Greetings from the Co-op! I hope you are having a great winter and getting a chance to enjoy the Vermont outdoors. Winter is at least half over, and the sun is definitely coming back. But even in the heart of winter, we still have local apples and tomatoes to enjoy. Here is a collection of Co-op topics for the month:
I will start with a plug for our Give Change program, which offers another way for us as a cooperative community to support organizations in sync with our mission. By signing up to Give Change, we members can round our bill up to the next whole dollar, and the additional amount goes to support our Community Partner of the month. Last month we were able to raise over $750 for Capstone Community Action. This month we are supporting Good Samaritan Haven, another invaluable community organization. Give Change is an excellent expression of cooperation in that small actions by individuals can have large collective impacts. You can opt-in to being asked at the register to round up your purchase every time you shop here or by visiting our customer service desk. You can also help choose next year’s Give Change recipients by taking our shopper survey.
At its February meeting, the Co-op’s Council adopted a resolution in support of Migrant Justice’s Milk With Dignity program, which is designed to improve pay and working conditions for dairy farm workers in Vermont and beyond. Currently, Milk With Dignity prioritizes processors of wholesale dairy and does not directly pertain to retailers like our co-op. (Ben and Jerry’s is the only processor enrolled in the program at the moment.) Of course, our Co-op supports livable wages and fair working conditions for all workers. We are not currently planning to develop an equivalent program for our own suppliers, and Migrant Justice prefers that we support Milk With Dignity as it evolves. I highly recommend watching this short video to learn more about Milk with Dignity and the powerful impact it is having.
For the past year and a half, a committee comprised of Council members and Co-op members at-large has been working on draft revisions to the Co-op’s bylaws. If you haven’t seen them, our bylaws are confusing, poorly-worded, and at times inconsistent. The committee’s goal has been to offer an update that is clear, and that will support effective governance of our cooperative. The revised draft will be presented to the Council at a special meeting on February 24. It will be up to the Council to recommend a final draft to Co-op members, and a special member meeting is being planned for May 18 to vote on it. There will be lots more information about the bylaws in the coming months, and you can view all the latest on the Council resources page of the Co-op’s website.
Finally, February is Black History Month and an excellent time to consider, among other things, the rich historical relationship between African Americans and cooperatives. In his book Cooperatives and the Civil Rights Movement, David Thompson chronicles one such relationship, between U.S. abolitionists and the Rochdale pioneers who founded the cooperative movement in industrial England. Frederick Douglass spoke at Rochdale soon after the founding of the first cooperative, and Rochdale residents contributed money to the purchase Douglass’ freedom from slavery.
Like many food co-ops these days, ours is considering issues of diversity and inclusion. Whom do we serve, and whom else should we serve? What can we do to help more people feel welcome at our Co-op and aligned with our mission to create and sustain a vibrant community of healthy individuals, sustainable local food systems, and thriving cooperative commerce? Currently, we have a Council committee and a Council-staff work group developing ways to study the diversity in our community, share training opportunities, and develop strategies for being a more inclusive place to work and shop. For anyone interested in these topics, you may want to sign up for the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge. These are small but important steps in a long-term effort to make our co-op and our community welcoming and supportive for everyone.
See you in the aisles,
Kari Bradley, General Manager