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ARF Co-op's Policies

ARF Co-op began in 2002 as a loose association of raw-feeding friends who ordered chicken staples together. One member drove to the supplier every month and everyone picked it up at her house. As time passed and word spread around Austin we added more suppliers, grew in size, and fine-tuned our ordering and delivery model. Today we are structured more formally but are still a friendly association of like-minded folks.

Name and location

The co-op is officially named the Austin Raw Feeders' Coop, or ARF Co-op. We are centered in Austin, Texas, and serve the Austin metropolitan area (Travis, Bastrop, Hays, and Williamson counties) and surrounding satellite cities not currently served by a co-op. If you live within reasonable driving distance to Austin (i.e., you can easily drive into Austin on a weekday or evening) and do not have a cooperative source of natural food for your pets, you are welcome to join us. If you are interested in starting a co-op in your area, contact us and we will be happy to assist you in whatever way we can.

The co-op does not have commercial office space, cold storage, or a post office box. The co-op Membership Coordinator accepts mail and other notices at her residence on behalf of the co-op. This physical address is available to members.

Mission

The mission of ARF Co-op is to make providing a natural, fresh foods diet for pets an affordable option. Our mission is also to educate and inform our membership about the health benefits of a natural diet for their pets, and provide support and resources for those interested in doing so. We support the co-op's non-profit status and spirit of sharing among members.

ARF Co-op is open to anyone who supports feeding a healthy, natural diet to their pets, is willing to abide by the co-op policies, and has a desire to actively participate in the co-op. All members need to be familiar with co-op policies and expectations for membership.

Non-discrimination policy

ARF Co-op does not discriminate against any person with regard to race, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, religious preference, political preference, cultural background, disability, or other basis.

We reserve the right to deny membership to anyone who does not demonstrate a willingness to abide by our Policies or act in a spirit of cooperation. We also reserve the right to terminate membership privileges for anyone who does not abide by these Policies.

Co-op leadership

As an unincorporated non-profit association, the co-op is governed by a board of directors comprised of co-op members. Every member of the board is a voting member and contributes equally to making decisions regarding the co-op's governance. The board meets once a month. Meeting notes are posted to the membership mailing list.

The ARF Co-op Board of Directors consists of:

  • Charlotte Wise

  • Louisa Chandler

  • Meagan Noble

  • Jill Gonzalez

  • Heather Sitze

  • Annie Johnson

  • Carmen Hernandez

  • Jen Germann

  • Judy Barton

  • Stephanie Strand Reed

  • Mandi Carter

  • Helen Ingham

In addition to contributing membership on the board, some co-op members also perform additional duties to help the co-op function successfully. These include the following:

Co-op Data Coordinator: Louisa Chandler

The Data Coordinator is the co-op's comptroller. She collects and organizes statistics from every order we place, including the amount paid to the supplier, the total pounds ordered, and which members ordered. She also tracks any issues that may arise with the orders. We use this collected information to monitor our growth, allocate resources, and negotiate the best value from suppliers.

Co-op Membership Coordinator: Mandi Carter

The Membership Coordinator reviews and admits new members, answers questions from potential members regarding membership, and answers correspondence sent to the general board or co-op manager email address.

Co-op Volunteer Coordinator: Heather Sitze

The Volunteer Coordinator assigns new members volunteer assignments and owns and updates the yearly Ordering Calendar. She tracks successful completion of volunteer commitments in the co-op's main database and works closely with the Membership Coordinator and Data Coordinator, as well as checking in with site hosts and Order Coordinators to make sure all volunteers arrived at their assignments and delivery and pickup went smoothly.

Co-op New and Existing Supplier Coordinators: Charlotte Wise, Carmen Hernandez, Mandi Carter and Helen Ingham

Co-op Education Coordinator: Meagan Noble and Jill Gonzalez

Co-op Social Coordinator: Annie Johnson

In addition to the board, we also have several co-op members who function as Order Coordinators and permanent Order Collectors. Their assistance and expertise is invaluable in making our monthly ordering go smoothly.

The co-op's Supplier Coordinators and board members are the only people authorized to conduct any business on behalf of the co-op. This includes contacting and coordinating with suppliers, placing orders, and handling monetary transactions, unless specific, prior authorization has been granted. Anyone other than a member of the board who interferes with the co-op's orders or other business on behalf of the co-op will have their membership privileges immediately revoked.

