Brattleboro Food Co-op Annual Meeting
November 10, 2021 / Held via Zoom
PANEL DISCUSSION TRANSCRIPT
General Manager Sabine Rhyne welcomed the panel moderator, Tabitha Pohl-Moore. The Board of Directors asked Tabitha to pull together a panel of BIPOC entrepreneurs to discuss how we could better support BIPOC entrepreneurs as individuals and as a cooperative. The panel discussion follows:
Thank you, Sabine.
Hi everyone, it’s great to see some of those faces again, it was great to see you last year, and we are going to be hearing from some our amazing entrepreneurs who are people of color across Vermont who work either with you or in the food industry in general. […] I’m going to go ahead and just give a very brief overview of who they are because the first thing that they’re going to do is just tell you about who they are and how they came up into business that they’ve come up into, and some of the things that they want you to know about what they do.
So the first person I’d like to introduce you to, many of you probably already know, is Amber Arnold. She is one of the Co-Directors of the SUSU CommUNITY Farm in Brattleboro VT. Also with us right now is Marlena Fishman who is the Co-owner of Zen Barn Farms boutique cannabis shop and director of Zen Barn Farms Social and Environmental Justice Initiatives in Waterbury Center, VT. Also joining us and I don’t know if he’s on yet, is Earl Ransom who is co-owner of Strafford Organic Creamery located in Strafford Vermont that is a multi-generational organization that hopefully will be able to join us shortly. [Earl was not able to join us.] So that being said, welcome to our panelists. We’re so grateful to have you here with us today and in Vermont, making sure that we are represented in all that we do.
Just tell us a bit about you, how you came into work that you’re doing here in Vermont. And anything you want us to know about the work that you actually do.
I guess I can go first. My name is Amber, she/her pronouns, here on the ancestral homelands of the Elnu Abenaki people, sometimes called by the colonizer name of Brattleboro, VT. I came into the work that I do I think just by being born into it, being born a Black person in America feels like, you know, connection to land, connection to Earth, connection to food, connection to healing, connection to… kind of like moving through all these processes is so deeply rooted, and just who I am as being a person. And so yeah, I feel like that’s really what it was for me. I care deeply about my people and all of us being able to access living in this space of liberation and this kind of culture, and so that has always really inspired me and has guided me towards the work that I’m doing now.
TABITHA: Can you tell us, how long has SUSU CommUNITY Farm been in existence, and who else is part of it?
So SUSU started in October of 2020. We originally had an LLC which was a botanica, so we sold Afro-Indigenous herbs and tinctures and remedies and did a lot of trauma work, somatics and yoga, and all that kind of stuff. And then as a response to COVID, to more Black and brown people being murdered and violated, we responded to what our community was asking of us and what our people were needing. And that was access to food, to land, to Earth, to be able to heal through all this trauma collectively. And so Naomi and I started a Go Fund Me page that eventually turned into us, creating the SUSU CommUNITY farm which launched in October of 2020. Currently, Naomi and I are the collaborative directors of SUSU and we have a few staff members right now, and we’re growing. We have Jamal, who is our CSA coordinator – actually he just went into a new role, which is Youth Belonging and Place director. And we have Jess who is our Grantwriter/Development Director. We have Hannah who is our CSA Volunteer Coordinator. And we are hiring a few more people, actually right now.
This would be a great place to put in a plug and I did put your website in the chat [see below for all links] so if you know people who would be a good fit for SUSU, please write to them, send them Amber’s way. Amber, I heard you talk about a couple of different things. Can you talk a little bit about how people would access SUSU, how would people of color find access to you, and once they get there, what would they see or what would they be able to engage in?
Currently, we — during the summer/spring season—, we have a CSA program that’s free for Black and brown folks in the community. This past year we were growing food on the Retreat Farm’s lands and so we have lots of volunteers and people who would come by there. Right now we have like, we’re doing mostly year-long programs, so we’re kind of towards the end of those right now, and they’re all remote. We’re purchasing a farm and that should go through in January of this year, which is really exciting, and so once we’re on the farm, we will have a lot of ways for people to come visit us. We’ll have lots of workshops and rituals and opportunities to grow food and be in community and different stuff in that way. But right now we’re mostly doing remote stuff. Until then.
TABITHA: That’s amazing, thank you. Is there anything else that folks should know about SUSU as a whole right now?
