I had no idea what I was going to write about until Grace, a newly elected board director, shared a link to in The Commons titled “Not a word, but an action.” It was the subtitle that ensured I would read the article very carefully: “What does ‘community’ really mean, especially for those who face moments of being outside of it?”
Due to the Covid-19 epidemic, tabling with the Board of Directors has been suspended till further notice.
At our January 2020 Board meeting, our General Manager Sabine Rhyne said she was, “deep into her own learning cycle,” in response to the difficult discussion about race she facilitated with shareholders at the November Annual Meeting. I appreciate Sabine’s candor and the level of trust and respect she and BFC Board Directors have for each other. I am grateful that she shared this self-reflection with us, and thank her for providing me with a topic and a title for this article.
Perhaps a little of my personal history is in order as I begin my first year as the new Board president. I’m a baby boomer in my mid-sixties who moved to the Brattleboro area as a 29-year old. I’d just completed four years of teaching at a Waldorf school in New York City. Having grown up in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, this area geographically felt very much like home. Joining the Brattleboro Food Co-op was one of the very first things I did upon moving here in 1983 – quality food and a sense of community being my big motivators. (It was in college at the University of Maryland where I shopped at my very first co-op.) Soon with a baby and a toddler I spent a fair amount of time in the kids room at the Co-op when it was on Flat St. I also volunteered as editor of the first regular Food For Thought newsletter, a role I enjoyed for about 10 years.
At the Annual Meeting, Sabine Rhyne, our General Manager, used this phrase to characterize why shoppers chose the Co-op: “The reasons we, or at least I, head to the Co-op have to do with more than what is offered on the shelves.” In some respects the Co-op difference is intangible, elusive. In addition to purchasing food, you might see someone you’ve been meaning to call, hear live music in the café, and/or alleviate the feeling of ennui we can experience in our disconnected society. I know that I shop the Co-op for a myriad of reasons—it’s about the food, but it’s not just about the food.
2019 Election for New Board Members
In 2019, there are two seats open. One seat can be (but does not have to be) filled by a staff member (the current board already includes one staff member). The two candidates who receive the most votes will be elected for 3 year terms, starting December 2019 and ending December 2022.
Last year I wrote my first Co-op article on the topic of a welcoming community. To recap: In that article I spoke about my move to Brattleboro. It was a difficult time in my life, and I was seeking ways to make connections and find affiliation. One of my first decisions was to become a shareholder at the Co-op. I learned I could receive a discount by working two hours a month. Still groping to find my way I worked on average ten hours a week! I didn’t have other commitments and The Co-op was my “go to” place; I developed cordial relationships with Co-op employees, especially with those working the front end. I not only received a discount for my Co-op shopping, I also began to find the connection and affiliation I was seeking. Now I am a Co-op Board Member!
As of this writing, I have completed nine months of BFC Board service. A couple of months ago, I became chair of the Shareholder Engagement Committee. The Shareholder Engagement Committee, which includes Mary Bene and Tamara Stenn, meets monthly between regularly scheduled Board meetings. Often Sabine Rhyne, the BFC GM, and Jon Megas-Russell, head of Marketing and Shareholder Services, join our meetings and we discuss how we can be supportive of, and responsive to, the General Manager’s efforts and initiatives. Our meeting notes are part of monthly Board packets, are included in the agenda and are discussed at the full Board at each meeting.