news from the board

JEDI Growing Pains

The Coop board has been actively engaged in justice, equity, inclusion, and diversity (JEDI) learning during the past five-plus years. Our learning has taken place through workshops, training, book group discussions, board retreats, and participation in the NFCA DEI Community of Practice group. In 2020, the board decided to form a JEDI Committee and appoint a committee chairperson to ensure the continuation of this important work.

I have observed and experienced that JEDI learning takes place on both a group and individual level. This is the beauty of the experience for me. Each board member brings a unique perspective that has been influenced by their own cultural and familial experiences since birth. These experiences have informed our individual sense of identity and how we perceive the world around us. My own learning and self-awareness have been greatly enhanced by the richness of multiple perspectives.  

My JEDI learning curve has been steep, and I don’t imagine it will end anytime soon. My learning journey began in a community meeting shortly after Charles Murray visited Middlebury College in 2017. This was the first time I heard the term “white supremacy” used to describe organizations and institutions. I honestly didn’t understand the reference and asked for clarity. The response I received was “figured it out yourself.” I share this experience because it was a learning moment for me despite the feeling of shame of not knowing. A participant at the meeting shared an article about structural racism with me and the invisible became visible.  

 In 2018, I had an opportunity to participate in an implicit bias workshop in Boston. We were a diverse group of participants which made my workshop experience especially meaningful and memorable. We engaged in an activity called “The Privilege Walk.” Our group of 40 participants formed a straight line across the room and were asked a series of questions. If we answered “yes” we took one step forward and if we answered “no” we took one step back. After the activity, we were asked to look around and share what we observed. The front and middle portions of the room were populated predominantly with white people and the back of the room was predominantly populated with people of color. This was my introduction to the term “white privilege.” This term is defined as the unearned set of advantages, entitlements, and benefits granted specifically to white people over other racial groups. Another eye-opening learning moment for me, my understanding of privilege was expanded in a way that increased my self-awareness about the advantages that I have experienced because I was born in a white body. 

There has been lots of research and much written about bias. I have learned that every human brain has biases that allow us to use prior knowledge and experiences to inform our decisions and actions in the present moment and that biases can be conscious or unconscious. Implicit biases are unconscious attitudes and social stereotypes informed by culture, media, and our individual upbringing that occur automatically and unintentionally. Implicit biases affect judgment and decisions and are often incompatible with one’s conscious values.

A few years ago, I had two experiences close together where I became aware of my own implicit bias about how I unconsciously defined the meaning of the word “spouse.” In each experience, I made a quick and unconscious assumption about the sexual preference of the person I was speaking with when they referred to their partner as “spouse.” I apologized immediately and was met with the kind words, “it is ok.” But my judgment and behavior were not ok and out of alignment with a conscious value that I hold. I am grateful for these experiences because they revealed a form of implicit bias that I held that was harmful and outside my conscious awareness. 

The Coop board recently met for a full-day JEDI retreat to continue our discussion about bias and structural oppression. When we began this training several months ago, the facilitator mentioned that our work together would be hard and painful. So true, and at the same time, it has been illuminating. I am grateful for the many opportunities that I’ve had to learn in the community and I attribute my personal growth to the many learning moments that felt exceedingly uncomfortable and shifted my perspective in meaningful ways.

Lynn Dunton is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

 

Your Board, Getting Involved In Co-op Governance

After attending our Co-op’s Annual Meeting in September, I wanted to take the opportunity as Board Development Chair to share with all of our member-owners more about how our board works, what we do, and how you can get involved. Of course, it’s never too early to consider running for the board so I hope you will take this as an open invitation to learn more!

The board is composed of 11 members who are elected to serve three-year terms. In May 2023, four positions will be up for election. We anticipate that we will have a mix of incumbents running as well as open spots. The board is made up of board members who live all over Addison County and hail from around the world. We have a blend of backgrounds including teachers and professors, farmers, community engagement specialists, artists, parents, nonprofit directors, and folks working in public service. This diversity of backgrounds and skills makes our board stronger. Further, we all have in common a passion for the Co-op and our democratic principles.

You may wonder: what does the board even do? The board has three primary roles: 1) to represent the 5000+ member-owners of the Co-op, 2) to oversee and support the general manager, and 3) to provide strategic and financial oversight for the Co-op. Board members craft and monitor policies that ensure our Co-op is meeting our mission and our ends. As you know, the Co-op recently underwent a big leadership transition, with Glenn Lower retiring in March after 28 years at the Co-op and Greg Prescott starting as our new General Manager on April 1st. Our role, more than ever, is focused on ensuring a smooth transition and the continued strong financial and community-focused position of the Co-op.

