Board of Directors
The Board of Directors is comprised of nine co-op owners; three director seats are up for election every year. The co-op’s Board of Directors are empowered by the owners to, not just ensure the co-op’s current success, but to look forward strategically to make sure our business continues to thrive in an ever-changing and unpredictable future. They work to build alignment between where the co-op is heading both by soliciting owner involvement and feedback, and by communicating information about recent events and trends to all co-op owners. If you are curious to see Board work in action, monthly board meetings are open to owners and happen on the fourth Wednesday of the month from 6:30 - 9pm at the store.
Our regular monthly River Valley Co-op Board of Directors meetings are open to River Valley Co-op Owners. Board Meetings are not open to the public. Non-River Valley Co-op Owners may attend Board of Directors meetings only by invitation of the Board of Directors.
COVID-19 Social Distancing Board Meeting Safety Measures
Under our current COVID-19 social distancing safety measures for meetings of the Board of Directors, we are meeting by Zoom video conferences instead of in-person meetings. We still welcome our co-op owners to join us via Zoom video conference for our monthly Board Meetings. In order to do so, you will need access to a smartphone or computer with sound and video capability.
Please click on the below link to complete a form requesting inclusion in the Board Meeting via video conference call. Upon completion of the form, you will receive an invitation to join the video conference with a Zoom video conference link.
Thank you for adapting to this format with us at this time when it is so important to work together to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Meet our Board of Directors!
Abby Getman Skillicorn
Abby Getman Skillicorn (President) is a five-year owner of River Valley Co-op and is proud to be a part of a body that so clearly and diligently seeks to fulfill its mission. She was inspired to apply to the Board of Directors because she wanted to give back to the co-op that feeds her family. Abby is thrilled for the Easthampton expansion, which will be closer to her house in Florence where she lives with her husband Michael and dog Lucy.
Her professional work over the past decade has revolved around social justice and food access in the Pioneer Valley and throughout the Commonwealth. As she continues to deepen her understanding of our food system from seed to table, she sees how we perpetuate systems of food apartheid, and strives to engage in work that creates more equity and access for everyone in our community.
Currently, Abby is a manager for the Springfield Public Schools Food Service program, where she works across the district of 26,000 students to ensure their menu and service decisions are made with a student-centered approach. Abby directs the District’s farm-to-school efforts, supervises FoodCorps members in a dozen elementary schools, sits on the Culinary and Nutrition Center’s Advisory Committee, and co-chairs the Outreach and Communications sub-committee. She has 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.
Email: Abby Getman Skillicorn
Alex Risley Shroeder
Alex Risley Schroeder (Vice President) re-oriented her work in adult education and workforce development to focus exclusively on strengthening the "green economy" through education, training and policy development. Her commitment continues to be to leverage our increasing focus on sustainability to build jobs and businesses that support communities and individuals. She brings to the Board a thoughtful perspective on the ways local agriculture and local food systems can provide such leverage points, a willingness to learn and work collaboratively, and the belief that much can be solved when we do good work with others.
email: Alex Risley-Schroeder
Barra Cohen (Clerk) has been a member-owner of River Valley Co-op ever since we opened the first store in Northampton. The idea of supporting local business and agriculture, as well as her local community, is why she jumped at the chance to join our brand new local food cooperative. Her professional work over the last two decades has included standing alongside and advocating for indigent and marginalized populations. She spent over eleven years as a public defender in Franklin, Hampshire, Berkshire and Hampden Counties. Now, she works at a drop-in center for self-represented litigants to get free assistance accessing legal information and the various departments of the trial courts. She brings her commitment to social justice law in the areas of food justice and ethical business practices, which is why she is proud to become a board director at our local food coop. Barra approaches problem-solving with curiosity and an openness to new ideas and different perspectives. She views stepping into her new role as a wonderful opportunity to become a beloved, innovative, and impactful part of our co-op community!
Gary L. Schaefer
Gary L. Schaefer For four decades Gary co-owned a local ice cream company two with retail shops. Gary and Barbara then grew the business to include a small ice cream manufacturing and a distributing company focused on food products produced in the Connecticut River Valley. As an entrepreneur, He learned a lot by trial and error. The most important lesson was learning to see the whole picture, including past successes and failures, the importance of monitoring day to day operations and spending significant time preparing for the future. He is strong believer in co-operatives as a sustainable alternative to the traditional business model. Gary was also part of a small group who founded, and for 2 years administered, the Our Family Farms Milk Co-op, now in its 20th year. Gary is deeply committed to seeing our Co-op, our staff, our vendors and our community thrive long into the future and to be an inspiration for other co-ops to start and expand.