Definition of membership

You are considered a member of the co-op after you join the membership mailing list, put your contact information on file in our Google database, and contact our Volunteer Coordinator to sign up for fulfilling your volunteer commitments. All of our orders are pre-paid via PayPal or check, depending on the Order Coordinator. Failure to register in the Google database or with the Volunteer Coordinator within the first two weeks of membership will result in your removal from the membership mailing list.

To join the co-op, do the following:

  1. Send a subscription request to our mailing list, found at ARF Co-op Groups.io.

  2. You will receive a subscription request questionnaire. Complete the questionnaire. You must also read through (and acknowledge having read) these Policies. Once you have read the Policies and returned the questionnaire, your membership request for our Groups.io group will be processed and approved. You will receive a welcome letter from the Membership Coordinator. If you do not follow these instructions, you will not be approved.

  3. When your mailing list membership has been approved, place your local contact information in the member database and let the Membership Coordinator know you have done so. You will not be able to place orders without this information on file. You will be able to see what items we have available for purchase and their prices in the Files section of our Groups.io group at this point, as well as the Ordering Calendar listed there.

  4. Contact Heather Sitze, our Volunteer Coordinator, to sign up to fulfill your volunteer requirements. Heather's information will be included in the welcome letter you receive. You MUST volunteer to be a member in good standing of the co-op by signing up and committing to two volunteer commitments a year. If you do not register in the database and contact Heather within two weeks of joining, your membership will be revoked.

  5. Send mail to the membership list introducing yourself! Let us know where in Austin or the metro area you're located (this makes it easier to find "co-op buddies"), how many pets you have, how long you've been feeding a natural diet, etc. Feel free to ask any questions you may have.

  6. Suppliers who are interested in selling to the co-op are not permitted to join the co-op's mailing list directly. If you are interested in selling your product to the co-op, please contact the Board of Directors at board@arfcoop.org.

    Membership restrictions

    As an unincorporated non-profit association, ARF Co-op functions according to appropriate Texas law. Co-op members:

    • may not purchase food through the co-op and offer it for resale to anyone

    • may not take food from an order delivery site which does not belong to them

    • may not order food that they do not pay for

    • may not order food that they do not pick up at the appointed time

    Members violating these rules will have all membership privileges revoked.

    Since everyone involved in the co-op is a VOLUNTEER, we expect everyone to be considerate and polite at all times. Absolutely no rude, threatening, or otherwise-harrassing behavior will be tolerated. Failure to maintain polite behavior either on the membership list or at delivery sites will result in membership privileges being partially or wholly revoked. Site hosts reserve the right to refuse pick-up privileges to anyone who abuses their hospitality.

    We may also revoke membership privileges for failing to fulfill a confirmed volunteer duty, failure to arrive to collect food during the order pick-up window, or other non-cooperative or rude behavior. Members who are wholly absent from the order pick-up window time forfeit their food to the site host, who may return it (or not) at their discretion.

    Volunteer requirements

    Members pledge to volunteer in the cooperative spirit to help ARF Co-op achieve our goals of purchasing and distributing affordable raw food and educating our membership and the public about a healthy, natural diet for pets. There are many jobs within the co-op that need to be filled on a regular basis. To be considered a member in good standing, you need to volunteer for at least two jobs per year. That's two volunteer commitments every twelve months. This commitment minimum is subject to change as our size and work needs change.

    Volunteer commitments for each year are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis at the end of the co-op's calendar year in November, when the next year's Ordering Calendar is published. Members with standing volunteer commitments are given the first opportunity to renew those commitments, and then all remaining positions are opened to the entire co-op. Members admitted after the next year's Ordering Calendar has been published are able to sign up for remaining positions on a first-come, first-served basis.

    Volunteering is easy and there is a way to volunteer that meets just about everyone's schedule and lifestyle constraints, including the following opportunities:

    Physical volunteer commitments

    • Serving as a site host

    • Serving on the board of directors

    • Serving as a site assistant

    • Serving as a satellite driver

    Electronic volunteer commitments - available intermittently to members in good standing who have been part of the coop for one year or longer

    • Researching suppliers for the co-op board

    • Serving as a new member mentor, answering questions from new members and helping them get started ordering

    • Developing and presenting content for member educational programs

    • Helping plan and/or host a co-op social or dog park play day

    When you have decided on a particular opportunity to volunteer for, contact the co-op Volunteer Coordinator to sign up. Not every position will be available at any given time. Generally, new members have no trouble finding positions that meet both their needs and the needs of the co-op, and the Volunteer Coordinator will help you select something that works for you.

