Cultrera to organize a party.
Co-op members have bought nearly $1.1 million worth of non-voting preferred shares to help fund the planned construction of a new store at 28th and R streets.
"The original offering was $1.5 million. It was split up between B and C and D shares, and the B shares and the D shares sold out almost immediately," Cultrera told me. "Within the first five or six weeks, they were all gone. Through that we've raised over a million dollars. ... We are considering going back to apply to the Department of Corporations to do another offering because a lot of our customers have said they want to buy more of those B and D shares."
To learn about the offering, go to www.sacfoodcoop.com, and scroll to the bottom of the page. The preferred shares pay annual dividends ranging from 1 percent for B shares, which cost $50, to 3 percent for D shares, which cost $500.
Cultrera estimated that, at current construction costs, the co-op will spend about $7 million on its new building, and much of that will come from bank loans.
Crackerjack online sales
Danny and Kathy Johnson launched online sales at Taylor's Market back in the spring of 2000, but they had to wait three months before they made their first sale.
"That was a box of crackers to Utah," Danny Johnson said. "We were so excited to get that order. It was like a $10 order."
These days, online sales make up 20 percent of revenue at Taylor's Market, located at 2900 Freeport Blvd. in Land Park. That's about double the gross receipts of the Johnsons' restaurant, Taylor's Kitchen. The online operation once occupied the break room in back of the market, Johnson said, but now leases 1,600 square feet from neighbor Capital Power Equipment.
One part-time employee got it going, Brian McNeil. He now supervises four full-time employees who ship products worldwide. They began by selling items at taylorsmarket.com but eventually coordinated the launch of a Taylor's Market store at Amazon.com in 2007. Sales rocketed.
Taylor's sells items priced from $2.39 (a bottle of Lindberg-Snider porterhouse and roast seasoning) into the $200 range (100 milliliters of aged balsamic vinegar).
"It has like a cherry raisin flavor," said McNeil, adding that online customers could buy their goods anywhere, but they count on Taylor's staff for their expertise on esoteric items.
Colombia shows the way
My May 21 column on coffee rust caught the attention of the head scientist on coffee research in Colombia, and he wanted to talk about how that nation is successfully eradicating the disease.
Alvaro Gaitan, who's at the Cenicafé research agency, told me that Colombia has spent about $1.4 billion so far in its battle against la roya. In 2011, more than 40 percent of Colombian coffee farms had the fungus infection. Now it's 5 percent.
"We had the advantage of having organized the coffee farmers around what we call the National Federation of Coffee Growers. They have a fund which is called the coffee fund. From every pound of coffee that we export, 6 cents are paid into the fund," Gaitan said.
Industry and government invested in solving the problem. Researchers did field surveys to define it, discovering that farmers often were blaming la roya when actually climate change was adversely affecting trees. They implemented methods to control the rust and, in 2010, undertook replacing 20 percent of the nation's coffee trees annually until rust-resistant varieties are planted everywhere.
Pete Rogers of Lincoln's Rogers Family Co. and other specialty coffee roasters are sounding the alert that la roya is decimating small coffee farms in Mexico and Central America. He said Colombia's massive effort is just what is needed.
While lack of funding is a huge barrier, Gaitan said, the greatest problem in Latin America may well be the absence of a strong industry group to coordinate efforts and lobby government. He's especially concerned at the lack of research surveys and empirical data on weather.