Each year, we are committed to recruiting new board members to make sure we have fresh voices to bring diverse perspectives to the boardroom. We see that both institutional knowledge from longer-serving board members and fresh perspectives from newer board members are equally valuable. As a board, we are committed to JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) work, not just in board recruitment but in holding these values central across all of our work. We are working hard to ensure our Co-op is increasingly a more welcoming, equitable, and inclusive space for all member-owners, and we believe that diversity among board members is essential to our work.

I love serving on the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board. I believe that Co-ops are integral partners in a sustainable food system and our Co-op is a key partner to this vision locally. I have been honored to participate in the democratic processes of our Co-op and am excited to be able to support others in keeping more dollars and decisions local!

If you are interested in learning more, please don’t hesitate to reach out —we always love to hear from our fellow members. If you have thoughts or questions to share with the board, please let us know: board@middlebury.coop. And if you want to run for the board, you can learn more here. Applications are due March 12, 2023.

Erin Buckwalter is Chair of the Board’s Board Development Committee.

Climate Matters: Our Agriculture Must Be Transformed for Survival

By now, most people have seen headlines from the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): This is our “do-or-die” moment. Nations need to collectively reduce their planet-warming emissions by roughly 43% by 2030 and stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere altogether by the early 2050s to avoid escalating catastrophic weather events. The U.S., the world’s second-greatest emitter of the greenhouse gases responsible for climate chaos, isn’t even close to being on track to get emissions into a safe zone. The Inflation Reduction Act will help somewhat, but we still have a long way to go and we’re running out of time.  The way we produce and consume food, especially the industrialized food system, which is highly developed in the U.S., is responsible for up to 37% of greenhouse gases; and climate chaos will wreak havoc in Vermont as elsewhere.

Agriculture and food-related businesses (from restaurants to supermarkets to composting) make a big contribution to Vermont’s livelihoods. Before COVID, about 65,000 Vermonters made their living from farms and food businesses. In New England, 219,000 jobs are indirectly a result of food system activity, at a total value of $71 billion. Food production in Vermont is concentrated on dairy, which accounts for approximately 70% of the state’s agricultural sales, uses over 80% of its working land, and helps to maintain our open landscapes. Beef and dairy cattle, however, along with pigs and other farm animals, contribute roughly 27% of methane emissions in the U.S., according to the EPA. Methane is relatively short-lived in the atmosphere, but it is over 25 times more potent at warming the planet than carbon dioxide. In addition to methane, manure applied to fields releases nitrous oxide, an even more powerful planet-warming gas; and additional emissions result from the production of fertilizer and running farm equipment.

The World Wildlife Fund claims that farmers must reduce their production of meat and dairy by a third in the next 10 years if scientific advice on limiting greenhouse gas emissions is to be met. Northern Ireland is already calling for a reduction of 1 million cattle and sheep to meet net-zero climate goals. But in the short term, if conventional Vermont dairy farmers reduce their herds, they move even closer to the bankruptcy cliff; and some argue that dairy production in other states will simply increase to compensate. On the consumer side, increasing numbers of people advocate for “plant-forward” diets, in which meat rarely if ever appears, or vegan diets that eschew meat altogether; and we now know that the production of beans, vegetables, and nuts emit less than half the greenhouse gases of animal products (with beef the biggest emitter). How can we make sense of this? What is a responsible path forward for producers AND consumers?

Producers face very difficult choices because their profit margins are so slim. Report after report tells us that agroecology or “ecological agriculture” that mimics nature, integrates cropping and livestock, incorporates agroforestry, and builds soil fertility is the best path forward. Agroecology is superior to the “climate-smart agriculture” touted by the U.S. government because it is also concerned with farmers’ livelihoods, good nutrition, restoring crop diversity and biodiversity, and building community well-being through investing in local and regional food systems. Yet agroecology is almost unknown in the U.S., although many of the practices that it encourages, such as organic agriculture, agroforestry, and rotational grazing on pasture, are growing in popularity and have strong environmental benefits. Scaled-up, agroecology would bring even more environmental and social advantages.

