You’ll probably recognize Tamara Stenn, not just from her photos from being on the Brattleboro Food Co-op Board, and her articles in Food for Thought. Tamara has been in this community for many years, and a fellow shopper in the Co-op for all of that. This interview gives a fun look at what brought her to this area, why she likes being on the BFC Board of Directors.
Q. When did you become a member of the Co-op?
Q. What do you do for a living?
A. College professor, Landmark College. Economist & business developer
Q. How do you like to spend your spare time?
A. Gardening, traveling, writing, activities with friends: biking, running, swimming, kayaking, hiking, paddle boarding, x-country skiing, dancing…
Q. Are you a member of any other cooperatives?
A. Yes – Putney, REI, Fedco, A Perfect Seed (a cooperative I founded)
Q. How have you spent these last 15 pandemic months?
A. Working, teaching, writing, reading, outdoors with friends, traveling, presenting at online conferences
Q. What brought you to this area?
A. Grad school: SIT – came here from Bolivia
Q. What do you like most about our Co-op?
A. Open structure, community, location, items being sold, local foods
Q. What’s your most favorite Co-op food item?
Q. With what person, alive or dead, would you like to have lunch, and why?
A. All my dead friends – lots to catch up on!
Q. What drew you to serve on the Brattleboro Food Co-op Board of Directors?
A. I always valued the co-op for my shopping and community and felt with the new store location the co-op was drifting away from that hometown feel. I wanted to be more involved with co-op community building.
Q. What do you like the most about being on the Board of Directors?
A. I like the lively conversations we have, the ways we learn from each other, and the service we bring to our local community.
Q. Can you give specifics about the co-op you founded, and why the cooperative model works so well for those in the farming community in Bolivia?
A. The co-op I founded, A Perfect Seed,MBE (APS) is a Mutually Beneficial Corporation registered in the state of VT. I set it up so the quinoa producers we worked with could have equal say in the development and distribution of their product. We wanted to create a more open and direct access model where marginalized producers had an equal seat at the table as everyone else. We also gave a space for students to participate. Landmark College students work on APS projects as part of their applied learning marketing class experiences. Students have helped with market research, branding, marketing and sales. They launched a kickstarter in the middle of the pandemic which raised over $5,000 in sales. Proceeds go back towards developing and marketing the quinoa products. The cooperative model enables everyone to participate, have a say and contribute. Together we share in the risks, work and wins!
Q. How do you integrate co-ops in your teaching of economics?
A. I teach economics from the perspective of sustainable development and well-being. We ask ourselves how can we (and others) live our lives in the way in which we have reason to value? This brings in ideas of participation, distribution, power and protections. We look at the commons and how shared spaces such as oceans, forests, and air are used by others and needed by all. And we look at the creation and distribution of resources – where power, government and citizens come into play. Co-ops are a part of all this. I also focus on co-operatives in my entrepreneurship classes as a business model, and in my marketing classes – as a tool for building connection between consumers and producers.