Barn-Raising, Twenty-First Century Style

  | Food For Thought, GM Report

In the early days of our Co-op, around 1975, folks used to gather to place orders, then meet to split up cases, and come together to unload produce picked up from Boston Market. It was about accessing food that those friends and neighbors wanted and needed, but it was also about collaboration, and having fun along the way. In our world today, we live lives that don’t include too much time (or, depending on your energy level, desire) for this type of hard work, but the collaborative joy we experienced then can be felt in multiple ways today. Sometimes, it’s a celebratory event that only requires your attendance. One such event is the Annual Meeting, which (mark your calendars) will occur this year on Friday evening, November 9, again up the road at the New England Youth Theater. An educational and important moment to take stock of the business we own, but also a time to come together to have fun and enjoy that special community that our Co-op represents for so many of us. I remember last November hearing from two founding families who always came to the meeting together, a time-honored tradition built on a common interest that they have almost never missed.

More immediately, we offer you the second annual BFC Ice Cream Social, a fun and rousing event that involves all the best of a co-op happening: great folks, lots of kids, chances to learn about and support community non-profits, festive demos in the store, and great tasting free ice cream! Saturday, July 28, several of our board members will be scooping the fine fare, while all kinds of activities will be enticing you and yours. Board members will also be present to take your feedback about our Co-op, and also tell you more about the experience of serving on our Board of Directors.

The notion of collaborating to meet our needs while having fun is a time-tested method, from cooperative beginnings to barn-raisings. The work of so many of our community partners requires volunteer participation that all have some of these components. When Groundworks puts on their “Camp for a Common Cause,” they meld camping in community on the town common with raising money to support those dealing with unstable housing or food insecurity. We at the Co-op have continued to move the needle by asking one of our greatest resources—you, our shareholder members—to work to further the causes that our community partners are working on, all while having some fun and sweetened by earning a Co-op discount. We believe so strongly in our cooperative value, “concern for community,” that we are making a real investment in spreading ourselves out into this important work. I call it an investment, because there are actual dollars from this discount going to this effort of volunteering around town, roughly $22,000 distributed last fiscal year, and we are on track for much more this year.

We also continue to work together with our partners to explore and develop better and more creative ways to support our neighbors in need. In these pages about a year ago, I reported about some of the difficulties that our store was experiencing with some of the increased activity downtown due to both economic struggles and opioid addiction. Jon, our Marketing Manager, has responded in our Co-op’s role as a creative business leader by participating in ongoing work to come up with resolutions for some of these issues. This group calls itself the Community Response Project, identifying as “an informal committee of community members representing local social services, the downtown business community, and downtown residents, dedicated to discussion, action, and solutions around the presence of panhandling and unlawful behavior on the streets of the downtown improvement district (DID), and its impact on the safety and sustainability of the downtown Brattleboro neighborhood and its business district.” They have been working with police department representatives and others and have been searching for ways to address both systemic and logistical improvements to our town that would have positive effects. Meanwhile, an outreach team that includes representatives from the police, BMH, Turning Point, and HCRS has been actively working with individuals needing assistance.

We all have a responsibility to participate in making our town the best it can be. We invite you to continue to step up and give of your time and energy to assist your neighbors, and to find ways that your donations will feed you as well, with joy, new learning, and satisfaction. We will continue to think about the most positive ways within our means that we can support and engage our community. And together, we will raise those timbers.

By Sabine Rhyne, General Manager