We would all benefit from more diversified agriculture in Vermont — diversification that will allow us to meet our fruit, nut, and vegetable consumption almost completely from Vermont products — as well as continuing to produce the meat and milk we consume. We ought to reduce red meat consumption substantially for health reasons and switch to pasture-raised meat. Dairy cows bred to beef bulls are a promising way to get better quality beef and diversify dairy farmers’ income. But the surest way to diversify is to make land, technical support, and financial support available to farmers who commit to using agroecology. Most young farmers are excited about its potential, while they are turned off by the prospects of conventional dairy farming. How about making farmland available to dairy farmworkers or other migrants who are fleeing regions made uninhabitable by climate disasters, lack of jobs, or conflict? Many migrants have farming backgrounds and are eager to contribute to their new homes. Food can help to knit together cultures as disparate as Somali Bantu and Yankee, as the Little Jubba Agrarian Common in Maine has discovered.

Climate chaos is a systemic problem that won’t be solved by individual actions. Shifting the responsibility to people who continue eating meat or don’t drive electric vehicles (yet) or haven’t replaced incandescent light bulbs with LEDs is an industry cop-out. These actions are all good, of course, but they aren’t nearly enough. The first thing that needs to happen is to stop drilling for oil and gas, stop pipelines and stop investing in extraction. This requires a big policy shift, based on the recognition that immediate change is essential for survival. It also requires major investments in reducing our need for energy (such as weatherizing and green roofs); subsidizing renewable energy (wind, solar and small-scale hydro in Vermont); and the infrastructure needed to live with renewables (free electric public transportation, standardized charging stations).

The food system also must re-orient to producing healthy food as locally as possible and paying its true cost, making sure everyone can access it by guaranteeing a livable wage to workers and an adequate safety net for children and others who can’t work, and protecting environmental quality so that future generations will have good food and a healthy environment. To accomplish this, we must wrest control from food industries so that farmers and communities can once again have real choices, decent prices for what is produced, and sound nutritional advice.

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Molly Anderson is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Food Studies at Middlebury College, where she teaches and directs the Food Studies Program. She lives in Middlebury and serves on the Middlebury Natural Foods Coop Board and the Middlebury Conservation Commission. She is interested in food system transformation toward healthier, more just, and environmentally sustainable options.

Practicing Pronouns: How the Co-op Can Foster an Environment of Inclusion

A couple of years ago, I had an experience in the Co-op checkout line that made my day. The cashier turned to another staff person and said something like, “Can you show them where the extra boxes are for their groceries?” referring to me. I was thrilled. You see, I identify as non-binary and go by they and them instead of he or she. People often incorrectly assume I identify as a woman and use words like she/her/girl/lady/ma’am when talking about me. When the cashier chose to refer to me with the gender-neutral pronoun they, I felt warm and bubbly inside. I swear I floated out of the store that day!

There is a growing understanding in our culture that some people do not fit the labels of woman or man. These folks have embraced words like non-binary or genderqueer to describe their gender identities. (A multitude of cultures around the world already have more expansive understandings of gender beyond the man/woman binary.) Personal pronouns are part of a blossoming of language used to reflect the nuances of gender diversity. The most common gender-neutral option being used in English today is they

There are plenty of resources that explain how to use they, them, and theirs to refer to an individual. (One of my favorites is mypronouns.org.) But today, I’d like to talk about why. The flip-side of my warm-and-fuzzy experience at the Co-op is that for me, being referred to with the wrong pronouns (also called “misgendering”) is distracting at best and distressing at worst. Misgendering is part of a pattern of exclusion, discrimination, and violence faced by trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people—even here in Vermont. This contributes to disproportionate rates of mental illness, poverty, and homelessness experienced by trans people. Using people’s chosen pronouns—or defaulting to gender-neutral language when you’re not sure—is an active and impactful way to create a more welcoming environment and help reverse these trends.

Maybe this is the first time you’re hearing about this whole pronouns thing. Maybe you don’t know how it works and you’ve been too afraid to ask. Or maybe you want to be respectful but are uncertain about using they to refer to a single person. Wherever you are, there’s no better time to polish your pronoun skills. Beyond the mechanics, it comes down to having a loving and learning attitude. Here are a few tips: 

  • Practice: Build a habit of referring to people you don’t know with gender-neutral language. “Who was that person on the phone? What did they want?” If there is someone in your life who uses they/them pronouns, take time to practice using their pronouns when they are not around. Try practicing with someone you trust so you can remind each other when you make a mistake.
  • Be Polite: You will slip up. We all do! Correct yourself as soon as you notice, apologize briefly if you feel you need to, and move on. Dwelling on how bad you feel or how hard it is for you to get it right is inappropriate. 
  • Be Patient and Persistent: It takes time, intention, and repetition to re-train our brains. Keep at it, and remember why you’re working on this—you just may make someone’s day!