Yeah, I think that’s good.
OK, good. I have a feeling that you’re going to be getting some questions shortly. So like I said, we’re going to start with these four questions, and then as folks are talking, if you want to pop your questions in the chat, or like I said, we’re going to leave a little bit of time at the end for people to ask questions as well. Either of those will work for us. Thank you, Amber. Marlena?
Amber that was lovely, I was just, taken all the way in. So I’m Marlena, co-owner of Zen Barn Farms, and what brought me into this industry is, has always been, my love of herbs and plants and holistic wellness and cannabis has been a part of my life for a long time, and I have always enjoyed just owning the fact of the healing benefits that I get from it, and I’ve had the opportunity to expand on that in the past year with our CBD shop. We first started growing on our family farm about three years ago and tried it out in our food and in our beverages and in our wellness studio. And we got great responses and some good feedback from people and decided to expand on it. And, what brought me to Vermont was my husband’s family is here and when we had our first son, we wanted to be near family, so it was a choice between New Jersey and Vermont and we moved here together from DC.
And in Jersey, my dad used to always keep this little flower bed garden right out on the walkway in front of our house and I always – I didn’t at that time, I didn’t jump in the soil with him because I had a fear of bugs. Now I have an appreciation for them. Fear is still in the back, but now I have an appreciation for them. And when we were in DC. I got to experience a lot of urban gardening and got to become more familiar with my own wellness practices. I haven’t been out on my own at this point in time, so having come to Vermont after that, I immediately just embraced the opportunity to re-engage with the land and take establish a new relationship with it that was stripped from our ancestors.
And I really, deeply appreciate the perspective that you’re coming from, both of you, and the ways that it’s not just, “ Hey, I like this thing”, it’s deeply embedded in who you are. And so what you do is who you are. There’re too many people in the workforce that aren’t doing what they love, that aren’t doing who they are. They’re performing something versus living out their truth, and so I just wanted to acknowledge and appreciate that in both of you what you’re bringing here today.
So as we consider what that process, it’s just such vulnerability to do who you are, to do what you are, and be so authentic, and so as you began this process of being so…. just in touch with yourself, with the land, with all that can come from this world that we live in, and you try to fit into and make a living right? Because that’s what we ask people to do. When you were going through that process of starting up the business model, was there anything that came up for you as you were going through that? That was particularly frustrating, or just things that you learned along the way that you wanted to articulate in this space?
And tell me if you need me to clarify that better.
I would say what came up for me is, I always made a point to want to bring the in-between to the forefront, especially within the cannabis industry. And when doing that, be it that I’m a Black woman and especially – maybe I’ll toot my own horn here and say I also look young. There’s a certain…You can’t just show up to the scene and expect that someone is going to listen to what you have to say. So happen to first state all my years of experience and knowledge and even my age at times to then be able to share what I’m saying and have it be heard. And having it be heard isn’t even enough. It’s like “So what statistics do you have to go with your experience?” and even though I’m sharing a first-hand experience of many people along with myself. Someone asked for a statistic as if my word and my experience first-hand aren’t enough. And that’s just to enter a space and let them know what it is that I’m trying to do. I have to present all these other things first and then it’s a matter too of removing the stigma around cannabis, and all that propaganda that has been around the use of it and its healing benefits. Even the way it’s talked about as a plant, it’s broken up as hemp, weed, cannabis and it’s all one plant, that is just being broken up into different stages that are categorized in different ways, which each aspect of the plant has different healing benefits. What I have noticed too, and wanting to have vendors in our shop, it’s hard to even find the BIPOC distributors or the BIPOC businesses. And it’s not because they’re not out there, it’s because it’s the way that it’s being marketed. What comes up first in a feed? And also what other people are sharing? So those are some of the initial barriers that aren’t totally business-related that come up.
And are there other barriers that you, you know that you want to talk about that maybe are a little bit more business-oriented? I think that everything that you said was so powerful and even as you were starting I could feel it — like… welling up and you’re like, “Well I come across this looking young” and I’m like “Oh Lord, now she gotta break out the credentials”…like, I could just feel the exhaustion that I have felt, you know, in having to do that. Every time we come out we gotta’, cause “Black don’t crack” is a blessing unless you’re around white folks. And then it’s about proving that you are who you are, right? I was really charged, like when you said when you were talking about breaking up the plant; the cannabis plant. Why do you feel like that is? Where do you feel like that comes from? Do you feel like that’s because people don’t know about all of the different healing properties that it has? Or do you feel like that’s more a function of kind of how we tend to do things in society in general? We can’t appreciate it; the whole plant. Or is it a necessary part of the business?
