2017 Board of Directors Election

Thank you to everyone who voted in this year’s election. We had a record number of votes received! Kate Armstrong, Camille Bryant, and Katherine Colón are the newly elected board members. Congratulations!

Abandoned equity grant recipients will receive funds based on the percentage of votes each received. The results are as follows:

Frogtown Farm – 48.09%
University of MN Bee Lab – 36.50%
Food Co-op Initiative – 15.41%


VOTE ON ABANDONED EQUITY

This year, as you vote for new board members, we also invite you to vote for how $9,183.67 in abandoned equity will be used. During profitable years, we distribute patronage dividends to member-owners in October. We do our best to ensure these funds are received; however, some always remain unclaimed. After a few years, accumulated abandoned equity funds are donated to local community partners. Vote for one of the following three organizations. Funds will be dispersed based on the proportion of votes received.

FOOD CO-OP INITIATIVE
Food Co-op Initiative (FCI) provides exceptional free resources to people in the U.S. working to start retail food co-ops. FCI’s open-access assistance helps groups become established and incorporated during early stages of the startup process, putting them on a solid path towards successfully opening sustainable grocery co-ops.

FROGTOWN FARM
Frogtown Farm is one of the largest urban farms in the country. Located in the heart of the vibrantly diverse Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul, this certified-organic urban demonstration farm serves as a national destination for those seeking learning, innovation, reflection, and authentic community engagement.

U of M BEE LAB
Research at the U of M Bee Lab focuses on bee breeding and natural defense techniques, improving pollinator conservation and management, and ways to reduce pesticide use, all of which is shared with local beekeepers. Donations will support this research and promote the importance of pollinators within our local food system.


Candidate Bios

Kate Armstrong

1. Why are you interested in running for this board?

As a former employee and long-time member of Mississippi Market, I have a deep respect for the co-op and a passion for its mission of providing nutritious, locally-grown and -produced food at an affordable price. I also admire Mississippi Market’s commitment to social justice, community engagement, and local economic development.

2. In your opinion, what is the role of the co-op in the community?

Mississippi Market is more than a retail store. Through its community activities and classes, it knits people together and provides a vital role in educating consumers about the importance of good nutrition, overall wellness, supporting local, community-based agriculture, and environmental stewardship.

3. What is your vision for Mississippi Market’s future?

I would love to see Mississippi Market grow into a fourth location, perhaps on the West Side or Midway Area of St. Paul. I think it would be wonderful if the co-op could grow its relationships with local food producers and increase public awareness of the impact that food co-ops have on job growth and local economic development. Big agribusiness and grocery chains are changing our nation’s food system. People are growing further apart from the origins of the food they eat. Food co-ops can play a vital role in educating the public about the importance of supporting local farmers and food producers and the positive impacts of buying locally-produced, organic food, for individual and population health outcomes, the environment, and local job creation and economic development.

4. What challenges do you think the co-op will face in the future? How could the co-op overcome these challenges?

I think a clear challenge is the commodification of the natural foods market and the proliferation of “healthy” products (often distributed by major food companies) at low prices. The co-op also faces the prospect of losing customers to larger retailers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. I think the co-op can overcome these challenges by continuing to grow the connections with the communities in which its stores are located, and educating current and prospective members about the important role it plays in supporting local food production and contributing to local economic development.

5. What professional, leadership, and/or volunteer experience uniquely qualifies you to serve on the Board?

As mentioned, I am a previous employee of Mississippi Market and a current member, so I am familiar with the history and mission of the organization. I am an attorney, and I have an understanding of the statutes and regulations governing cooperatives. Furthermore, as a public health attorney, I focused on nutritional policy and have expertise about healthy eating, state and federal statutes and regulations governing food policy, and the legal issues facing local nutritional initiatives (e.g., community gardens).

