run for the board

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

 

 

Elections, The Middlebury Co-op Way

National elections are here again and although they’re always tense for one reason or another, this time they’re especially fraught. The stakes are extra high; the rhetoric is super caustic, and the electorate is bitterly divided. So at a time like this, it’s hopeful to recall that good, fair, democratic elections actually do exist: right here at our co-op.

Every year, the entire membership elects representatives to its board of directors who act on its behalf. The election cycle actually begins long before voting takes place in May. Starting in February, with the help of the co-op’s marketing, education, and membership team, we begin to publicize the election and invite any member-owner who’s curious to consider running for the board. Announcements are put on signs inside and outside of the store; placed in both the electronic and paper versions of our newsletters; bannered on our website; and posted to all of our social media channels. You don’t need special skills or qualifications, we explain; you just need to want to serve your co-op.

To get a sense of what’s involved, we say, download a copy of the new director application packet, or pick one up in the store. Call us, write us, send us an email. Sit and chat over coffee and Zoom. Drop into a meeting to get a firsthand look at your co-op’s governance in action (they’re held online these days, but that makes them even easier to attend in some ways. Just send us a note and we’ll send you a link to the next meeting).

Our recruitment efforts don’t end there, however. Both directors and staff reach out to anyone they think might be interested in running for the board: who knows anyone who might know someone else. We really shake the tree. By mid-March, everyone who wants to run, including incumbent directors, has submitted their application. These applications, by the way, are designed to convey a general sense of who applicants are to the membership and why they are interested in running. They are also designed to be straightforward and easy to complete. We don’t want any barriers to entry in our process. Everyone, absolutely everyone, has a fair shot. (Each year, we review this application process and ask ourselves whether there is anything challenging in it, anything that’s ambiguous, sends a mixed message, or could possibly come across as discriminatory or biased. If there is, we fix it or take it out.)

The application essays are posted on our website, as well as printed in our Annual Report. In April, while the reports are being printed, we continue to publicize the May elections in every way possible. We are always trying to make the elections more accessible to more of our member-owners. A perfect example was this past election when we switched to electronic voting. This took the form of links to a very simple voting page being sent to everyone via email. (Anyone without internet access could also stop by the store to vote.) The result was that we nearly doubled our turnout, which says a lot because we already had very high voter turnouts compared with other co-ops.

So in a time when many election processes are controversial, and surrounded by a noxious cloud of alternate facts, filter bubbles, and distrust, it’s good to know that here, at least, we’re doing it right. (In a future newsletter, I’ll describe the board’s officer election process, which may possibly set new standards among co-ops for fairness and transparency.) As always, write any time with suggestions, comments, or questions: tam@middlebury.coop.

Tam Stewart is the president of the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board of Directors

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)

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, 2019. If you have any questions about running for or serving on the board, please contact Kate Gridley, kmgridley@gmail.com, (802)989-1928, or any member of the Board.  

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