Why would you like to serve on the City Market Board? What excites you about becoming a Board Member?
I served on City Market’s board from 2014 through 2016, and again since the start of 2018. I’m proud to be a community leader and advocate for democracy on many platforms, but City Market is my proudest community role.
I’ve worked for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and MyWebGrocer. These environments have cultivated a strong knowledge of, and interest in, Vermont’s food systems and grocery industry. This is certainly useful for work on our board, but the qualities in board members that best serve the membership are diligence, financial literacy, and the kind of dedication to show up with a highlighted, dog-eared board packet every time.
I’d like to continue on the board because I have loved doing this. The co-op’s unique ability to be a massive resource for our community, while maintaining responsible business practices, is to be cherished. The co-op’s rally for change program alone contributed well over $100K to local organizations last year. We need those resources now more than ever. It’s great and humbling to think that my skill set can contribute to this process.
Please describe any professional skills you have that will help you to be an effective Board Member. How would you help the Board to balance the business needs of a $50 million business with the need to meet our Global Ends as a community-owned cooperative?
I’m a Digital Organizer for Indivisible.org where I work hard to leverage technology to engage voters in the democratic process. That work is relevant to the co-op because grocery is increasingly technical and data-driven, but mostly, I believe my interactions with voters help me be an active listener to our members’ needs.
I’ve worked for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture where I’ve had a look under the hood of Vermont’s food system, specifically, mapping Vermont’s farm data including everything from saffron to tempeh. I’m proud to have helped the state shape agricultural policy and make informed, data-driven decisions.
Prior to the state I worked for MyWebGrocer where I helped grocery stores and brands manage their data and glean insights into its patterns. This work is useful for analyzing trends in the co-op’s many reports to the board. An understanding of data is essential to this board, but being familiar with the food industry itself is also handy for perspective.
My most valuable skill is probably simply the willingness to scrutinize the multitude of financial and legal documents reported to the board for review. A good board member is willing to show up and engage in tough questions on nuanced issues.
Describe your prior involvement with community organizations and/or cooperatives. What did you learn from these experiences?
From my time on the City Market board, I’ve learned that organizations need organization. City Market is finely-tuned with exceptional staffing at every level. City Market’s board respects the structure of the institution, and constantly self-evaluates, and that allows us to be highly agile.
From my work on the Ward 5 NPA, I’ve learned what is important to the South End and how diverse (in many senses) we are. This work has informed me on how to serve the South End community.
From my work as co-coordinator of BTV Unified PTO, which is a coalition of Burlington School District PTOs, where we work hard to hear the needs of all families and hold the district accountable to meeting them. It has reminded me that the most acute needs are often the hardest to hear and we have to always work to hear them.
From my work with the Democratic Party and now Indivisible.org I’ve learned how to be a good listener to voters (and all people!) from every walk of life, even (especially!) when they disagree, and truly hear them.
What opportunities and challenges do you see in the future of City Market?
City Market has recently gone from a period of stability to a period of change including leadership change, expansion, and financial adjustments. Then 2020 happened. A water boil notice shut us down for days, a pandemic radically altered our in-store operations, staffing needs, supply chains, and everything else.
The pandemic has brought out the best and worst of people and organizations, and never has the co-op’s central role in the community shone brighter. Early in the pandemic we all were shocked to see bare shelves. Now we’re used to social distancing, masks, gloves, plexi-glass shields and the many other protective measures the co-op takes. I have been incredibly proud of the attentiveness the co-op has given to the staff and membership during this crisis and I think it speaks to our agility as a community.
The co-op excels at communicating with its membership and our community at large, and that’s never been a more important skill to have. We will have to continue to be active listeners, be open to change, and always re-evaluate our practices.
Click here to see Joanna's resume here.