CCMA 2015: Board Chair's Reflection

SantiagoKathy.jpgOne of the perks of being a Bethlehem Food Co-op board member is the opportunity to help guide the direction of our Co-op, and another is the opportunity to participate in the training about cooperative enterprise. One of the best training opportunities we have is attending the CCMA (Consumer Cooperative Management Association) conference.

At CCMA 2015, I joined with 400 other participants, representing 75 different cooperatives from throughout the U.S. & Canada, to share knowledge, best practices, new developments, and latest info on the food cooperative movement. I also had a wonderful opportunity to visit an organic farm called Peaceful Belly Farm, where the farmer shared some of his work-life experiences.

Joining me on this adventure was Kathy Fox a fellow member-owner and volunteer (read her reflection here).

My CCMA 2015 experience started at the MSP (Minneapolis) airport, while waiting for my connecting flight to Boise, ID. As I sat in the waiting area, I first bumped into some Philadelphia co-op members. Next, I met members of the Seward Coop from Minneapolis, and before you knew it about a quarter of the people in the waiting area were heading to CCMA 2015! Conversations started with small talk, then progressed to travel talk (alone or with a fellow cooperators?), then quickly the conversation turned to co-op business. Since we are a startup, people want to know where we are in our co-op development. Do we have a store? Which consulting firm are we working with? And when do we expect to open?

What I find most curious is that members of existing co-ops, with 10 or more years under their belts, become excited about the fact that I am involved so early in the startup process. They wished they could have been involved in the early stages of their co-op development, and are excited for us.

I have likened my experience to a roller coaster ride—first we have the anticipation of our roller coaster car arriving. Next, we buckle in and are reminded to keep our hands and feet inside the car for our safety. The ride starts to climb up to the highest peak on the ride. As we ascend this first steep track, we sometimes wonder, "Should I really be doing this? Can I get off? Can we stop now?" But no, it's too late to turn around, and before you know it, we are heading full speed down the other side of the track. We experience many bumps and jolts along the way, we are pushed to the left and then to the right, things slow down and we breath a sigh of relief that the ride is over. Then, we decide it was so great, we should do it again!

Our co-op board members experience all of the above and much more, but when I look at my team of board members and our committee volunteers—a good number of which have been into this process for 3.5 years—I recognize by their continued support that many want to ride again.

Food co-ops are fighting the good fight, whether the mission is to help save small local family farms by providing them with a year round outlet for their products & goods, contributing to the diversity of our food supply, promoting food system security and democratic sovereignty in business, ensuring healthy eating by helping our neighbors move more organics into our own pantries and refrigerators, or carrying on the work of healthy food education.

If you believe, like I believe, that what the Bethlehem Food Co-Op is working towards is indeed a good thing, then go immediately to our website become a member-owner. You will join over 215 households who have already said yes to this mission. You can also join myself and the 20+ committee and board volunteers who regularly gather to work towards our goal of opening a brick and mortar store in downtown Bethlehem. Also, consider running for a board seat in October—nominations will be accepted beginning at our annual picnic (July 26, 11am-4pm, Illicks Mill Park) through the month of August. You, too, can take ownership of this co-op and be part of the excitement and reward that comes from building something that will improve our community and beyond.

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