That’s a great question, Tabitha. I think it stems back to the, since back to the War on Drugs. It’s all a part of the propaganda which is why it was called “marijuana”, to associate it with Mexico; with Mexicans. It’s all connected and breaking it up into different terms if you will— that’s more of the economic side. That’s just part of the, just trying to bleed the plant for its economic purposes rather than its beneficial purposes. It’s more around legislation than as a holistic practice and medicine. And to answer your question around one of the other, an additional barrier, is when I step into a space and, especially if I’m succeeding or learning in that space, I like to have others there to learn with me and to succeed with me and represent along with me and in this space, there’s so many people that BIPOC people in particular that don’t either feel nervous because they’re going to be criminalized from it or feel like they already have set up their market or whatever their livelihood is and going to continue to try to navigate that space rather than take ownership in this space that we have popularized.
Say it, I feel like I’m at church. Thank you, Marlena. And Amber, do you want to respond to any of that? Or do you want to go into kind of your own journey to becoming, you know, SUSU CommUNITY Farm and you know some of the barriers are things that you noticed or that you have faced in that process?
I think for me, a lot of the barriers that I’ve seen personally, specifically toward SUSU, is mostly gatekeeping. You know, it’s like we are people, like many Black and brown people who have a dream. We have a vision. We have a very clear…, you know, we’ve spent a couple hundred years creating systems and ideas of how to make things, you know, the way that would actually work and be meaningful and supportive, and then we are coming against these systems that are, you know, intentionally keeping us from being able to create these spaces. Like this is not by accident. Obviously, this is a very purposeful way of things happening, and so I think that that’s our biggest barrier. I think that there’s a lot of laws and rules in place that make it illegal to do the kind of work that we want to do, caring for people, like caring for people, is very illegal. There’s lots of ways that make that very impossible to do. And I think that you know, we’re going into these spaces of… you know, I think for many of us, the one thing that we really need is resources to be able to do the work we need to do because we live in a capitalist culture and in order to access resources we then come into this place of like oh, we now have to spend like 75% of our time trying to do fundraising, which takes us completely out of doing the work that we want to do, which is caring for our people. You know, and that’s what we want to spend our time doing and then there’s this whole language barrier of like, “you need to write this way,” and like, you know, Marlena’s talking about all of these statistics. And it’s like, I’m a Black person. I don’t need statistics! I’m living this every day. I’m in community with people. We’re living this. I don’t need to find some like fancy rich researcher White person to like, find all these statistics about the people that I’m in community with every day to prove to someone who’s completely detached from our community that we deserve to have access to our needs being met.
You know, it’s just like those kinds of barriers. And I think another thing even in that world that we’ve experienced is, there’s a lot of like grants or funding opportunities that are kind of centered around what we want. We want to fund Black people doing Blackwork and blah blah blah and so you’re like “alright, sweet” and so you like write this whole thing and they’re like “OK, well that doesn’t really make sense to us” and it’s like “well yeah ’cause what makes sense to you hasn’t been working.” This is like we’re not doing it, you just want a Black person to do the stuff that you were doing before, that’s not working. You don’t want to actually support us, and you know doing something new or different, or you know that kind of thing. So I think a lot of the barriers that we face have just been racism. White supremacy, you know. Like even the process of trying to purchase land, you’re then having to deal with the zoning and neighbors and all of these things where there’s all these aspects of interfacing with people and their own personal beliefs that then have a huge impact on your ability to be in relationship with land or to, you know, do the work that, that you want to do.
It’s like you have to almost traumatize yourself in order to create a sanctuary for us, like you have to go through this traumatic process of dealing with a government that doesn’t value us, with funders or potential partners who don’t understand our ways of thinking, knowing, being, doing in the world. We have to create that crosswalk to translate to them because they’re not going to naturally come over to us, is kind of what I’m hearing a little bit. I may be putting my own spin on it. Feel free to you know, correct me.