    Ordering

    The Files section of our Groups.io group contains the yearly Ordering Calendar as well as a list of our suppliers, their products, prices, and Web site if available. We also have our Groups.io calendar set up to announce the beginning and ending of each ordering period for suppliers. Refer to the welcome letter you received when joining for detailed instructions on how and when to order from each supplier.

    We currently order from 6 suppliers and more are in the works. You can see a list of the kinds of items we buy and the prices we pay on the Products and Prices page.

    Delivery of food

    IMPORTANT: Loose dogs at delivery sites are not permitted. If you must bring your dog with you to a delivery site, it should remain in your vehicle, be contained in a crate, or be leashed and under your control. Children must also remain under your supervision at all times.

    In order for ARF Co-op to run smoothly, your volunteer participation is essential. We have no commercial cold storage available for rent in Austin, so all food is delivered to an individual volunteer member's house or place of business, either by a shipping company, a refrigerated truck, the supplier themselves, or by the member meeting the supplier's truck at another location and bringing the food back for disbursal to the rest of the co-op that day. It's extremely important that everyone who orders food comes to get it the day it is delivered, because the co-op has nowhere to properly store unclaimed food. Eventually, Austin may have cold storage and the co-op may provide other options, but right now this is the way we have to operate.

    We usually know when suppliers will be delivering food and can give exact dates for some suppliers and a reliable range of days for others. However, sometimes suppliers are early or late. When unexpected things occur with the delivery time and date, it is still your responsibility to pick up your food on the day it arrives, even if you are busy or have made other plans. Obviously, if a medical emergency intervenes, we'll help you make other arrangements.

    We keep a contact database of everyone in the co-op that you can use to find a "co-op buddy" in your area to share/alternate pick-up duties with so that it is easier for everyone to be flexible. We also hold semi-regular socials where you can meet other co-op members. In general, if you have a known conflict with a delivery date (or even a relatively late-breaking conflict) and make an effort to communicate with other co-op members by e-mail and telephone about that ahead of time, someone should be able to help you.

    We call members who volunteer to accept delivery of food at their house site hosts. They have helpers for most deliveries (also volunteers) who are the site assistants. Site assistants help the site host parcel out the order, assist with accounting, and keep things running smoothly for the site host. Their help is invaluable!

    When you come to pick up food, it is your responsibility to work with the site host and site assistant to separate your order, if it has not already been separated. You may not leave the delivery location with your food before checking out with the site host. If you do, or if you take food that does not belong to you, you will be removed from the co-op. You can also be removed from the co-op for mistreating the site host or site assistants.

    If you do not come to get your food within the window of delivery time specified by the site host and you do not call, e-mail, or otherwise communicate with the host regarding your emergency, your order will be forfeited to the site host in its entirety. (The host may then determine what to do with your food as they see fit, including keeping it.) You must have a legitimate EMERGENCY to excuse failure to pick up food ordered--not checking your e-mail or not knowing the time and place of the delivery is not an emergency and not an excuse.

    If an order arrives unexpectedly EARLY, the site host, site assistant, or a member of the board of directors will call members who ordered to let them know. This is the only circumstance where members will receive a phone call about an order delivery. All other communication regarding orders is conducted via e-mail.

    Shortages and price fluctuations

    Sometimes, we are shorted by suppliers. This happens inevitably and seems to be a vagary of the food industry--even grocery stores are occasionally shorted. There is usually no way to know in advance whether or not this will happen until the order arrives, though with some suppliers we do know in advance, and we will announce the shortage on the co-op mailing list. When a shortage happens, the site host will take his or her entire order first if it includes items that have been shorted, and the remainder of the shorted items will be distributed evenly and equitably among the other co-op members who ordered the items. Failure to comply with this shortage policy will result in your being unable to order from that supplier again, or being barred from pick-up from that site host's location.

    Also, some product prices do fluctuate based on the market. Usually price fluctuations are not very great, but occasionally items we purchase may prove to be slightly more expensive (or less expensive) than the we thought. Order collectors make every effort to confirm prices at the time we place the order, but periodically you may find you owe a little more or less than you expected for your case of food. This usually only applies to one or two suppliers.