2018 Board Election Results

Steve Bruner - Incumbent



Steve Bruner - Candidate Statement 

The mission of the River Valley Co-op is “to create a just marketplace that nourishes the community.” Central to this mission is a focus on a triple bottom line, sometimes referred to as the three P’s: People, Planet, and Profit. For the past three years, I’ve served on the Board of Directors at the River Valley Co-op (I currently serve as Vice President), and have helped to ensure that the co-op bolsters each leg of this three-legged stool. It can be a challenge. Our marketplace is competitive, and our standards for nourishing our community and taking care of our environment are high, but River Valley Co-op is doing an admirable job.

I’ve decided to run for re-election because I find my work on the Board fulfilling, and because I believe in the great value that the River Valley Co-op brings to our community, in the valley and beyond.

I moved to the valley with my family four years ago, when my wife assumed a faculty position at Amherst College. Since then, I’ve worked as an Amherst High School Nordic Ski Coach, as an Assistant Coach for Mount Holyoke College Cross Country, and as a stay-at-home dad. Before moving to the area, I owned and operated a business selling green building materials, was an adjunct instructor at Montana State University, and helped implement a strategic plan for Yellowstone National Park (I’m a pretty non-traditional MBA). My community involvement has included service on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Museum of Bozeman and as an appointed member of the City of Bozeman’s Climate Protection Task Force.

I think the relationship between the global food system, health, and social justice is among the most important issues of our time. River Valley Co-op is on the cutting edge of businesses “doing well by doing good.” Being re-elected to the Board will allow me to continue supporting and guiding the River Valley Co-op’s leadership position on this front, while being part of a community of people who share similar passions and concerns.

Ben Chandler


Ben Chandler - Candidate Statement

When my partner and I came to the area to find housing before our move, our second stop after finding an apartment was to join River Valley Co-op. Knowing that the co-op was going to be a part of our new life gave me much comfort—we would be able to feed ourselves with high quality, often local foods that will not only help nourish us, but also the environment and our community. After six years of being a proud member, I am interested in deepening my commitment by serving on the Co-op's board.

I am currently completing my master’s in Sustainable Food Systems from Green Mountain College. Through my academic program I have had the opportunity to examine our food system as a whole, with a focus on building a resilient local food system. This included the opportunity to study value chains, including comparing Kitchen Garden’s sriracha to Tabasco and Huy Fong’s sriracha. I deepened my understanding of sustainable farming practices by conducting an evaluation of Mountain View Farm. In my marketing course, I used River Valley Co-op as a case study to examine our co-op’s value proposition, while examining internal and external challenges and opportunities that we face.

Before deciding I wanted to dig deeper into understanding our food system, I was the administrative and finance coordinator for Massachusetts Farm to School, which helps to strengthen the local economy by increasing purchasing of local produce by schools. I have also worked for EL Education, supporting their professional development offerings throughout the country, in San Francisco I was the office manager for the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project, and on the weekends I sold Hodo Soy tofu at the farmer’s market (available at River Valley Co-op!).

Based upon my work experience and my studies in sustainable food, I believe that the co-op model is an important way to address social, economic and environmental concerns. I am thrilled by the possibility that the second location will be located in my community, and would love to contribute to the effort and serve as a liaison to my town.

Mark Devlin

Mark Devlin - Candidate Statement

Business: I am an accomplished business professional, and recovering ladder-climber. During my 15+ years with GE, I was promoted to 10 positions of increasing responsibility, reaching GE’s Executive Band level in my early 30s. After moving to Western Massachusetts and a brief stint in teaching, I returned to financial services with a local company seeking an audit function. Now in my 16th year with CHP, I am a company director, serving on its Executive Counsel, chairing its Quality/Continuous Improvement committee, and directing a team of seven analysts.

Community: I am an active volunteer and demonstrated service leader. I have been a willing and active volunteer, and event leader for the past 20 years, supporting underprivileged youth, homeowners in need, elderly, cancer care, feminism and pride. I recognize that we are better together, and I have a need to be involved. I am particularly interested in the role of community relative to the individual—recognizing difference, then celebrating and protecting it. In this respect, Northampton is a true delight.

Cooperative: I am a disappointed, questioning capitalist. While I hold a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Business Administration, I grow increasingly concerned as capitalism is confused for democracy in our country. I am fully disenchanted with the trends of wealth distribution and self-preservation, while mourning the effects that companies like Costco and Amazon have on our communities. I am taken with the structure and success of cooperative businesses in the Pioneer Valley, and beyond. I am a hungry seeker of alternative perspectives like Cynthia Kaufman’s Getting Past Capitalism.

Food: I am leery of big box stores, and married to a full-on foodie. My son introduced me to the simple but powerful concepts of whole and organic foods, labeling, and local, by way of his life-threatening food allergies. My unstoppable wife responded to this crisis by joining our local CSA 10 years ago (Red Fire Farm) and mastering the art of vegetable cooking. I genuinely love shopping at River Valley Co-op—the employees, the patrons, the size, selection, setting, and the mission all celebrated wonderfully in the highly visual annual report.


