As week four of my tenure at the Brattleboro Food Coop comes to a close, the word ‘emergence’ comes to mind. Emergence is the process of coming into view or being after being concealed. It is Spring, a season of rebirth and renewal so it seems only fitting that our community is also cautiously emerging as the long ‘winter’ of the pandemic begins to subside. While there are still signs of the passing winter and the threat of a new variant remains present, the signs of Spring and life beyond COVID are beginning to take shape.
I am excited to be writing my first contribution as the General Manager of the Brattleboro Food Cooperative! After a very eventful cross country move that included a U-Haul breakdown, a blizzard warning, and a high wind advisory my family and I are finally settling back into life in New England.
I am very excited to announce that we have hired a new General Manager Lee Bradford! It has been a great experience for me to be the interim general manager and I have learned a lot. I want to thank everyone for all of their support and help throughout this transition. Jerelyn and the rest of the Board have been great to work with. I also want to acknowledge and thank all of the management team and the staff at the Co-op. They were all very supportive and took on extra tasks to help me while I was doing this job. I am looking forward to all of the experience and skills that Lee is bringing to the table. I am looking forward to continuing on as the store manager. Congratulations to us all!! – Whitney, Interim General Manager / Store Manager
February has always been the month that focuses on love and affection and I wanted to focus some attention on our employees. As Shareholders, we have all been feeling the strain of COVID and all of the ways it is tiring and stressful for each of us. I wanted to send out some extra love and appreciation for our staff for how hard they have been working to keep the shelves and coolers full, making fabulous food, keeping the store clean and in working order, ringing you out at the end of your shopping trip. Also for all the behind the scenes stuff that happens upstairs with Marketing, Finance, IT and HR.
Hello! I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m Whitney Field, and I’ll be serving as the Co-op’s Interim General Manager while the search for Sabine’s replacement continues. You have seen me in the aisles for years as the Co-op’s Store Manager. I have been in that role since 2015. Before that, I worked all over the Co-op – I started in Bulk in June of 1995, and since then, I’ve worked in just about every single department in the store.
It’s been a little more than ten years since I began working at the Brattleboro Food Co-op, and a little more than six since I took on the General Manager role. Looking back, this organization went through so much in that time, it’s a little hard to believe. Traumatic tragedies, difficult tensions, epic mechanical failures, transitions a-plenty, and ultimately a long and winding road to profitability.
I want to take some time, in this season of gratitude, to thank all of the people who have taken on the challenge of bringing us at the Co-op along on the initial journey of understanding our part in our racist culture and policies. I can’t imagine how exhausting and frustrating it must be, day in and day out, to teach—often ever so gently—basic understanding on topics that our teachers have dealt with every day of their lives and have physically experienced from their ancestors’ lives.
I have written in the past about some of the supply chain issues that we have had since the start of the pandemic. Initially, the situation was largely created by hoarding of products, with not enough in the pipeline to replace them on the shelves. Over the last few months, other issues with the supply chain have emerged, and there are multiple reasons for this.
As I write this, we in Windham County have been informed that our COVID infection risk status is now “substantial.” I know I am not alone in thinking, Wow, what happened? and How come so fast?
Needless to say, we instituted the CDC’s strong recommendation for mask-wearing in the store for both customers and staff the morning we heard the news. Of course, as in most things of this nature, the commentary has been widely varied. Some feel we should mandate and enforce as we did for months, before vaccinations had reached the 80% mark. Others chided us for “shaming” folks into wearing masks.
I have heard it said that it’s a gift to know when it’s time. I have received many gifts in my tenure here at the Brattleboro Food Co-op, often in thoughtful and caring conversations in the aisles. For now, though, I am stepping down at the end of December as General Manager. I believe that a new person taking the lead, with new energies and new vision, will be just the ticket for our beloved Co-op, to continue to shepherd it through the next few pastures.
The conversation about inclusion and systemic racism has developed quite a bit in our community since the Annual Meeting of 2019, when we were rightly challenged about racist aggressions that we were perpetuating in our store. Although we had begun some work on our understanding, we clearly had much to learn, and I recommitted our organization to a more rigorous and focused attention on inclusion and equity.
As you well know, the governor has indicated that the reopening phase will be accelerated, with the numbers of those vaccinated reaching an acceptably high percentage.
We have long said that the initial herky-jerky moves that we all made to protect ourselves and each other from virus transmission, though difficult and confusing, wouldn’t come close to the difficulty of emergence. Now, conflicting messages and even conflicting ordinances have served to sow apprehension among businesses as we all prepare to navigate the transition ahead.