Our board education topics for the next several months have each of us looking into the best ways for Bloomington Cooperative Services/BCS to enhance the local food system -- “food security”, as it is called these days. If you are one of us who have been fortunate enough to grow up during a time of abundant food supply, these words might not seem to be very important. We shop in stores filled to the brim with delicious goodies and can pretty well have our tummies full at all times.
But we are aware of problems that could disrupt this system of abundant blessings at any time. Many countries are already experiencing severe food shortages. It is the board’s job to make ourselves aware not only of what could disrupt the flow, but what other people, perhaps in other cities, states or countries, have done to handle food supplies during a crisis or short supply.
With this in mind, we are increasing our studies of how to make good use of local resources, help farmers, learn how storage and distribution systems could be enhanced, how we might educate people about what needs to be done to keep up with current needs, and how we, as an organization, can best serve the local community.
Our individual interests give us some knowledge we already bring to the table, but with the magnitude of changes happening in the world, we feel obligated to take extra steps toward food security while we are in the position to do so. We are confident that we can help our community rally to meet the challenges that may arise.
We are so proud of you, our member-owners, who show us how much you care about this planet Earth and our local community by supporting our sustainability efforts, contributing ideas about how we can work together more cooperatively, and, of course, putting your money where your heart is. You are the people who make it work and you are the people who inspire us to do as much as we can to guide our co-op in the direction of maintaining a profitable business while respecting the life of the planet in all of our undertakings.
Carol Bridges, Secretary
Bloomingfoods/BCS Board of Directors
The Bloomingfoods/BCS board focused our study this month on trends in farming, distribution and retail stores. You may be aware of some of the challenges we face as a society as large corporations put small farmers out of business and we watch our former fields of food sprout houses and strip malls.
Currently, one in six Americans face hunger. As the large corporations buy up smaller distributors, they usually end up raising prices and eventually deleting smaller suppliers. Gasoline prices and weather changes are also disrupting food distribution systems. There were twenty eight consumer co-op food distributors in 1982; now there are only three.
We researched innovative ways people are dealing with these challenges. In Davis and Sacramento, California, food co-ops have partnered with land trusts to create funds for farm preservation. They purchase easements that require the farms’ land to be kept from development and farmed only organically.
Community Supported Agriculture farms have become increasingly popular. The Intervale Community Farm in Vermont farms forty four acres and is owned by its CSA members. CSA farms are usually owned by the farmers. There are also co-op food stores who have purchased their own farms and/or orchards.
PCC Natural Markets in Seattle, WA, with nine stores and 45,000 members, formed the PCC Farmland Trust with the mission to ensure that generations of local farmers productively farm using sustainable, organic methods. The Trust purchases conservation easements with the farmer purchasing the title.
In Britain, The Co-operative Farms work 55,000 acres. They began 200 years ago. New sustainable local mini-farms are cropping up everywhere. These include lavender farms with their own healing retreats, u-gather nut groves, backyard gourmet chef market gardens, urban greenhouse heirloom tomato growers, miniature rare sheep ranches for handspinners’ wool, and wild-grazed micro dairies.
To serve these local, small farmers, new methods of distribution are being tried. These include everything from “pocket markets” with one or two food tents, which can be set-up once or on a routine schedule for churches, neighborhood groups, clubs and schools, to on-line ordering systems with a single “fresh truck” drop shipment. Pick-ups can be at malls or other locations. There are co-op farmers who bring their foods to a central location, then distribute, rather than each one taking their individual items to each store.
On the retail front, Wal-Mart has entered the “Neighborhood Market” with twenty 40,000 square foot stores, small by their big box standards. Best Buy, Office Depot and Staples are all scaling down to smaller stores. Many cities are limiting the size of stores and opting to serve the increasing population of people who want to walk or bike to shop daily. Dollar Tree, already small-sized, is adding food to their mix. And, of course, many chains already have “mom & pop” size stores, carrying some organic foods.
Bloomingfoods is keeping pace with all of these trends and foresees opportunities for more innovative response to the changing needs and preferences of our member-owners. If you are of an entrepreneurial nature, now may be a great time to become a link in this blossoming local, organic, cooperative food chain.
Carol Bridges, Secretary
BCS Board of Directors
As part of our ongoing education activities, this past month board member Danielle McClelland researched co-op pharmacies. She found three types: 1) retail stores with pharmacies included; 2) worker cooperative pharmacies; and 3) regional independent pharmacies which have banded together for greater purchasing power and support.
The BCS Board of Directors is pleased to present the following slate of candidates for the upcoming September election of two open seats on our seven-member board. Candidates’ statements and photographs will appear on this website soon and in the mailing sent to member-owner households with the ballot.
Two of the four candidates are currently serving on the BCS Board. Danielle McClelland has been an interim member since March 2011, and Carol Bridges has served on the board for the past six years, with an earlier term twenty years ago. The four candidates are: Carol Bridges, Danielle McClelland, Micaela Simmons Wood, and Shari Woodbury.
How the voting process works: Member-owners will receive candidates’ statements, a ballot, and a postage-paid return envelope in the mail, along with instructions for voting. Information on filling out our annual survey and attending our annual meeting will also be included.
In describing why they hope to continue serving on the BCS board, each candidate gave answers, in order, to the questions below.
1. Why are you interested in serving on the board of Bloomington Cooperative Services?
2. What experience or involvement have you had with Bloomingfoods or other cooperatives?
3. What do you see as the role of BCS, Inc. in the local community?
4. What are opportunities and challenges that you see in the future of the co-op?
5. Please share any professional, volunteer, or life experience you have had that will provide insight when serving on the BCS Board of Directors. Include knowledge, skills, formal training, and education that will contribute to the mission of our co-op.
6. What has been your experience in working cooperatively with small groups of people (such as: being a member of a committee, team sports, or volunteer as part of a work group for any organization)?
7. How do your values and lifestyle align with the values and mission of the co-op?
8. (Optional) Please share any other brief statement that you feel is particularly important regarding your potential service as a member of the board.
Tim Clougher (2012), Mary Beth Haas (2012),
Janice Lilly (2013), Art Sherwood (2013),
Donna Stroup (2013)
2011 BCS Board Perpetuation Committee
Date indicates the end of current election cycle
Board President, Donna Stroup, reflects upon the details of the co-op's 35th year, our recent Annual Meeting, the results of our board election, the co-op financial report for the recent fiscal year, the 2011 Krecji Award, and the upcoming International Year of the Co-op. Keep reading for all the details.