board election

You Already Own Your Grocery Store…Now Run for the Board!

 

Want to learn more?  You can talk directly with current Board Members at the Co-op this month.  Stop by on Tuesday, 3/10, between 3 and 6 pm to meet Molly and find out what it’s like to be a member of the Co-op’s Board  of Directors!

“I spent 13 years investigating every facet of the food supply,” author Jon Steinman wrote recently in an article for Yes Magazine. “It led me to the conclusion that the grocery store is hands down the most influential force shaping food, the planet, and our health. The organic food industry, jump-started in congress by our Senator Patrick Leahy (Thank you, Senator!), has grown to more than $50 billion per year. In Addison County we are lucky to have so many local food options: Many of us shop at the farmers’ market, have a garden, or go directly to a farm to buy meat and eggs or pick up a CSA.

Steinman poses an important question – if ten percent of our food dollars are spent locally, where does the other 90% go?  In places where food is less abundant, no matter where you shop, you end up sending your dollars to a handful of multinational companies. They have gobbled up small and regional scale grocery chains: Hannaford, Food Lion, Giant, Stop & Shop, all are now subsidiaries of Ahold Delhaize from the Netherlands; Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, Ralphs are now Kroger brands; Safeway, Shaw’s, Star Market and Vons are owned by Albertsons. Even Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods are all owned by large grocery conglomerates.

“OK, I get it,” I can hear you thinking, “I already shop local, now I’m just subject to more of the shop-local-gospel coming from a board member.” You’re not entirely wrong, but beyond investing your dollars I want you to invest something more precious: Your time.

As member-owners we are all dedicated to local and organic foods, which is the backbone of the cooperative grocery movement. How and where we get our food is the underpinning of so many societal and economic inequalities. Our food dollars are vital, but so is taking time to serve on the Coop Board of Directors.  Is there an issue that really fires you up? Climate Change? Wealth Inequality? Health? They are all tied to our food system, and as a board member, you have the opportunity to get involved in those decisions.

How? Run for the board. We lucky 11 members-owners as a board have the privilege of serving all of our member-owners and the broader community.  It is incredibly fun and meaningful. We are seeking leaders with diverse perspectives and you can be one of them. Elections will be here sooner than you think, and we are accepting applications for candidates until March 15 (which is only 2.5 months away!). For more information about running for the board feel free to email Amanda at apawarren@gmail.com or board@middlebury.coop to learn more.

RJ Adler is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

RJ Adler ( Incumbent)

The Election Results Are In!

The votes are counted and the results are in!  If you made it to this year’s Annual Meeting, you’re already in the know about the election.  But if not, here’s a quick synopsis of how it went:

Please welcome newly elected Board Member Erin Buckwalter.  Erin has spent her adult life working and volunteering in the Vermont food system and is passionate about connecting with people through food and agriculture.  She is the current Market Development Director at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.  To learn more about Erin, please see her candidacy statement in our Annual Report.

Also, please welcome returning Board Members R.J. Adler and Amanda Warren.  We look forward to working with you again this term!  

This year, Co-op Members voted to Update our By-Laws.  The votes were overwhelmingly in support of the recommended updates (see Annual Report to reference these) – with 97% of the votes returned in favor of the recommended changes.

Thank you so much for giving us your input, submitting your vote, and doing your democratic duty as Co-op Member-Owners!

You’re Invited to Help Update Our By-Laws!

Last year, your Board of Directors updated its Governance Policies.  In the process, we noticed that our Co-op’s bylaws could use some updating too. Together with our General Manager, we worked to make our bylaws clearer, simpler, and even more consistent with our values and with the best practices of other food co-ops. (For example, our current bylaws do not allow for recent innovations like electronic voting.)

The process of updating our bylaws was aided by a recently developed set of bylaws provided by our long-time consultants at Cooperative Development Services (CDS). This resulted in a set of proposed bylaws with the same basic meaning but written in clearer and more concise language. At the same time, we made a handful of additions and deletions and wanted to share them with you in advance of presenting the new bylaws for your approval in May.  Please read through the new proposed draft bylaws and send along your feedback to glennlower@middlebury.coop.  For your reference, the old bylaws are posted here.   We would love to have your feedback by March 24th.  We’ll include a final draft in the Annual Report and a ballot for voting on them. Here’s a list of significant proposed changes:

  • Allow for electronic voting as a convenient way to increase participation in the democratic process.
  • Add language to allow for runoff elections in the event of a tie (rather than the Board choosing between the tied candidates, as is currently written).
  • Provide language for reconciling the membership records for shareholders who have abandoned shares in the co-op. The three-year cut off for membership being inactive is a VT state law.
  • As our co-op has grown to over 5,000 member-owners, our goal is to reduce the required signatures for petitioning a special meeting, from 10% to “5% of the total number of member-owners or 200 member-owners, whichever is less.”
  • Add “employees and spouses or family members of employees may not serve as a Director.” Peer co-ops point out the inherent conflict of interest due to employee board members being the employer of the GM who is also their employer.
  • Remove “member-owners shall also be permitted to contribute services for additional discounts and other entitlements as determined by the Board.” Our goal is to continue the practice of member-working as long as possible, but remove it from the bylaws to allow flexibility in the future.
  • Remove “goods and services at the lowest possible cost”. It is our goal to provide the fairest prices possible to both members and customers, while also balancing other factors such as a fair price to farmers/producers, and fair compensation for employees, all while keeping the co-op financially sustainable.
  • Remove “non-profit”, because the Co-op is technically not a 501c3 non-profit. This language was from an earlier era and does not currently legally apply. The Co-op does make a profit (about 2%) most years, pays taxes on those profits and uses them to build a better community.

We’ve also planned a couple of open meetings to give you the opportunity to share your feedback with us in person.  The dates and locations of these meetings are as follows:

  • Sunday, Mar.17 at 9:00 am…cafe seating area. 
  • Sunday, Mar. 24 at 9:00 am… cafe seating area. 
 
RSVP is not required but would be helpful to glennlower@middlebury.coop

Cooperatively Yours,

The MNFC Leadership Team, General Manager Glenn Lower,  Board of Directors: R.J. Adler, Molly Anderson, Nadine Barnicle, Ilaria Brancoli Busdraghi, Lynn Dunton, Sophie Esser Calvi, Kate Gridley, Ann LaFiandra, Tam Stewart, Louise Vojitisek, and Amanda Warren

 

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