So as you consider those things right, the grant and the language, let’s talk about how long the grant process is. For like $5000 and “oh, by the way, here are the 75 outcomes that we need you to track every month to prove that you’re worthy within our system of values”, right? So as we consider these barriers and we consider all of these ways that systems are set up to promote themselves and a single image of, you know what life should be like that is exclusive to us. Looking at Brattleboro Co-op, who has, you know, it’s very well established. They have a lot of resources. What kinds of things could Brattleboro Co-op do or people who are at Brattleboro Co-op or ’cause we know that some people here are on boards and you know things like that and have other jobs? What kind of things can people do to support BIPOC-owned businesses like yourselves so that you are successful so that those barriers are not the hindrance so that you don’t have to collect more trauma in order to heal and help people?
So with our, our business is a lifestyle brand, so I like that you generally, that I was able to generally like bring myself here. It’s sometimes hard for me to be vulnerable, even though we’re out there in our business, I feel vulnerable, in the moment, I’m just gonna say that. There’s a lot of faces on the screen! but it’s a matter of, for us, making people feel good and also doing good. So the ask that I would say is the same thing that Amber and I are offering to our community: the healing and the wellness that we’re offering into our community and trying to find access to funding and representation. So with that, what we do at Zen Barn Farms is, 1% of our sales goes to a social or environmental justice cause. Right now we’re donating 1% of our sales to the Loveland Foundation, which is a BIPOC mental health organization, and they give free mental therapy to BIPOC women. And we also do 1% Cannabis for A Cause, so I would ask all the businesses that you know and your friends to sign up to do the 1%. Cannabis For A Cause and that you can have a link and 1% of your sales goes to that. Also, if you know a BIPOC business or if you don’t, look for one and have them on your shelves, and I thank the Brattleboro Co-op for having our products there. And I look forward to coming down and doing an education event and just educating people and engaging with us and other people in your community around the businesses that are here and the people like us that are here. It’s a matter of funding. And awareness.
Thanks, Marlena. It kind of goes back to what Amber was saying; gatekeeping. Like, bust the gates open in any way that you can, right? So, like Marlena, you mentioned distributors; do the work to find Black and indigenous and people of color owned distributors or different, you know, put it out there. I’m going to put some links in the chat because the VT Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, the NAACP. Black Perspective, we all keep creating these lists across Vermont of BIPOC-owned businesses. And it’s really difficult to be a BIPOC business when you don’t have access to capital to allow you to grow to accommodate this influx of white folks wanting to work with you. So if there are ways that you Brattleboro Co-op can bust open those gates that you heard both Amber and Marlena talking about, do it! And to think that you don’t have power because you’re not a legislator or because you’re not a grant writer or because you’re not a distributor, right? That’s not true. You have the power of being who you are, and you can put pressure. You can get other collectives of co-ops together, and be like hey this is an area that we need to push. Let’s all do the 1% together because Zen Barn Farms told us we need to do that, right? Thank you.
Yeah, I like what both of you are saying a lot, and I like how you’re saying you don’t have to be a wealthy person or all these different things, and I think that that’s so much about what SUSU’s about – I’m not rich. I don’t have money like that and neither does Naomi but look at what us as a community were able to create out of nothing. That is the gift of our ancestors, creating something out of nothing, in that something that all of us can do together – we all have ways that we can show up in community. We all have ways that we can support each other and that’s, you know, how we do this work. That’s how community and all these beautiful parts of liberation are built by people coming together with the shared vision and all showing up the way with using our gifts. I think another thing. I think there’s many ways. I think one of the things that I really want to share is, I was looking in the chat earlier and I saw when Kat asked questions about, like, diversity and inclusivity and stuff like that and how the Co-op’s addressing that. I thought that was a great question and then Alex was responding how great it is that we’re able to ask these kinds of questions about racism and whatnot in our grocery stores, and I think these things are really important to look at because I think often we don’t fully understand what the experience of a Black person is like. Just to do a simple thing like go to the grocery store and the amount of labor it takes just to go grocery shopping because of the violence and because of the things that we are constantly bombarded with on a daily basis. Like my first experience when I first moved to Vermont, the Co-op was one of the first places that I went to, and the very first time I stepped foot into the Co-op I purchased something and before I could even walk out of the door, one of the employees ran up to me asking to see my receipt and thinking that I stole something. That was my first experience of coming to the Co-op. And the Co-op is somewhere that now – I shop at the Co-op, almost every single day – that’s where I