Board Election 2019


Voting for three positions on the River Valley Co-op Board of Directors opens at 7:00 AM Eastern Time on November 1, 2019. Voting will remain open until 10PM Eastern Time on December 6, 2019.

You are invited to vote online by electronic ballot, by mail after completing the ballot mailed to you, by delivering your ballot by hand at the store anytime through December 6, 2019 by 10 PM, or you can vote in person at the Annual Meeting. Please note: only the official representative of your River Valley Co-op ownership share is eligible to vote, one vote per ownership share.

One of the most important ways a co-op owner can participate and make your voice count is by voting in the election for the Board of Directors. These candidates have demonstrated a significant commitment to the co-op and each candidate brings with them a depth of different experiences, skills, and perspectives. River Valley Co-op aspires to have a diverse group of directors to best represent co-op owners and the larger community. River Valley Co-op’s Board of Directors nominates candidates (indicated on the ballot form) who meet a minimum set of qualifications. This nomination process helps both candidates and the Board by ensuring that candidates understand the Board’s work before committing to serve. All five of the 2019 applicants for Board Candidacy were nominated by the Board and are now seeking your support by a vote in this election. You may vote for up to three candidates, the three candidates with the highest number of votes will be elected to the Board of Directors.

Thank you for taking the time to participate in selecting the leadership for our food co-op! River Valley Co-op has hired Simply Voting Inc. as the independent third-party election provider. You are responsible for conducting your vote prior to the official end date and time December 6, 2019 at 10 PM.

To view our 2019 Annual Report Click image:


Join us for Dinner and a Theatrical Puppet Show this Friday December 6 starting at 5:30PM at Mill 180 Park in Easthampton! Tickets are just $5 and are available at the Customer Service desk.

All co-op owners are invited to attend our Annual Meeting & Celebration Dinner for a night of good conversation, food, and fun! Come learn more about your co-op and join in the discussion about where we've been and where we're going.

This year we are trying something new: presenting our annual meeting reports in a more artistic format with the support of Easthampton artist Gabriel Harrell.

Gabriel is a Bread & Puppet Theatre artist (as well as Bread & Puppet Board Member) and founder of The Rural Academy Theatre in Easthampton. This year, with their expertise and support we are turning our Annual Meeting presentation into a performance including an illustrated hand-cranked rolling scroll "stage", puppetry, and kazoos!

Come to our Annual Meeting & Celebration Dinner prepared for some good food and a bit of puppetry theatre fun. Keep in mind while Gabriel is a pro at this, it will be our first time live performing the annual reports.

Michael Abbate

As an avid supporter of the local food movement, I would like to bring my finance and previous experience with local agriculture to River Valley Co-op’s Board of Directors.  I have spent the bulk of my career working at nonprofits including Free Press, Common Capital, CISA, and Washington Tilth and have spent many years volunteering for Gardening the Community in Springfield.  When I was asked to run of the Board I was excited to bring my skills to help the co-op continue its growth plans and purchase even more local food! I bring a level-headed approach to problem solving that strives to hear all perspectives in order to reach a common ground solution.  I have extensive experience with strategic planning, budgeting and a deep understanding of the organic farming movement tracing back to the days when the Federal Organic Standards were under development. I also want to support the co-op’s goal of being more inclusive and accessible to all members of our community. 

Previously, I was a member of the PV Grows Investment Fund Advisory Committee for many years and an active participant in the broader PV Grows network.  I have been a member of the co-op for many years and also patronize other local farm outlets including Atlas Farm (less than a mile from my home in South Deerfield) and actively promote the purchase of local farm products.  The vibrant farm community in the Pioneer Valley is one reason I resettled here over 20 years ago. As we all know, supporting our local farms not only preserves active farmland, it contributes to the vibrancy of our community and creates a more sustainable local food web in the face of global climate change. 

On a more personal level, I have a deep appreciation of the natural world and prefer to spend my time in the woods and mountains hiking or kayaking. I appreciate your consideration!


Mark Devlin- Incumbent

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.