Our Co-op is by us and for us, the member-owners. By participating in our Co-op, we can put our values into action and lead the way in transforming dominant worldviews. We do this not just with our food choices, but in how we choose to show up in community with each other. The staff and board are already prioritizing efforts to embed principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion into the daily operations and governance of the Co-op. Shifting our language to be more inclusive of the diversity of our community is one small part of this ongoing work. Will you join us?

Ollie Cultrara is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

A Community Grows with Good Soil: Appreciating Our Staff

I recently took a trip to Northern California, and while there, I went to the North Coast Co-op in Arcata.  It’s a big store, which makes sense for a co-op with around 16,000 members.  As I wandered around produce and bulk, thinking about the dinner I was going to make, I kept thinking about how quiet the store was.  I noticed several customers talking to each other (FYI, a guy named James is about to quit working somewhere, and while it is too bad that he is leaving, the details are too juicy to share in public) and staff talking to staff (which apples to stock?  Did you get to the bananas?) but there were very few conversations between staff and customers.  Now, Middlebury and Arcata have similar energy and comparable politics and values.  Both are college towns that also rely on tourist dollars for their economies, and both are places with a similar emphasis on supporting local agriculture.  Employees in each store are polite and helpful and each space fills an important role in providing food. But this bigger store in a bigger city felt…different.  Why?  It can’t just be a question of scale, though that certainly factors in.  I’ve been pondering this question since I returned home, and the more I think about it, the more I come back to the staff at the MNFC.  It’s a store I’ve always thought has excellent customer service. Perhaps that customer service isn’t just about promoting the business, or increasing sales, but is also about building community. 

Shopping at the Arcata co-op has made me reflect on how I interact with our co-op staff, and how much we rely on the staff in our co-op to build the sense of community that we identify with the MNFC.  I can think of someone in almost every department that I know.  Some of those people I only know from the co-op, it is the only place we interact or see each other.  And I think that shows how important the MNFC staff are to building and maintaining our community.  It also is a good reminder for us member-owners on how we should treat co-op staff.  After all, there are 6000+ of us and 100 or so of them.  Think about those numbers the next time a cashier doesn’t need your member card because they have memorized your last name.

We’ve all heard stories of particularly heinous behavior towards people in the service and hospitality industries.  Employees of airlines, restaurants, hotels, and yes, grocery stores, are bearing the brunt of society’s frustration and anxiety over the last few years.  So I offer a challenge to anyone who is reading this.  On a future trip to the MNFC, tell a staff person something you appreciate about their work.  Or ask their name and say hello. Or strike up a short conversation.  Anything to help return that sense of community that they are preserving for all of us. 

As for the Co-op in California, maybe if I was there on a different day or time, or if I actually lived there, I would have experienced something different. I can admit that my observations could be totally false. But that doesn’t make my observations about our own co-op any less true.  People idolize small towns and describe the experience of going to a shop or store and being greeted by name as one of the perks of small-town life. Let’s celebrate that, and the reverse as well – going into your local grocery store and knowing the names of the people who know yours.

Samantha Langevin is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

First Steps

I started on the board during a pivotal time in our nation, having my first zoom training with Glenn & Kate in June 2020.

In the same month, George Floyd was murdered. It brought light to a flame that is still burning—the Black Lives Matter movement. The world watched as a man screamed for life, his mother. and uttered his last words: “I can’t breathe”. Those 9 mins and 29 seconds caught on video shook the country, awakening awareness in some, and a reminder to others.

Some of us took to the streets to protest, others got more involved in their community, many just continued the work they were already doing, some ignored, and others remained numb. In our community, flames were caught. As a board, we began to discuss Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion–JEDI–as it related to the Co-op. 

As we mapped out what it would look like, the board decided to create a committee that would lead the charge. In March of this year, I became Chair of the Justice Equity Diversity Inclusion (JEDI) Committee for the Middlebury Natural Foods Cooperative. Since becoming chair, I observed the committee’s eagerness and desire to act and came up with a plan. Seeing this eagerness, I took a step back and reflected. I wrestled internally as I asked myself how we can “be the change” in this new space. How do we move the focus from deliverables and concrete results to regrouping and starting inward? Can we do this alone? Do we need facilitators? How do we create a safe space so we can process & be honest? Where do we begin?  

Thus, I heard the call – we began inward. This included a mix of activities that allowed us to work on our own biases hidden in plain sight. Our refocus became a process of unlearning together, learning together, sharing together, creating a safe space, to be honest, and process together.  

As a committee, we continue to connect, build trust, and reflect. Our first step was a retreat this June where we created a safe space for everyone to reflect on their own privilege and experiences. As the facilitator, I lead by inviting everyone to be present, talk about their own privilege and fears around this work through a series of activities.

This is just the very beginning; we know this is the work of lifetimes to repattern and know ourselves first.  We are invested in doing the work for ourselves, as a board, staff, and the Co-op. What will it look like years from now?  We have no clue, but we are committed to showing up together to keep taking that first step over and over to do the work.

Esther Thomas is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

What Does It Mean To Be A Member-Owner?

Are you a member? Do you have a co-op card? Are you a member-owner? Can I use my mom’s membership? What about my partner’s membership? Can I serve on the board if someone in my household is a member-owner? These are all questions that circle around on a daily basis, and as a board we recently discussed that there can be confusion on what it actually means—both literally and symbolically—to be a member-owner of the Middlebury Natural Foods Cooperative.

The confusion I see most often (and I’ll admit is what I also got confused about before joining the board!) is: who exactly is a member-owner? A member-owner is an individual. Although the benefits of being a member-owner, such as the physical co-op card, the weekly Member Deals in the store, and Co-op Connection discounts, extend to the member-owner’s household, a member-owner is one person only. This one person holds equity in the co-op in the form of the annual $20 membership payment, which accrues up to $300 in share purchases, at which point they have purchased a full share. This investment is also fully returnable if an individual decides to end their membership at the co-op for any reason. 

While individuals within the member-owner’s household receive the discounts and benefits, the member-owner themselves is the only person who can vote on essential issues and elections. A member-owner can sell their shares to another when they join households; however, that individual is giving up their vote. For this reason, many individuals in long-term partnerships ultimately decide to keep their shares so both members of the household can vote. Furthermore, the person who is technically the shareholder in the household is the only one who can serve on the board. 

Although it may seem simply like semantics, the term “member-owner” is enormously significant. Being a member is so much more than the discounts. As the MNFC website states: “Co-op membership is co-op ownership!” Unlike having a frequent buyer’s card at a pharmacy, or a membership to a gym, being a member-owner of the co-op means you own part of the business. 

Each year, if the co-op has been profitable, member-owners receive a portion of the profits directly back. This is called the “patronage dividend” and member-owners receive these checks in July. Although it may seem like a mouthful, the term “member-owner” is what the co-op’s staff and board members use both because it is the most accurate, and because it reflects such an important sentiment. As a member-owner, you literally own the store and are part of a community of friends and owners. By being a member-owner of the co-op you are voting with your dollars and making a statement about the importance of community-owned businesses. 

So is it worth it to be a member-owner? I’ve often seen people calculate how much they would need to spend at the co-op to “pay back” their membership fees through their patronage dividend. This is certainly an important question; however, it does not represent the full picture of what it means to be a member-owner. For me, voting with my dollars, and spending my money investing in a local and cooperatively owned business is a deeply meaningful use of my money.

Amanda Warren is the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board President

Behind the Scenes

Every business has a team of people working behind the scenes and the Coop is no exception. As Board Treasurer I would like to shine a light on the Finance Department and team members: Steve Koch, Grace Sauerwald, and Kerry Dashnaw and thank them for all their good work behind the scenes…especially during the pandemic.

A transition is underway this month in the Finance Department and I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Steve Koch, Finance Manager of the Coop. For the past 17 years, Steve has successfully led and managed the Finance Department and will be retiring in June 2021. Much change has taken place during this time. When Steve began working in 2004, the Coop had 1,580 member-owners, 32 staff members, gross sales of $4.2 million, and 3,000 square feet of retail space. Moving to the present moment, the Coop has 5,456 member-owners, 91 staff members, gross sales of $19.6 million, and 9,000 square feet of retail space. Did you notice that I express change in numbers? This was intentional because these types of changes have a direct and seismic impact on the Finance Department. More people, products, and data to track. In addition to the daily work of the office, Steve managed two rounds of member loans ($400,00 in 2004 and $1 million in 2017) and tracked construction costs for the new store and store expansions (large and small) over the years. No easy feat!

I have had the unique opportunity to work closely and collaboratively with Steve during the past six years in my role as the Board Treasurer. Steve’s deep historic and financial knowledge of the Coop has been a gift and supported the work that I do on behalf of the Coop Board. As an accountant myself, I am grateful for his attention to detail, his ability to converse articulately about complex financial matters, and most importantly his integrity that he brings to all his work. Steve, please know that you will be missed.