spend the most time and the people who work there joke with me about it, ’cause it’s like, oh, you’re like “self-care time away from your kids” ’cause my life is basically spent in the Co-op when I’m not working and for me it’s like…. That’s one of the things that’s really important to me. Why I even go there, is the people. I see Jon, and I see Sue, and I see all these people who work at the Co-op that I connect with or I feel a connection with, and so I’m not just buying food, I’m buying, you know, like this community relationship that’s so important to me. And I think that that is a huge way that we also kind of invest in each other and do this work. I think that we should also reframe the question of what are the ways that we’re bringing working on diversity and inclusion? What are the ways that we are making this a less violent or harmful experience for Black and brown people, what are you actively doing as an organization to make this a safe and nourishing experience? Because that’s what we’re talking about. It’s not about bringing more Black people in or these things. It’s like Black and brown people aren’t here because they’re being harmed, and that’s an issue, and that’s an issue in many places. And it sounds silly to like talk about that with a grocery store. But like Black peoples’ experience of going into any place other than their homes, usually, even sometimes in their homes ’cause often our homes are owned by the people that are harming us, is an experience of violence and pain and suffering. And so what are we doing as a community to change that, what are we doing as a community to center and see the seriousness of creating safe spaces for Black and brown people? And then, what are the ways that we are building relationships with the Black and brown people in our communities who shop at our stores? All of these things, and then supporting businesses, because we are organizations and our work is important ’cause we’re creating spaces for Black and brown people, but those relationships with the Black and brown people who are in your stores are deeply important and necessary too and in order for them to feel safe, like the relationship and the safety and all those things, need to be present.
Alright, that summary was brought to you by the pastor Amber Arnold. That was amazing. Thank you, I hope you all got that down. If you didn’t, this is being recorded because everything that Marlena and Amber are saying to you is exactly what it – and what often comes back to us is “but I don’t know how to do that”, well, we didn’t know how to do what we were doing. Amber just knew that in her heart in her, you know, in her being, that this is where she needed to go. She fumbled her way through and figured it out. Nobody gave her a road map, and I think oftentimes White folks expect a road map, for us to give you a roadmap to deal with racism. [sound of dog barking] Right, my dog is Black. She’s preaching too. You know, and so, there’s a way that you know we’re giving you as much of a road map as – more than we ever had. So now you have to fumble your way through it. So if you are a grant administrator, your job is now to go back to your business and say, wait. Is this application too cumbersome? Do we really need all of those indicators? Do we really need that level of statistics, or can we trust that the people who are coming to us trying to protect themselves and increase sanctuary for other people of color? Should we just trust that they know what they’re doing after hundreds of years of surviving our BS? Can we just maybe trust that? So if you’ve never done that before….
I’ll just add, because some people —some might be ready to take the leap, and others might need to lean. And as a former special educator, I’m all about meeting people where they’re at. So those that need to lean — I would encourage them to like, I lost my train, hold on… to you had said. Tell me what you just said again. It’s gonna’ come back to me …
about stepping into it and fumbling through it. We didn’t have a road map for us, we just had to kind of go through it ourselves and still get your grant administrator walking into your grant place and saying, hey we need to deal with this somehow.
Yes. Thank you. I was gonna say if you’re not ready to change the way the grant writing system is, be a resource for BIPOC businesses and individuals organizations as a grant writer.
That’s part of the initiative to0, within our cannabis equity fund, is to create a cohort of resources and beneficiaries. People that have expertise from seed to sale in all different areas, that are willing – able to offer their experience for free, if you will, but it’s not really for free because you’re benefiting by bringing innovative people to the area — new community that’s going to last and grow and engage with one another for each others’ long term wellness in the way that Amber [is]. Like-minded people come together. So the more of us that come with the same energy it’s for, the better of everyone.
Mm-hmm. And that willingness to step into that space. And be like “I don’t know how to challenge my system, but I know how to help you through it”. It’s like another less underground railroad, right? To help mitigate and navigate systems. The other thing you can do is to be curious, right? If you don’t know what to do or how to do it. Asking questions like there’s so much out there, right? I think about these fantastic humans and our friend earlier who wasn’t able to make it tonight – they were able to succeed because they were willing to go out and ask the questions to be super committed. So committed like on every level that they navigated it, they just did it. And yeah, I mean it, just be curious. Amber, Marlena. Is there anything that you’re thinking about before I open it up to folks to be able to ask us more questions?