6. What experience do you have in any of these areas: Diversity, Inclusion, Marketing, Law?

In my work at Casa de Esperanza and Guadalupe Alternative Programs, I worked closely with the Latino community in St. Paul. As a Guardian ad Litem Program Manager for the Second Judicial District (Ramsey County), I served abused and neglected children and families in under-served communities. I have almost always worked with diverse communities in my legal work. As explained above (#6), I have been a practicing attorney for 14 years and have expertise in interpreting co-op by-laws and the statutes regulating cooperatives, as well as federal, state, and local nutritional policy. Finally, as a long-time employee of non-profit organizations, I have experience with board development, mission development and strategic planning, grant-writing and reporting, volunteer recruitment, fundraising and special event planning.

7. Tell us about your favorite co-op food, and how you like to enjoy or share it.

To limit the universe of answers I’d have to choose from, I’ll relate a few items I purchased this morning: local heirloom tomatoes, local fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil. Insalata caprese is on tonight’s menu. I love purchasing seasonal, fresh local produce at its prime.



Camille Bryant

1. Why are you interested in running for this board?

Mississippi Market has been my co-op for nearly 20 years. It is where I was first exposed to many concepts about food that I now place a priority on, such as locally produced. When my daughter was little, the Randolph and Fairview store is where she wandered around inviting employees to her birthday party six months in advance. I want the co-op to continue to thrive. I now have time to commit and would like to contribute to the co-op above and beyond my membership.

2. In your opinion, what is the role of the co-op in the community?

The role of Mississippi Market includes providing natural food options for the community and helping to education the community about the importance of natural food in obtaining the goals of overall health and wellbeing.

3. What is your vision for Mississippi Market’s future?

I would like for all people to feel welcomed at Mississippi Market and to understand the value of food from a co-op. I would like non-members to view the co-op as less exclusive and more inclusive, especially those in communities surrounding the stores.

4. What challenges do you think the co-op will face in the future? How could the co-op overcome these challenges?

In the highly competitive grocery industry, defining and marketing for its niche will continue to be key for the coop. The Market will need to clearly communicate the value added that comes uniquely from a food co-op to a more diverse population than the current membership in order to sustain current market share and continue to grow.

5. What professional, leadership, and/or volunteer experience uniquely qualifies you to serve on the Board?

My combined experiences from working as an environmental and project engineer and as a lawyer give me a unique perspective and skill set to share on the Board. I have also volunteered on several boards and committees including Model Cities Inc. and the Collaborative Community Law Initiative out of Mitchell Hamline. Through these experiences I have learned how to conduct strategic planning and move projects along. I also have the ability to take the lead or to be a productive team member when others are in charge.

6. What experience do you have in any of these areas: Diversity, Inclusion, Marketing, Law?

I have worked as a lawyer for over eleven years. I am the community outreach chairperson for the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. Under my leadership the organization has refocused its outreach to address issues of racial equity and inclusivity. In addition, I served on the Minneapolis YWCA’s “It’s Time To Talk” committee for two years.

7. Tell us about your favorite co-op food, and how you like to enjoy or share it.

Do people really pick “a” favorite co-op food? On my lazy days, I am really grateful for the hot bar and the burritos. Besides the hot bar, there are so many foods I was first exposed to through the co-op such as freekah, maple sugar, hokey pokey, which are now just part of my diet. I can’t imagine picking a favorite. However, there is one item that totally hooked me on the concept of natural food and has since made my cooking seem much better than it really is — that is the free range organic chicken. Once I tried the co-op chicken, Tyson’s was a thing of the past.


 
Katie Colón

1. Why are you interested in running for this board?

My husband and I have been members at Mississippi Market co-op for many years and love that we have a place close to home where we can buy quality, locally sourced organic food with which to feed our family. I believe strongly that eating clean is vital to our overall health, that supporting local farmers is positive for our economy and collective livelihood, and that access to healthful food for all is something for which we should strive as a community. I am interested in being a part of the board of directors in the hopes that together with the organization’s staff and co-op owners, I might have the opportunity to help impact the success of the market in its mission to influence the production, distribution and enjoyment of food.

2. In your opinion, what is the role of the co-op in the community?

I believe that providing a source for people to have access to a wide variety of healthful natural foods is a vital role that the co-op plays in our community. While you can find some organic products and perhaps a small organic produce section in many of the larger grocery stores, the co-op offers a place where those types of food are the norm and not the exception. In a similar vein, the co-op offers a substantive selection of foods that people with allergies or food sensitivities are less likely to find in large grocery chains. For people with those types of sensitivities, having access to these products undoubtedly has a positive impact on their ability to enjoy food. Lastly, the market’s member/owner model serves as a community within the community. Customers get to know staff and other customers, and there is a definite community feeling to being in the market’s space. While I have not yet explored any of the cooking or other classes that are offered at the market, I can image that this too helps build community. When I am at Mississippi Market, I get a sense that the people who are there, both staff and customers, are invested in the market’s success and believe in the power of the co-op model to not only impact, but to build community.

3. What is your vision for Mississippi Market’s future?

I would like to see Mississippi Market continue to thrive as a local neighborhood market – in each of the communities in which the stores are based. There are so many choices when it comes to where people can purchase their food, and a few of the factors that have distinguished the co-op in the past (natural healthy foods and food choices) are becoming less unique. But no one can become a member at those competing locations. There isn’t the same sense of community when you walk into a large grocery store. I believe continuing to find ways to foster this community feeling and sense of ownership through member engagement is key to the future of Mississippi Market. Additionally, I am a believer that healthy food should be something that all people should have access to, and not just something that people of some means are able to enjoy. My vision for the future of the market would include finding ways to engage more diverse groups of people in the community, including those who may typically shop elsewhere due to limited means. I don’t know exactly what this might look like (or to what extent it is already happening) but to truly serve as a neighborhood market that reflects the diversity of the surrounding community would be part of my vision for the co-op.

4. What challenges do you think the co-op will face in the future? How could the co-op overcome these challenges?

While large chain grocery stores do not currently offer the same breadth and variety of organic and locally grown foods as Mississippi Market, or items for those with food sensitivities, many of the higher end stores, such as Whole Foods, Kowalski’s, Byerly’s and Lunds are making these products more readily accessible. I see this as an ongoing challenge for Mississippi Market particularly as price points and selection become more competitive. To counter this, I believe the market will need to continue to create a unique experience for its member/owners that differentiates the co-op experience from others. Ownership is undoubtedly a significant factor in creating that unique experience, so finding ways to deepen that sense of ownership and investment in the market will be vital to the co-op’s viability into the future. Another way I see this position being strengthened is by the market’s continued partnerships with local community organizations, such as Clues and the Saint Paul Saints, and other forms of outreach to the community.

5. What professional, leadership, and/or volunteer experience uniquely qualifies you to serve on the Board?

I see that the board is currently interested in someone with a marketing background, and as noted in my answer to the question below, I have extensive marketing background both in non-profit and for-profit environments, with most of my experience being in the area of direct to consumer marketing. Also, although it was many years ago (in the early 2000s) I did serve as board president for a small local arts organization called El Arco Iris Center for the Arts, which was focused on the promotion of, education around and performance of traditional Afro-Puerto Rican music, art, dance and song. I likewise served a three-year term on the vestry (parish council) at my church in the role of outreach director, helping to organize and execute the church community’s involvement in several community-based projects. I believe these past experiences and skills would serve me well in the role of a board member for Mississippi Market.

6. What experience do you have in any of these areas: Diversity, Inclusion, Marketing, Law?

I have been a marketing professional for the last 30 years, primarily in the fields of health care and education. Currently I am V.P. of marketing for OptumCare (part of United Health Group).

7. Tell us about your favorite co-op food, and how you like to enjoy or share it.

This is a tough one, and it depends on the season! So I’m going to pick two. Apples in the fall are something I really look forward to enjoying — particularly honey crisp apples! Just for eating by themselves, or cutting them up to be used in salads or even desserts are favorite ways to enjoy and share this food. In the summer, I would have to say mangos (yes I’m a fruit lover!). There is nothing in the summertime I love to make more than fish tacos with avocado and fresh mango slices on the side. And of course fried plantains (tostones!) to top it off. Or how about a fresh mango salsa with tortilla chips as an appetizer when friends are over? And let’s not forget about fennel! Fennel in a salad with walnuts and apples. Yum! Ok, clearly I cannot decide. But you get the gist. Fruits and vegetables reign king on my plate!