by Calvin Dame, Board member
BFC Shareholders gathered at Potash Hill (formerly Marlboro College), on Saturday, September 23 for our first in-person Annual Meeting in three years. It was exciting to see and talk with one another in person! Following a report on the Co-op’s last fiscal year (July 2022-June 2023), shareholders were invited to take part in a World Cafe, an exercise that promotes small group discussions around questions of importance.
Three questions guided our discussions:
The small group discussions were lively and wide-ranging. Here are some themes that emerged:
Love that it is local, local, local. Love the focus on sustainability. Love the friendliness and hospitality when I walk into the store. Love the view of Wantastiquet!
Appreciate that the Co-op is an anchor in a changing town and a hub for our community. People talked about seeing friends, enjoying hanging out in the cafe, feeling welcomed by staff, the serendipitous opportunities for conversation with staff and other shoppers.
One theme that emerged was a deeply felt appreciation for this precious thing that we share: access to healthy and abundant food! And a wish that that access could be shared more widely.
Concerns were expressed, of course. Some were operational: less waste in the store, some product areas might improve. Some concerns had a wider focus: people talked about the homeless and the hungry people outside the store. Many wondered if there was more that we could do. Could we be doing more to serve the insecure and the disadvantaged among us? Some said they wished it were more widely understood how much the Co-op currently does in this regard.
What came up in a number of the groups was distress at the perception that the Co-op is elitist. In what ways might this be true? In what ways is this a misapprehension? In what ways could this perception be addressed?
One of the World Cafe questions invited participants to consider the future: what is possible for the BFC? Some folks spoke up for more education, others for alternative ways to do business, some for increasing our presence in the community. And, consistently, how can we work to mitigate the income disparities we live with? One person observed that healthy food and a healthy planet go together. Another asked if the Co-op could be like a forest with underground roots that tap into other organizations in town to nourish and sustain each other! Someone wondered if BFC’s cooperative business model could be used in other areas: housing, another location, car maintenance.
By all reports, the World Cafe was an engaging and lively opportunity to talk about an enterprise that plays a vital role in so many lives. For the Board this was a welcome opportunity to interact with Shareholders and gain perspective on the hopes and visions of our Co-op owners. Thanks to everyone who took the time on a splendid autumn Saturday to take part. One Table Host summed it up, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one! What a gift.”