2021 River Valley Co-op Board Election

Voting for three positions on the River Valley Co-op Board of Directors will remain open until 10PM Eastern Time on December 16, 2021.

You are invited to vote online by electronic ballot, by mail after completing the ballot mailed to you, or by delivering your ballot by hand at the store anytime through December 16, 2021 by 10 PM. 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 key ways a co-op owner can participate and make your voice count is by voting in the election. This year we have bylaw amendments in addition to three new Board of Director candidates on the ballot. The bylaws are an important organizational document guiding the affairs of the governance of the cooperative. From time to time, they need to be updated, and this year our Board is proposing five bylaw amendments for your consideration. There are three candidates nominated for the Board of Directors on the ballot. These candidates have demonstrated a significant commitment to the co-op, and each candidate brings a depth of different experiences, skills, and perspectives.

All three of the 2021 Board candidate applicants 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. This year the candidates are all new and all running uncontested. Your vote is important co-op participation and support. All candidates receiving votes will be elected to the Board of Directors in this election.

Thank you for taking the time to participate in selecting the leadership for our food co-op and voting on the bylaw amendments! You are responsible for conducting your vote prior to the official end date and time December 16, 2021 at 10 PM.

 

2021 River Valley Co-op Board Candidates

Elizabeth Appelquist


I am co-owner of Cider House Media in Easthampton, created in 2013. Cider House is a digital agency providing marketing for small and regional businesses. As a River Valley owner, I feel a sense of pride in being part of such a vibrant, growing business and would love to be a part of its governance, helping to continue its success forward as a leader in our communities.

I grew up in Easthampton, moving back to the area in the spring of 2013. Since then I have enjoyed being a part of my community, supporting local businesses through work with Cider House as well as presently serving as President of the Emily Williston Library Board and on the Easthampton Cultural Arts District Subcommittee. I previously was also a member of the Pioneer Valley Ballet Board for 3 years.

It would be fulfilling to be a part of River Valley, a group that so thoughtfully embraces its owners, customers, and community with deep respect as it engages environmental, social justice, and equality issues while working hard to maintain diversity and inclusion wherever it can. This kind of leadership in the community is inspiring and would be exciting to be a part of.

Whenever I'm in either River Valley store, I not only feel the care and respect shared amongst and toward the employees, but also toward all the food and other products in the store. In a world that is becoming more digital by the second, it’s refreshing and essential to experience this personal caring harnessed within the River Valley
organization.

I enjoy looking at things outside the box. Considering the climate of our changing world (local, regionally and globally), I feel that’s becoming a necessity. I’m also a big proponent of teamwork and how essential this concept is in any organization, especially when all are working towards a common goal. In my business and other group endeavors, I have always relied on the strength of my team. It’s something that needs to be nurtured and brings great results. It’s important too to recognize within a group that there will be differing opinions. I have an ability to see all sides of an issue which I think helps bring about fair and equitable solutions.

I’m excited to have this opportunity to support the co-op’s mission through service on the Board.

 

Sara Axe

I am a fervent advocate for food that nourishes people’s health, businesses that fairly compensate those who grow and produce our food, and communities that celebrate and preserve the land that our food is grown from.

Before receiving my Master’s degree in Public Policy, I taught Algebra for nine years in the Rio Grande Valley, Austin, Texas, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. After witnessing the effects that nutrition, policy, and funding have on children in both public and private schools, I moved away from teaching to engage more strategically with private and public sector leaders around food policy, public health, and regional food systems.

Since then, I have coordinated healthy food access programs at the municipal level, operationalized the Good Food Purchasing Program - a values-based food procurement framework - at two large school districts (Austin ISD and Boston Public Schools), and co-founded Kitchen Sync Strategies. I am now managing a regional project in New England focused on building a resilient and robust food economy that centers on equity, the environment, and public health.

I have experience cultivating meaningful relationships with diverse stakeholders, engaging in strategic decision-making around enhancing the regional food system, and working collaboratively to balance different points of view working towards a shared vision. For more than three years I have served on the Board of Directors for Farmshare Austin, an organization dedicated to growing a healthy local food community by increasing food access, teaching new farmers, and preserving farmland. I would be honored to serve on the Board of River Valley Coop to contribute my skills working in community food systems and navigating the intersection between public and private food sectors to support the coop’s long term growth, sustainability, and commitment to supporting people, the planet, and profit.

I believe that when leaders from diverse sectors become purposeful participants in the food system, we can improve the ways we feed people, take care of the planet, and support the people, the land, and businesses that grow, produce, and sell our food.

