A Good Servant to the Co-op Community

From #104, January-February 2003

A Good Servant to the Co-op Community

B Y   P A T R I C I A   C U M B I E

If you've been a reader of Cooperative Grocer, no doubt you've wondered about the editor's unusual last name--Gutknecht. Now what does that mean? It's a German word that describes the man himself: Gutknecht means "good servant." It is a fitting moniker for a person who has devoted most of his career to activism and cooperative service. Dave helped found and/or worked for natural food retails, a restaurant, and wholesales, served on several boards, and has edited three co-op publications (Moving Food, Cooperative Grocer, and Scoop).

He's well-known as an outspoken co-op advocate and a charismatic leader with a great sense of humor (he jokes that because his sun sign is Sagittarius he's good at seeing the big picture). If you've ever met Dave, his persona seems larger than life. In fact, rumor has it a fictional character in a Minneapolis novelist's book is based on his life. He also inspired a song about his career sung to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon" by Co-op America folks at this past year's Expo East. (Dave's favorite Farm Aid singer is Neil Young; maybe he'll come up with a song about Dave soon too.)

Dave has also received the Bloomingfoods Bill Krejci Award (2002) given each year to a dedicated cooperator, as well as the Cooperative Service Award (1989) from the Consumer Cooperative Managers Association. Dave demurs about the accolades, the serious and the humorous ones, but through his work he's been able to help shape and define the new wave natural food co-op movement.

In the early '70s, Dave (who grew up in Winthrop, Minnesota) found himself at the beginning of the Twin Cities new wave natural food co-op movement via his antiwar and draft resistance activities. "The way I look at my career is that I have done the same thing for two different but similar movements. I was writing, editing, and organizing for draft resistance and for food co-ops," Dave said. At the same time that he was helping found Mill City Food Co-op in Minneapolis, he was tried and convicted for resisting the draft for the Vietnam War. As part of Dave's remarkable career he won his draft case before the U.S. Supreme Court. (The legal case can be researched by checking out Gutknecht v. U.S., 1970.) The whole antiwar experience had fueled the fire of his convictions when he was able to resume his journalism career.

The Cooperative Grocer has always had an activist bent, but that's not all his doing since the publication also reflects the readership's concerns.

"Our co-ops came out of the activist milieu of the '70s--antiwar, women's groups, community health advocacy, alternative schooling," Dave said. "The publication continues to reflect our convictions about the need to improve the world. The military empire we live in hasn't changed much, and our work in the food field is the cutting edge of an effort to create something sustainable and real. Co-ops are still an important piece toward detoxifying the globe." He notes that as the natural food co-ops have grown in experience and professionalism "the content of the magazine has gotten deeper; the co-ops now have more to say than ever."

Dave said his continued tenure with the magazine has given him the opportunity to "meet a lot of great people." He said the Cooperative Grocer has "provided a forum for people providing outstanding leadership. I like producing a publication that challenges and enlightens." When asked about what he thinks about his contribution to the co-op movement, he reflected a moment and said, "I'm trying to live up to my name--good servant."

Patricia Cumbie has been a writer, editor and marketing associate in the natural foods co-op movement for over a decade. She can be reached at [email protected] or 612/692-8560 x208.

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Publisher and Editor: Dave Gutknecht [email protected]
Webmaster: J C Rockwell [email protected]


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