Email: Gary L Schaefer
Wendy Messerli is the current the Senior Bookkeeper on staff at River Valley Co-op. She came to the valley 16 years ago to attend Hampshire College and have called it home since. Wendy dropped out when she was unable to find the thread that would narrow her focus or career path; a community garden plot helped her realize that food was that thread. Over the past seven years, the co-op has given her the opportunity to use her detail and systems oriented skills to work directly with our local food system and Wendy finished her BA in Sustainability Studies through UWW at UMass Amherst.
Wendy oversees and supervises many day-to-day operations that involve the co-op’s financial well- being. She has a deep institutional knowledge of the business, and all of the stakeholders that the co-op touches– owners, vendors, farmers, and staff. You may also recognize Wendy from her role in our successful 2019 campaign to raise $5M in Co-op Owner Loans.
For six years Wendy 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. She took with her from this work the crucial goal to meet people where they are. Wendy is a creative problem solver and she believes 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.
Email: Wendy Messerli
Angus Brewer has been helping effect positive change in the lives of others, especially children and students, for three decades. He has marched in solidarity with under-served people of all colors. He's taught pre-schoolers and college graduates in public, private, and charter schools throughout the Happy Valley and beyond--and policy development, planning, and organizational evaluation have always played a part. He's also been a state social worker, a counselor in group homes, hospitals and a prison, and a fiery, socially-conscious spoken-word artist. He also functioned as a trainer--one of his chief duties in his Reserves units. Angus now brings these skills to our Co-op, where he's been working for two years. He has many other talents and interests, including being a professional DJ and emcee for the past thirty-six years performing for crowds both small and large from Chicago to New York to Boston to Atlanta--and he even provided the musical backdrop for our 2018 Annual Board Meeting!
Elizabeth Appelquist (Treasurer) is the owner of Cider House Media in Easthampton, created in 2013; a digital agency providing marketing for small and regional businesses in the Valley. As a River Valley Co-op owner, Elizabeth feels a sense of pride in being part of such a vibrant, growing business as part of its governance, continuing to move its success forward as a leader in the community. Having grown up in Easthampton before moving back to the area in 2013, Elizabeth has enjoyed getting involved in the community through endeavors such as serving on the Williston Library Board and on the Easthampton Cultural Arts District Subcommittee, as well as the Pioneer Valley Ballet Board for three years.
Elizabeth enjoys looking at things outside the box, especially considering the climate of our changing world (local, regionally and globally). She is also a big proponent of teamwork and how essential this concept is in any organization, especially when all are working towards a common goal. Whether in business or other group endeavors, Elizabeth has always relied on the strength of a team, believing it is something that needs to be nurtured to achieve great results. It’s important too to recognize within a group that there will be differing opinions, but Elizabeth brings forward an ability to see all sides of an issue—a quality that helps bring about fair and equitable solutions to any matter.
Sarah Axe is a fervent advocate for food that nourishes people's health, businesses who 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 a Master's degree in Public Policy, Sarah taught algebra for nine years in the Rio Grande Valley of Austin, Texas, and Buenos Aires, Argentina—all the while witnessing the effects that nutrition, policy and funding would have on children in both public and private schools. She moved away from teaching to engage more strategically with private and public sector leaders around food policy, public health and regional food systems.
Elizabeth has 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. She now manages a regional project in New England focused on building a resilient and robust food economy that centers on equity, the environment, and public health. Her experience cultivating meaningful relationships with diverse stakeholders, engaging in strategic decision-making around enhancing the regional food system and collaborative work to balance different points of view towards a shared vision stems from more than three years on the Board of Directors for Farmshare Austin, an organization dedicated to growing a healthy local food community through increased food access, education for new farmers and farmland preservation. Elizabeth believes 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 is an environmental science researcher and educator working towards a vision of collapsing the longstanding but institutionally imposed boundaries between school systems and communities. She believes that 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, and that we can restore interpersonal connections among humans and the inhabitants of our ecosystems in a society that is increasingly segmented. Angela recognizes the critical need to foster explicit and appreciative connections with those (other humans, land/waterways, non-human organisms) upon whom we depend.
Food is something we all require to survive, but access to healthy, nutrient-rich, affordable and sustainably packaged food is uneven, even here in the Valley (a topic LaDonna Sanders-Redmond has touched upon throughout many presentations, illustrating the dependence the larger population has on food systems at the expense of others' lives). Angela aims to reduce our local communities' reliance on Big Agriculture and chain grocery conglomerates that exist at the expense of others' lives, as well as repair the disconnection and divestment of community-based agricultural practices. Even more critical, the separation of food systems and humans is something Angela has witnessed daily on a monumental scale as the justification for single-used plastic and non-native ingredients became cloaked in the rhetoric of sanitation, convenience and efficiency.
Angela believes that people should know where their food comes from, including packaged superfoods and synthesized alternative meat products. Her work has prepared her 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. As a River Valley Co-op Board Member, she strives to not just listen but also hear co-owners' needs, draw from each other's perspectives and work towards a more just food economy and society based on common ground for both ourselves and future generations.