 

Angela D’Souza

As an environmental science researcher and educator, my goal is to collapse the longstanding but imposed boundaries between school systems and communities. When we recognize and value people who come through academic institutions as knowledge holders, previously marginalized ways of knowing and being in the world can be recentered and resurrected. Living in a society that is increasingly segmented, interpersonal connections among humans and the inhabitants of our ecosystems are unknown to the consumer. It is crucial that we foster explicit and appreciative connections with those (humans, land/waterways, non-human organisms) upon whom we depend.

We know food is something we all require to survive, but access to healthy, nutrient-rich, affordable, and sustainably-packaged food is uneven, even in the “Happy Valley.” LaDonna Sanders Redmond’s presentation through the Sojourner Truth School for Social Justice illustrated the dependence we have on food systems at the expense of others’ lives. Redmond explicitly drew the lines between “Big Pharma,” Big Agriculture and their reliance on chain grocery conglomerates, and the disconnection and divestment of community-based agricultural practices. Ever more critical these past 18 months, the separation of food systems and humans was something I witnessed daily--on monumental scale--as the justification for single-used plastic and non-native ingredients was (is) cloaked in rhetoric of sanitation, convenience, and efficiency.

People should know where their food comes from, including the packaged superfoods and synthesized alternative meat products. My work has prepared me to support engaging schools and stimulate the creation and adoption of programming and multidisciplinary curricula around farms to household tables, composting, and home and school gardens. School partnerships with our Co-op could be transformative.

While I am humble and non-confrontational, I am methodical in my learning how a system functions. I hold myself and others accountable for our biases and actions that, without historical contextualization and foresight, do more harm than heal. As a River Valley Co-op Board member, I will not just listen to but hear my fellow co-owners. By drawing from each other’s perspectives, we can work towards a more just food economy, and society, based on common ground for our and future generations.

 




BYLAW AMENDMENTS RECOMMENDED for APPROVAL

Every 5-10 years it is a best practice for the Board of Directors to do a review of the bylaws to make any needed changes. It has been eight years since the last review, and with some other big projects like financing the second store behind us, we started this project in 2021.

The Board is now recommending your approval of five proposed amendments. A 2/3 vote in favor is required to amend each section outlined below.

Amendment #1 is intended to instill more clarity that co-op membership is co-op ownership. This proposed amendment is to change the bylaw language from “member-owner” to “co-op owner” throughout the document. This change doesn’t impact member rights, responsibilities or benefits, but we think it will serve to help elevate the understanding of cooperative ownership.

There are three somewhat related changes in Amendments #2-4 about updating official notices to include email notices. The changes include adding the responsibility of co-op owners to inform the Co-op of any change in email address, allowing email notices, and specifically allowing email for annual meeting notices and ballots. We also updated the language in these sections to clarify and reflect current practices for accessibility to voting via electronic ballot.

Amendment #5 adds a provision for up to two Board Members to be co-op owners that are also current employees. This provides for the inclusion of employee Directors while also ensuring that a sufficient level of non-employee community members participate in the governance of the cooperative. It also clarifies that regardless of their personal interests, all Board Members share responsibility for representing the overall interests of the cooperative.

Your Board offers the following amendments to the bylaws and recommends that the co-op ownership vote yes to adopt these amendments as proposed. We’ve outlined each of the amendments, described the changes, and the reason for the changes in this article and appreciate your attention to and consideration of these proposed amendments. You may vote to approve or reject each of the proposed amendments.  

Questions can be directed to Board President, Dorian Gregory:dgregory@rivervalley.coop (opens in a new window).

Bylaws Amendment document with deletions in red strike through and new additions in blue underline.




Amendment #1-Change Member-Owner to Co-op Owner

Articles: 1.2, 2, 2.1, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 3.2, 3.3, 3. 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 5.2, 8, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4, 8.5, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 11.1, 11.3 , 12.2, and change table heading on the second column of the chart.

Change the bylaws language to reflect a change in language from “member-owner” to “co-op owner”. The changes include “member” “membership” “representative of membership” and/or “co-op membership” as relevant to their use in each section.

Reason: In 2001 Directors changed the language from “member” to “member-owner” to better convey that membership in the co-op is ownership of the co-op.  Member-owner is now commonly used by food co-ops. However, discussions over recent years have evolved this thinking and many co-ops are exploring stronger ownership language to differentiate between various member organizations in a way that more directly and eloquently conveys that investing in a co-op equity share makes you a co-op owner. With our official bylaw language using member-owner language we are sometimes asked who the other co-op owners are…there are no other owners.

We started using the “co-op ownership” language internally about six years ago as a strategic communication to instill a stronger sense of ownership and empowerment. The Board has decided to officially update the language once again in our bylaws to instill clarity and a stronger sense of cooperative ownership by changing the language from “member-owner” to “co-op owner” and/or “membership” to “ownership” and/or “co-op membership” to “co-op ownership” as appropriate to help clarify that we cooperatively own it together.

This change has no direct impact on any membership rights or responsibilities, but we hope that it helps our community to develop a higher level of understanding of cooperative ownership. 

Board Recommendation: We recommend a “Yes” vote on the proposed bylaws amendment #1 to change language from member-owners to co-op owners throughout the document.




Amendment #2 -Article 2 Membership Section 2.4 Membership Responsibilities Paragraph B and Article 10 Notice Section 10.1

The amended language proposed in Article 2 section 2.4 paragraph b:

  • The most substantive change in this section is adding the responsibility for Members to keep the Co-op updated on their current email address and to allow the Co-op to use email addresses as the address of record for official notices to Members.

  • Updates the description of the practices for notices from Co-op Members to the Co-op for address changes to be made by the Representative of Membership to the Co-op, not the Clerk. It also adds clarity that address changes are to be made in writing through a variety of methods.

The amended language proposed in Article 10 section 10.1 adds the date an email notice is sent as the date that notice is delivered.

The reason:

A) The key change in 2.4 is a step toward modernizing the co-op’s official notice methods to include email notice. The current bylaws require the co-op to mail official membership notices. In past years, mail was the most reliable and noticed method of announcement for important information. In more recent years, email is widely relied upon for communications of all kinds. Notice by mail is a costly process for what is now nearly 14,000 Co-op Owners. This change could save time, paper, and financial resources and we think it is a wise change to allow for email notices in the bylaws for the future. To make this change feasible, we need to add email address updates to membership responsibilities, which is included in this amendment. Currently only mailing address updates are required in member responsibilities.

B) The amendment to 2.4 also includes language clarifying that notice of any Membership change of name, postal address and email address is to be submitted to the Co-op in writing by the Representative of Membership. This language is simply updated to better describe the current practices with the addition of including email address updates in membership responsibilities.

The amendment to Article 10 Notice adds language to address that email notices are considered delivered upon the date they are sent. This is needed along with the language in Article 2.4 related to allowing email notices for this change to be implemented.

Board Recommendation: We recommend a “Yes” vote on amendment #2 as proposed below:




Amendment #3-Article 3 Membership Meetings 3.1 Annual Meeting

This amendment about notice for annual meetings expands the method of notice from mailing to include notice “by mail, email or other electronic means as determined by the Board”.

It also requires that the ballot be included in the meeting notice. Language was also added to clarify that only issues in the official ballot will have binding votes in the membership meeting.

The reason:

3.1 is amended to include email as a method of official notice for the Annual Meeting and  mirrors the amendment about official co-op notices in Article 2.4 paragraph b on Membership Responsibilities that expands notices to allow for email notices.

3.1 also adds a requirement to include the ballot in the notice of the meeting which aligns with our current practice. This amendment helps ensure both full information on decisions to be made and easier voting access for all Co-op Owners.  This amendment provides for institutionalizing absentee voting with advance ballot information. Currently, the vast majority of ballots are cast electronically and we expect that to continue.

Board Recommendation: We recommend a “Yes” vote on the amendment #3 as proposed below:

 



Amendment #4 -Article 3 Membership Meetings 3.4 Decisions

3.4 Decisions: The bylaws were amended to explicitly add details about absentee ballot methods to include mail, in store ballot boxes, and electronic ballots as well as other methods determined by the Board. It added language about timelines and methods for casting ballots to be determined by the Board. The amendment also includes deleting the option for voting by proxy.

Reason:   The amendment provides for absentee voting options by a variety of means to formally institutionalize our practices to ensure easy access for voting on co-op matters through a diversity of methods.  It allows for future additions for absentee voting methods as well. This is in alignment with our values of inclusion and accessibility of voting access. Voting by proxy is a method that has never been used in our elections and was deleted in this amendment.

Board Recommendation: We recommend a “Yes” vote on amendment #4 as proposed below:

Bylaw Amendment #4 with text deletions in red strikethrough and additions in blue underline

Article 3 Membership Meetings




Amendment #5-Article 4 Board of Directors 4.2 Requirements and Qualifications

Requirements and Qualifications: This article addresses requirements and qualifications for the Board of Directors. This section was amended to include that up to two current employees that are Co-op Owners are eligible to serve on the Board and added a clarification that all Directors represent the interests of the overall cooperative.

Reason: This amendment is to allow up to two current employees that are Co-op Members to serve on the Board of Directors. We currently have two employee Directors and this bylaw amendment will serve to formally codify a standard to allow up to two employees to serve at the same time.  This provides for the inclusion of employee Directors while also ensuring a sufficient level of non-employee community members participate in the governance of the cooperative. We also added a sentence to clarify that regardless of any Director’s personal interests, Board Members have a responsibility to represent the interests of the overall cooperative.

Board Recommendation: We recommend a “Yes” vote on the amendment #5 as proposed below:

Bylaw Amendment #5 with text additions underlined in blue