Abby Getman Skillicorn

A five year owner of River Valley Co-op, I am proud to be a part of a body that so clearly and diligently seeks to fulfill its mission. I am inspired to apply to the Board of Directors because I want to give back to the co-op that feeds my family. I’m thrilled for the Easthampton expansion, which will be closer to my house in Florence where I live with my husband Michael and our dog Lucy. 

My professional work over the past decade has revolved around social justice and food access in the Pioneer Valley and throughout the Commonwealth. As I continue to deepen my understanding of our food system from seed to table, I see how we perpetuate systems of food apartheid, and I strive to engage in work that creates more equity and access for everyone in our community.

Currently I am a manager for Springfield Public Schools Food Service program, where I work across the District of 26,000 students to ensure our menu and service decisions are made with a student-centered approach. I direct the District’s farm-to-school efforts, supervise FoodCorps members in a dozen elementary schools, and sit on our Culinary and Nutrition Center’s Advisory Committee and co-chair the Outreach and Communications sub-committee. I have previously worked for the Department of Transitional Assistance on the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, CISA, PVGrows, and Red Fire Farm.

I have found through my work in community that it takes being an effective listener to hear both the squeaky wheels and silenced voices. Both guiding attentive stakeholder processes and creating effective operational systems are foundational to affecting change.

Thanks for your consideration of my Board candidacy. I look forward to bringing my perspective and effort to the co-op, and to meeting more of you–perhaps over the co-op’s famous sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches that fuel me after my weekend morning grocery shop.


Wendy Messerli

I am currently the Senior Bookkeeper on staff at River Valley Co-op. I came to the valley 16 years ago to attend Hampshire College and have called it home since. I dropped out when I was unable to find the thread that would narrow my focus or career path; a community garden plot helped me realize that food was that thread. Over the past seven years, the co-op has given me the opportunity to use my detail and systems oriented skills to work directly with our local food system and I finished my BA in Sustainability Studies through UWW at UMass Amherst.

I oversee and supervise many day-to-day operations that involve the co-op’s financial well-being. I have a deep institutional knowledge of the business, and all of the stakeholders that we touch–owners, vendors, farmers, and staff. You may also recognize me from my role in our successful 2019 campaign to raise $5M in Co-op Owner Loans.

Our co-op and the cooperative movement are very important to me and I would be honored to serve in a governance role in addition to being a staff member. It would provide me with a new level of training in my cooperative education and propel a deeper understanding of co-op leadership and governance.

For six years I volunteered with the Prison Birth Project designing print materials for this nonprofit that provided support, training, and advocacy at the intersection of reproductive justice and the criminal justice system. I took with me from this work the crucial goal to meet people where they are. I am a creative problem solver and I believe that making space for listening and understanding all aspects of a reasoning can lead to deeper and more well-informed decisions and can bring about understanding and agreement in complex issues.

I am grateful for the opportunity to expand and explore how we can make our community hub a role model for sustainable and cooperative businesses.



Julie Tuman

I founded Crooked Stick Pops relatively recently in 2016, but it was only the most visible manifestation in long support for healthy, thoughtful food choices and responsible community involvement. I’ve been a member of this co-op since its initial fundraising drive before the doors opened in Northampton. An Easthampton resident since 2007, I can’t wait for the second location in my town, and I hope to help with that transition and other important issues while serving on the Board of Directors. 

I’ve always been drawn to mission-driven organizations. My first job out of grad school (MA Chinese, UMASS Amherst) was with a nonprofit that monitors international workers’ rights and labor conditions. I then spent 10+ years in international education, helping US students study abroad to gain perspective on the world around them. In my work with Crooked Stick Pops, I’ve formed strong relationships with local farms and orchards (we are a Local Hero Speciality Producer and have a strong commitment to source locally) and I am currently serving on the advisory board of the Amherst Farmers’ Market. In early 2019, I helped mentor an Easthampton-based kombucha startup through SPARK EforAll Holyoke, and I will work with this grassroots entrepreneurship organization again in 2019-20.

With Crooked Stick Pops I’ve learned how to make a genuinely fair and healthy product viable in a competitive market. My business is built on filling people with joy by making something delicious that is also good for them. These are the same values that food co-ops are founded on, and I will use my experience to help River Valley Co-op on sound footing while contributing to the community with unassailably mindful decisions and practices.




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