Jacqui Fraser - Incumbent

Jacqui Fraser - Candidate Statement

I have been an enthusiastic supporter of River Valley Co-op since moving to the Pioneer Valley. In the past few years, I have attended a number of co-op development events and conferences. These were excellent training sessions and helped to further enhance my understanding of co-ops. I was previously a member of the Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn; being a member of this long-standing co-op was a great learning experience and introduction to food co-ops.

I am employed in academic community public health. In the past, I’ve held both practical and academic public health positions including work in AIDS’ organizations. These positions included responsibilities related to program planning and evaluation which are an asset in this board position. For the past three years, I have been a member of my university’s diversity and inclusion working group. There is so much to be done in these areas and I am looking forward to contributing to these initiatives at the co-op. I’m presently a member of the Offbeat Womyn’s Drumming Ensemble and volunteer with Forbes Library and Tree Northampton. Past volunteer positions include Habitat for Humanity, the Survival Center, and serving on the board of directors of a sexual assault agency.

I am impressed with the helpfulness and enthusiasm of the River Valley Co-op employees, the variety of local farms that serve River Valley Co-op, and the dedication of the community to sustaining local producers and the co-op.

Supporting these different groups is a driving force in my desire to continue to serve on the board. My experience in shared decision-making has helped me to understand that, at its essence, good communication and the ability to listen to others’ opinions, including those that differ, is most important. I have experience with various decision-making models and am committed to working through issues in support of a healthy future for the co-op, its employees, and the community.

River Valley Co-op is a strong, community-centered organization. I believe I can make a vital contribution to River Valley Co-op by maintaining my involvement on the board to support the growth and development of River Valley Co-op in its second decade. I would appreciate your support to continue this service.

Emily Laine

Emily Laine - Candidate Statement

I’m passionate about farms, food businesses, and the laws that apply to them. My love of these areas grew out of my experience as a co-manager at Earthfoods Café at UMASS, where I first learned to practice and value cooperative management. With this small business on my mind (and kale in my belly), I thought about the intersection of social issues, economics, sustainability and trying to implement best practices at this cooperatively run business. Ever since, this desire to put the win-win-win of people, planet and profit into practice has been an ongoing theme.

After college, I moved to Scotland for a master’s in Ecological Economics. My dissertation was on the intersection of permaculture and alternative currencies. I’d learned economic designs and policies to reduce externalities and price environmental attributes in order to ensure they are valued by our economic systems. But, I found I still needed a broader skillset to implement such approaches.

So, I went to law school. My focus was on Food and Agricultural Law. I served as a co-chair of the Food and Agricultural Law Society, started a podcast on food law and intervened in the federal court to support Vermont’s right-to-know GMO law. Before moving back to the Pioneer Valley, I worked on the harvest crew at Dog River Farm.

I currently work in Holyoke at an independent not-for-profit that is responsible for the electricity flow between all six New England states and ensuring the region has reliable and economic electricity today and into the future. My work provides a unique perspective on the transition to a more renewable grid. I serve on the Board of the Northampton Center for the Arts and have fresh and ongoing experience with a nonprofit constructing and growing into a new building.

I’d love to help grow our local green economy and utilize my skills as a good listener (and as an attorney) to deepen the co-ops roots and branch out into the second location. Although perhaps selfishly, as I’ve just moved to Easthampton, and River Valley Co-op’s got the best beets in the valley.


Kate Wagner


Kate Wagner - Candidate Statement

After two decades of studying, volunteering, and working as a government attorney in DC, Detroit, and abroad, I am overjoyed to be back in Western Massachusetts. A Berkshire County native, I missed the mountains, engaged community, and local products. I now relish the opportunity to dig in and become a more sustaining member of the co-op and valley communities, and my experience and skills would contribute positively to the Board and to our joint endeavor.

The goals of the co-op, like many organizations, often appear to be in tension: emphasizing local products while introducing similarly globally conscious products to valley palates, and nurturing a close community and owner participation while also safeguarding a sound commercial business. As a government attorney since 2011, I have lead multi-agency, multi-state, and international investigations, managing and mediating apparently competing interests and limited resources. In my experience, communication (open and often), effective time management, and routine self-assessment of goals and progress have facilitated balancing competing interests and motivating stake holders.

Similarly, having taken over as editor-in-chief of a nationally circulated academic journal behind on publications, I can navigate the challenges of establishing and maintaining a well-functioning board and board policies. Not surprisingly, after observing the August co-op Board meeting, I understand that drafting and reviewing the Board’s policies and procedures is a large part of Board members’ responsibilities. My legal training and practice is well suited to such a task. Additionally, the process of inheriting an editorial board with low morale and poor performance and bequeathing an editorial board on-schedule and cohesive taught me how to motivate and work with others in difficult circumstances. And to do so while maintaining a full-time schedule outside of board work.

The Board’s responsibilities not only dovetail with my professional and management toolkit, but it also is consistent with my values. As a returned Peace Corps volunteer, former public interest fellowship board member, and career public servant, serving on the co-op's Board would be both an honor and a pleasure.

Application process is now closed.


If you're considering becoming a candidate for the River Valley Co-op Board of Directors, please read the following important background documents: