Quarterly News ›

Winter 1986

Co-op News Winter 1986 PDF
The Blue Heron Bakery was put into granny gear in 1977 by Greg Reinemer, Carmella Courtney, and Teri Turner. Created with the ideals of creating good food, non-hierarchical working conditions, planetary consciousness, and support of local businesses, the bakery is still turning out high-quality organic baked goods. It is located in its original building on the banks of Mud Bay, west of Olympia. Although it has received an out paint job and a recent interior remodeling, it is still the same place that provided inspiration for the founding members.

Eight years ago, the first overs were moved into the building and the bakery went into business supplying whole grain bread to the Co-op and a handful of restaurants around town. The original retail sales were enough to pay the members sometimes a dollar a day. It was not long before they were able to pay themselves fifty cents an hour, increasing the pay to minimum wage after three years. We who joined the collective in the recent past would like to offer our full gratitude to the founding members for their hard work and perseverance during the early struggles. The wages at the bakery today are designed to be fair and equal, support our families, allow us to take vacations and rests, and not put the collective out of business.

The original anarchy of the bakery progressed to our current semi-organized business structure, a fact that the Co-op staff will testify to. The business today supports a total of twenty-six adults, children, and unborn babies. The workers are as follows: Robin Bergman, Anne Hunter-Anderson, Margie and Harry Bowron, Doug Martin, Steve and Peter Kirbach, James Skutt-Kakaria, Margo Murphy (bookkeeper), Doug denHerder (granola), and Doris Faltys (substitute). The group finds itself balancing in the middle between extreme anarchy (Peter) and extreme organization (Margo, Margie and Anne), as we strive to maintain a successful, socially conscious business in the midst of a grossly warped society.

The collective structure implies no boss, and our decisions are made on the consensus basis. We seek to work in an atmosphere of mutual respect, recognizing the gifts each member has to bring to the bakery. The fact that we are American adults always makes communication a challenge, as we are brought up in a society which tends to discourage true and honest verbal exchange. Another objective of ours is to encourage a flexible work schedule, which provides challenge and enables us to learn new skills. Most members work approximately three shifts a week, allowing time for families and fun, and to avoid worker “burnout”, a typical feature of American employment. Not having to answer to a “boss” is also a feature of the collective that encourages the development of personal authority and allows us to maintain a positive attitude towards work.

We are proud of supplying high-quality baked goods using the best organic ingredients wherever possible, to help support our fellow whole-grain collective, the Fairhaven Cooperative Mill in Bellingham, which supplies us with the finest of fresh, organic, whole grain flours which go into all our breads and sweets. Other ingredients for our products come to us from the Starflower Trucking Company, a collective business based in Eugene, Oregon. We all wish to maintain a loving relationship with the planet, thus all our products are made with organic ingredients wherever possible, and we use to chemicals, preservatives, etc. We also try to provide foods which take into account those customers with allergies, and we accept special orders to fulfill specific needs. The bakery also produces custom-made cakes for parties and special occasions. In addition to buying locally (Farmers Wholesale Cooperative, Country Cider Mill), we also sell our products in a variety of local markets. During the summer months we are involved in the Olympia Farmers Market.

We have had, and hope to continue a beneficial working relationship with the Olympia Food Co-op. Originally the only bread sold through the Co-op was bread from the Blue Heron bakers, and although they include the product of other bakeries today, we still have the only bread made with organic flour. We invite everyone who has a consciousness concerning pesticides and chemical poisoning to try our bread and enjoy it, knowing how much love went into its creation. We encourage the support of the local Co-op, but if you ever need organic whole-grain bred at two o’clock in the morning, feel free to stop by Black Lake or Tumwater Mark’n’Pak, or Bayview Market downtown.

If it were not for the patience and encouragement of the Olympia Food Co-op through the years, it is very questionable whether the bakery would have stayed in business. We offer heartfelt thanks to the members for their support and wise judgment in their choice of baked goods. Our wholesale bread market generates one-third of our income, of which the co-op is more than half. The other two-thirds comes from retail sales (come to the bakery!) and our wholesale granola sales.

Our granola is made at Doug denHerders Corner Bakery. After a year and a half of stirring granola, poor Peter was about to have a nervous breakdown. It was at this time where we were so full of granola that we couldn’t move through the bakery, that Greg came back with the proposal to make granola at the Corner Bakery. Well, we couldn’t refuse, so he took the granola away and we have room to move again. Eventually, through a couple of changes, Doug came to be making our granola, and we invite you to try it, because he does an excellent job.

Another person who is behind the scenes and who helps to keep our business running is the incredible Margo Murphy, who brought a semblance of order to our totally chaotic bookkeeping situation. She often sits in our office with a confused look on her face, mumbling about the miracle it is that we are still financially solvent. Yet, we are still in business, and we invite you and your friends to stop in and try our food. We would also like to invite people in local organizations working to make the world a better place, to come to us for food donation for the purpose of fundraising.

by Peter Kirbach and James & Kamla Skutt-Kakaria

Co-op News Winter 1986 PDF

Cover of Co-op News, Winter 1986

Newsletter Archive