On behalf of the Board thank you for all the work you have done to leave the Coop in a strong financial position, and we wish you all the best as you step into the next chapter of your beautiful life. Have fun sailing, paddling, and working in your woodshop!

Lynn Dunton is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op board member.

Check Out Faster and Keep Your Dollars

When you purchase food at the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op (MNFC), you support the hundreds of local producers who live in our area, and you are keeping the money in local circulation. And, as a member-owner, you own shares in this store and will receive an annual patronage refund based on your purchase history! The shares you hold represent your whole-hearted commitment to community-produced and distributed healthy foods.  

Did you know you can increase another aspect of “keeping it local” by simply adjusting how you pay at checkout? In past articles I’ve written to make folks aware of this topic, I noted that MNFC paid more than $100,000, then $150,000, and then the number was close to $200,000 in annual credit card fees! The fees have been increasing each year. Last year in 2020, we paid $272,161 in credit card fees! Consider that this startling amount of money is extracted from our local community and flows to out-of-state banks. Think about what could be done locally with these funds, either through increased community supports, or improvements in customer services. While I certainly do not want to “guilt” anyone for using a credit card, there are options to consider for avoiding those fees. The use of checks or cash is one possibility, but this is not always convenient.

The easiest way to avoid the fees and using up checks or having cash on hand is to use an MNFC Gift Card for all of your Co-op purchases. This card can be obtained from any cashier, and you decide how much money you want on the card. Simply write a check for that amount, then use the gift card every time you shop. The card acts like a credit card with your money on it, but there are no fees. It is another form of “cash” and thus should be kept in a secure place. There is a number associated with each card that can be found on the back. I keep a photo of the id number of my card on my phone so it is always handy and secure. If you lose the card, the card can be deactivated if you have the number, and a cashier can look up your balance and apply it to a new card.  The gift card works just like a credit card or check or cash and is linked to your coop account.  The balance of the card shows up at the bottom of each receipt every time you make a  purchase so you can keep track. When the balance runs low, simply write another check or use cash to load the same card with more money! I tend to reload each month, and it keeps me on my food budget! I remind you that writing a check or using cash to add money to the card is the way to go; if you use a debit or credit card, it defeats the purpose.

There are several advantages to this process:

  • You can budget what you believe is reasonable for you to spend at the Co-op, say for a month’s time, and keep track of your spending.
  • Going through the checkout line is extremely quick and efficient. The cashier scans your card, you get a receipt, and you’re done! Nothing to sign, no check to write, no numbers to punch in, no waiting for change. The cashiers like the ease of this process and you’re apt to get some unsolicited positive regard from them.
  • During the surge of COVID, using the gift card minimizes contact involved with using common pens, dealing with the credit card terminal, and handling cash.
  • Finally, remember that an MNFC gift card is a wonderful way to give anyone a present, for any occasion. An MNFC gift card can encourage someone new to the Co-op to make their first visit and can introduce long time customers to this very efficient way of paying for purchases.
  • Most importantly, using a Coop gift card this way eliminates the credit and debit card fees the Co-op has to pay to banks and financial. Don’t forget, debit cards have fees as well!

Once you try it, you’ll wonder why you have not done this all along. It is such a quick and convenient way to pay for your groceries, and keep your dollars local – it is truly a win-win. This is how I have paid for my MNFC shopping for the last five years, and I intend to for the next five years and more! It’s a great intention to set for the rest of 2021, I encourage you to give it a go!  I think you’ll love it!

Louise Vojtisek is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

Consider Being a Board Member…

Election season for the Board of Directors is upon us! I am frequently asked why I choose to be a member of the Co-op board.  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. And, 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 democracy.

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 from Amazon may seem dolefully inconsequential in the face of the massive social-justice issues our world faces. Participating in the democratic ownership of the Co-op, however, allows me to devote my dollars, time, and energy (the only resources I am fully in control of) to the pursuit of an alternative to our global status quo.

During our election season, I urge you to remember Wendell Berry’s concept.  Your decisions and interest matter – whether you are considering running for a spot on the board, or reading up on board candidates to vote in May.  Our Co-op may be small, but participating in the democratic process of our board elections allows us to practice living responsibly in our small part of the world, and thereby living fully in the world as a whole.

Board Recruiting Packets with details on the process of becoming and serving as a board member are available on the website here.  Applications are due March 15, 2021. If you have any questions about running for or serving on the board, please reach out to board@middleburycoop.com.  

Amanda Warren is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member