Dinner and Discussion Recap
Thank you to all who participated in our co-op’s Dinner and Discussion event on May 18. This was our first indoor/in-person event since 2019, and we had more than seventy folks in attendance, including some online.
Thank you to all who participated in our co-op’s Dinner and Discussion event on May 18. This was our first indoor/in-person event since 2019, and we had more than seventy folks in attendance, including some online. After all this time, it was meaningful to come together and share a meal and conversation about a topic of common interest.
Our theme for this event was supporting local producers with diverse identities. We were fortunate to have panelists from four amazing Vermont businesses: Arantha Farrow, owner of Caledonia Cannabis; Ariel Krolick, owner of Ariel’s Honey Infusions; Jonah Mossberg, co-owner of Milkweed Farm; and Nurbu Sherpa, co-owner of Sherpa Foods. Desmond Peeples facilitated, asking each panelist to share some of their story and moderating the many questions people had.
The discussion offered plenty of inspiration and many lessons to learn. We heard about growing small businesses from scratch, including when the products are unfamiliar to most customers. We heard about the many hats small business owners need to wear and what it takes to get by. Having to work other jobs, pursuing grant funding, and navigating regulatory requirements are just some of the additional tasks our local producers need to contend with. Land access was a major theme and is a critical issue that Vermont will need to address to perpetuate our local food system. It was good to hear that our food co-ops continue to play an important role in helping new businesses get established and thrive.
The evening raised many strategic questions for co-op staff and council to wrestle with: What else can we learn, and what do we need to learn about working with producers with diverse identities? What are the opportunities that will support this part of our community while meeting the needs of our members and our business? What internal and external obstacles do we need to address to be more inclusive in our product sourcing? These elements need to inform our business strategy so we can better understand and develop consistent with our community values.
Many thanks to the Montpelier Senior Activity Center for hosting us, ORCA Media for broadcasting and handling the technical aspects of our hybrid meeting (view the meeting recording here), Paul Richardson for capturing the photos for the event, the Co-op team for providing a wonderful meal and event, and Milkweed Farm for providing the beautiful salad greens for our meal. We look forward to more in-person events this year, including our Annual Meeting at the Vermont College of Fine Arts on September 13.
See you in the aisles,