As a new member of the Board of Directors, I frequently get asked why I choose to be a board member. We are all familiar with the refrain “voting with your dollars” as a shared value of conscious consumers. I choose to spend my money at the co-op because I believe in this slogan. I choose to be a member of the Board of Directors because I similarly believe in the concept of “voting with your time.” Being a member of the board allows me to “spend” my time committing to the power of democracy and to pursue lifelong learning.
Wendell Berry writes: “No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it.” In these unsettled times, participating in the democratic leadership of a cooperatively owned, local business allows me to practice living responsibly in my small part of the world. Our co-op may seem like a small fish in the big pond of the globe—whether we buy organic, fair trade chocolate chips at the co-op, or conventional chocolate chips at a big-box store may seem dolefully inconsequential in the face of the massive social-justice issues our world faces. But, it’s really not; these choices matter. Participating in the democratic ownership of the co-op, however, allows me to devote my dollars, time and energy to the pursuit of an alternative to our global status quo.
Being on the Board of Directors also offers opportunities for meaningful personal growth. I recently attended a cooperative board leadership workshop, and it was truthfully the most useful training that I have ever attended. In only a few hours, I had the opportunity to learn the history and saliency of the cooperative movement, meet board members from our neighboring co-ops, and learn essential skills for my board work. My highlight of the day was building MNFC’s financial model with LEGOs alongside Glenn, our General Manager, and Ann, a fellow board member! The concepts and skills I took away from that day have proven to be not only indispensable for my work with MNFC, but also highly translatable to my job as a cooperative leader of the Bridge School.
The election season for our co-op is in full swing. As you decide whether to spend your time filling out your ballot, and voting for new members of the Board of Directors, I urge you to remember Wendell Berry’s notion. Our co-op may be small, but voting for our board allows us to exercise our democratic muscles and live responsibly in our small part of the world, and thereby living fully in the world as a whole – Amanda Warren, Board Member, Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op
To learn more about the Co-op’s Board of Directors, click here.