2022 Annual Meeting Q & A

  | Annual Meeting, Board of Directors, News from the Board of Directors

By Lee Bradford, General Manager

Thank you to everyone who attended (or tried to attend!) our annual meeting last week.   The Board and I wanted to follow up with answers to the questions posed in the chat and our learnings and insights from hosting the meeting virtually.

Our plan and intent is to meet in person once again next year, but if we need to continue virtually for some reason we want to make sure we are ready. 

First and foremost, we apologize if you attempted to join the meeting but were not able to due to the meeting attendance reaching its limit.

We did resolve the issue within about 10 minutes, but I know that by then many people had made multiple attempts and had stopped trying to join.

While we did confirm that the 100-person cap was not in place on our account during testing on Monday, we clearly missed something when we launched the meeting on Wednesday.

While there were a few other mostly minor issues, like fine-tuning the speed of the slides, the attendee limit was our primary concern. 

The meeting recording will be available both in full, and broken out by section, on our website in December. We will send you the links when they are ready.

If you’d like to read the transcript of the meeting, you can find that by clicking here.

We conducted our meeting virtually last year as well and based on the feedback from that meeting made many of the same choices, especially around questions and chat. 

This included an open chat to start during the slide show, so attendees could greet and speak with each other. Once the formal meeting started we directed all chats to our Board Administrator and Moderator. 

The intent here was to make sure that each question was documented to ensure responses while keeping the distraction to a minimum for attendees.

During in-person meetings, people can share thoughts quietly with those around them, but during a virtual meeting with open chat on, all conversations are visible to everyone which can create a significant distraction for attendees and moderators.

While Zoom does have a ‘Breakout Room’ feature, we did not see a great way to use that feature that would enable everyone to benefit from the conversations in those rooms.

Ultimately, we felt the best decision was to capture all questions in chat and respond after the meeting while focusing on the planned content during the actual meeting.  

These were all the questions that were submitted to the Zoom chat that were not answered during the meeting.

Please note there was one question that was solely focused on the operations and structure of the Everyone Eats program that is well beyond the scope of the Co-op to answer or address.  Everyone Eats was created by the VT State Legislature through a bill entitled “Restaurants and Farmers Feeding the Hungry” and signed into law by Governor Scott in July 2020. You can learn more about this program by clicking here.

Land Acknowledgement

We had a few questions about the land acknowledgement that Peter Gould (facilitator) read. Who wrote it, and where can we find out more about that?  

Rich Holschuh provided the text of the land acknowledgement.

Why haven’t the people at the Co-op sent me the ADA Service Animal Training that employees receive? 

The Co-op is 100% compliant with ADA and Vermont guidelines on Service Animals. We do not generally distribute our internal policy and procedure documents which is in line with standard business practice. However, we are happy to set up a time with shareholders to review them at the store. 

Was Dottie’s closed to gentrify the area?  

No. Dottie’s was closed after much consideration because it was losing significant amounts of money. This was putting the Co-op operations across the board in financial jeopardy.

I would like to know how much food goes to waste. Does most of the food that comes off the shelf go to Foodworks or gleaners…or does it go into the dumpster?

The Co-op’s food disposal policies state that when food or product becomes or is about to become unsalable, it is returned for credit (if possible), sold at a discount (if appropriate), donated to a local pantry, or given to staff. As a last resort, unsalable food is composted. The total amount of food that goes to waste is pretty minimal – a tiny fraction of a percent for most departments.

Would the Co-op consider electronic receipts to eliminate paper? 

Absolutely.  We are currently looking at improvements to our point of sales (register) systems that will enable quite a bit of new functionality and this is definitely on the list of features that we will be able to support. We expect to have these in place in late spring/early summer of 2023.

I would love to hear more from Curtiss about systemic change. What can leadership be doing, aside from recruiting a more diverse board, to engage with racially diverse communities? How can this successfully be addressed in long-term planning that will be happening?

This was addressed during the meeting, but it bears repeating that engaging with diverse communities is definitely part of our short- and long- term planning. In the short term, we have hired an external consultant, Tabitha Moore who is working with both our Board and our store team on justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Our first step is getting a good understanding of what we do and don’t do well today and Tabitha is really challenging us to think differently than we have in the past. Perhaps one of the most impactful perspectives from Curtiss was that we must proactively engage the global majority directly and we are definitely taking that feedback to heart.

Why did Co-op employees decline advertising on the community board an amanita educational event at the Brattleboro tree advisory committee?

Our Community Board is a great place to share and learn about community events. At the time this was requested, the decision was made not to post it based on its political content and sensitivity that the Co-op did not want to be perceived as endorsing a particular position.

Below are comments that were entered into the chat window during the meeting. 

These were not questions but we wanted to share them as well. 

  • “I think communication flow should be directed by the public, and the members don’t need admins to moderate us. Preaching inclusive participation while the public is muted is painful irony. The hypocrisy of not allowing us to represent ourselves at the annual meeting is a shame. I think all of the panelists have opportunities within their employment have authority and this meeting is organized around them, which deprives the public space to represent theirselves and have a speaking platform to organize around what their concerns are. There should be an apology for not allowing the public to see the comments in the transcript. A panel could have been hosted separately from the annual elections meeting.”
  • “I’m hoping to see the co-op center racial and class equity in the long-term planning that’s being planned. Thanks to the panelists for naming this vital work. “
  • “I’m a former board member and I would like to address the question about inclusion. “
  • “Having an elections meeting without the candidates facing public question is not democracy”
  • “Yes — questioning and statements of board candidates would’ve been important.”

Here are the end of meeting comments  – some were in the chat and some via email.

  • “Super discussion by the panel…. I want to listen and learn more! and….It is so good to hear the talent of the stellar staff and the UFCW being recognized in such a respectful way by Lee, and appreciate that he has backed up these words with a commitment to a fruitful relationship with the Union, the inflation adjustment to wages and a REAL employee appreciation BBQ…. a breath of fresh air. hooray! And i will give the technology dept. a C- tonight. Nonetheless, great work all!” 
  • “Great meeting, very inspiring!!!!!!” 
  • “Very provocative and heartfelt panel discussion!” 
  • “Real eye opener to see the demographic shift both from the real history root of a cooperative but also a driver of the future survival of the BFC” 
  • “This is why I love BFC” 
  • “Great job, everyone! What a great institution to be part of!”
  • “I am simultaneously struck by how much we have done, and how far we have to go. Onward in cooperation!”
  • “Inspired by Lee’s ability to balance biz goals with people needs”
  • “Thanks everyone, it was a well-run meeting.”
  • “Also … I hadn’t previously met Lee (I guess I still haven’t!) and really appreciated the background info and thoughtful strategizing as well as the apparent commitment to listening. Thank you!”
  • “Thank you from my ❤️
  • “Exceptionally well done. Interesting throughout. Brief where brevity was appropriate, rich and engaged where that was essential. The panel discussion was enormously informative, heartfelt, community focused. Should be separated for replaying at many opportunities. See if BCTV will carry it.”
  • “I totally appreciated this group and the personal sharing about experiences with the coop”
  • “Keep on keeping on! Thank you and best wishes”
  • “As a former board member and 20-year co-op member I have seen countless good ideas brought for that that go unheeded. Diverse members of our board have left because they felt unheard. My neurodiverse landmark college students made suggestions of how the coop could be more inclusive that also went unheeded.”