Yeah, I guess just one last thing, I feel like hearing you both think or talk speak and just like really feeling you know like, perfectionism you know. Like all these qualities of white supremacy that can feel so paralyzing and can feel like this barrier between us and being able to come closer to our “yes” or to what we care about. We’re wanting to say yes to liberation or to building this community or to supporting all of these incredible changes. But then there is all these kinds of internal experiences that are keeping us from doing that, and I think that it’s really important to look at that in ourselves because that it is important, like what you were talking about like we don’t have a blueprint, we’re just trying to figure stuff out. You know, like we’re going into really, really… uh… I don’t know how to say it “professional” or very “systems that work a very particular way”: very institutional, very research-based, very “you have to speak in this certain way” and “you need to pay a lawyer $5 million so that you can write something that no one understands and then we’ll pay another person, another trillion dollars to read what you said and no one knows what’s going on” – like that kind of system and so obviously as a normal everyday person, I have no idea what any of that stuff means, but we, you know are very deeply – like we deeply care, about the work that we’re doing. So even though we don’t understand how those things work, we, you know, like Marlena me, like all these people, are like, “We’re going to go into this place and we’re just going to make stuff up and see what happens,” you know? At least that’s what I do. I’m just, I don’t know what a pitch deck is, but I’m gonna come and talk to you and tell you all these things and share with you what’s going on, and maybe you’ll it. Maybe you won’t. I don’t know what I’m doing but I care about this thing, and I think you would too, you know, and I’m a human being and I know somewhere down there, you’re a human being too. We can figure this out together if we can center our humanity in this way. And so I think that there’s a lot of that work that we can do internally too that has to be done internally and it’s a very personal process. In order for us to all move together towards, like creating these safer and more liberated spaces for all people to exist in. And I think it has a lot to do with, like dismantling this idea of perfectionism and things looking a certain way and allowing ourselves to be really messy because that’s where the beautiful work comes from is when we’re willing to be messy. We’re willing to make mistakes, and we’re willing to just kind of try and figure it out.
Thank you, Amber, you’re just amazing. I just appreciate being with you. I am also putting some resources so as I’m listening to Amber and Marlena talk, I’m trying to put resources in there like both mentioned characteristics of white supremacy culture. So I put a link in there so folks can take a look at that. I’m also putting a link to Racial Identity Development model that was developed by William Cross in the 1970s and has been adapted so as you’re doing this internal work, that Amber is saying needs to be done, you can see the progression of racial identity development over the lifetime and see maybe where you are with it and start to get a sense of where’s your next growing edge. That being said, I want to open it up for questions […].
I have a question. How can we… can we get involved with 100, what is it, Amber? 100 for 100? With SUSU?
Oh yeah! We just launched this fundraising campaign. It’s called “Give Black” and so basically our goal is to raise $100,000 in two months through community abundance and support. So the idea is that we get 100 people to get ten of their friends together and then their ten friends raise $100 each, which equals $1,000 per team, which then equals $100,000 to help us to fund our CSA and farm program aspect, all of the salaries and everything that goes along with that program for this coming year and so basically if people are interested in participating in that, you could email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and then we have this whole packet we made of all the stuff that you would need to get your friends inspired and just in transparency mode of sharing about that, I will say that in talking about perfectionism and all of these things, about like 2 weeks ago, Naomi and I found out from another friend that December is the month that like organizations do fundraising and like donor appeals and all this stuff that we had no idea about. So we were like Oh my gosh, I guess we should do something and we kind of like in 20 minutes came up with this idea and so that’s where it was birthed out of, it was birthed out of having no idea that this is a thing. And then trying to just like figure it out. And you know, that’s how we do things and how we can all do things so that we can create cool stuff on the fly. I think I see questions in the chat for Marlena.
“What’s next with Zen Barn as we approach legalized recreational cannabis sales in VT” is the question. I feel like we’re always…I tend to stay in the present, but it’s all, it all feeds into what’s next. Currently, within the Cannabis Equity Fund, myself, and two others are heading to New Orleans for the Black Cannabis Conference, and that was thankfully fully funded, all expenses paid by The Alchemist. And we did reach out to other organizations as well and it was funny with what Amber was saying. One organization was like, “well can’t just” – they mentioned some other one that’s predominantly white – “can’t they just, can’t they just focus on the equity in this industry?” and it’s like “Hm! OK…..” [laughs], but so Zen Barn Farms were planning to apply once it’s available to become a vertically integrated shop. Right now we grow. We have as some of you know a CBD dispensary and we plan to be a distributor. So, cultivate, distribute, and we also currently manufacture. Our tinctures, our topical salves, and edible gummies that are great for sleep (laughs).
And what’s really next too is to make a – we really want to make Waterbury and Vermont the hub for cannabis knowledge and wealth and wellness. Just how Ben and Jerry’s is known to have quality ice cream and Cold Hollow Cider Mill and Stone Mountain’s like – we want to be a destination for cannabis wellness from the education side, the advocacy side, and the amount of wealth that will come to it for the communities, inter-generational office very important to rectifying the War On Drugs. And that’s what the cannabis generation is about. That’s what we have going on right now at Zen Barn Farms.
Yes, I would like to thank Amber for not being afraid to use the word capitalism. Because I feel it is how we as a society define how we distribute wealth which is at the root of virtually every social and economic problem we have. And is the one issue that can and should be uniting us all. Period.
It’s true, everyone wants to talk about racism, but no one wants to talk about capitalism, and racism is really a symptom of capitalism.
When you, when you look at any “-ism”, it’s tied back to lie resources, access, or change in need, right? Miscommunication and fear. But that first one is all about whether or not other people are worthy of accessing resources. We’ve designed systems that are all about that, controlling who gets to live and who doesn’t. I realize we are at 7:30, so I just want to offer Amber and Marlena an opportunity for any parting words for the folks on with us tonight that you want to leave them with.
Yeah, I’ll just say thank you everyone for, like, staying here for this meeting and listening to us and wanting to be part of creating a new way of being in community with each other. I think that’s really awesome and I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone here around ’cause I know y’all are gonna show up and we’re going to create a beautiful culture together! So thank you for being willing to participate in this work with us.
Yeah, Ditto, Ditto. Appreciate you all and it’s nice to see some of the faces of Brattleboro. I only usually go down there on my way to Jersey and I always make a point to stop at that deli that’s right off the exit and then the Co-op as well to stock up. I appreciate you listening.
Thank you both so much for your time and your talent in your expertise. We really appreciate you and we’re glad you’re in Vermont. Please stay – we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure you stay here.
Thank you, Tabitha. Thank you so much, Amber and Marlena. It’s a joy to hear you and see you and think about all the possibilities that you’ve already started opening up for us. So thank you.
I also would like to thank Tabitha, Marlena, and Amber. I really appreciate that you’ve been vulnerable with us; Marlena, when you said that – you know you were both speaking so authentically, it didn’t occur to me that you were having this experience of being vulnerable in front of all of these faces, and so I really appreciate that you acknowledged that because it really brought that to my attention. And Amber you used that phrase “Centering our humanity”. That’s a really powerful, powerful phrase. I’m going to take that with me for sure.
So we’re going to leave everyone with a video about Zen Barn Farms. It’s about their equity fund. But I’d like to sort of close the annual meeting of the Brattleboro Food Co-op by reminding you all to vote as a reminder, our voting period is a bit more than two weeks. It closes on Sunday, November 28th at 5:00 PM. So you’ve got about two weeks. You can vote online or at the store. And be sure to ask at the store if you have questions.
I want to thank again our departing board members Beth Neher, Tamara Stenn Joe Giancarlo and Steffen Gillom. Your contributions have really been significant. Goodnight to everybody! Thanks for attending and stay tuned for the Zen Barns Farm video, after which this Zoom meeting will end. I’ve watched this video and I think you’ll find it very inspiring. So, Jon or who’s ever sharing the screen, go right ahead. Goodnight to everyone and thanks for joining us.
LINKS PROVIDED IN CHAT DURING PANEL CONVERSATION
- SUSU CommUNITY farm
- Zen Barn Farms
- Loveland Foundation
- Pennywise Foundation
- Farm to Plate
- Love Burlington -BIPOC
- Vermont Partnership
- Philo Ridge Farm
- Allies and Racial Equity
- Racial identity development model (link no longer available)