by Scott Hess
Sometime this month, Hunger Mountain Co-op will welcome its 9,000th member-owner. Given there are less than 60,000 people in Washington County (where most of our customers live), this is a significant portion of the local population who are owners of our natural and local foods cooperative. This milestone is a great tribute to our hard-working staff, dedicated members and shoppers, amazing local vendors, and the wonderful Central Vermont community. It exemplifies the trust and devotion members have placed in supporting our healthy, dynamic, and democratically governed co-operative for over 45 years.
Democratic ownership is what sets cooperatives apart as a business model. With other business ownership structures, the power of stockholders or investors to affect company policy is directly tied to the size of their holdings. In cooperatives, each member contributes equitably to their co-op’s financial well-being and in return receives an equal say in key governance decisions, such as electing the board of directors, updating bylaws, and merging or dissolving the business. As defined by the International Cooperative Alliance, the cooperative principle of democratic member control helps our businesses stay focused on our owners’ needs and responsive to their interests. The contrast with publicly traded companies where governance is allocated according to investment is illustrative of the role co-ops play in building and retaining community wealth.
When tending to democratic governance, there is always more work to do. Hunger Mountain’s council is inviting you to join our conversation about the future at our upcoming dinner and discussion on May 22 at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center on 58 Barre Street. We will enjoy a meal from our prepared foods department beginning at 5:30 pm. At 6:15 pm, General Manager Kari Bradley will provide an overview of our 2018 shopper survey and our current situation in the broader co-op sector and grocery industry. There will be a discussion of the Co-op’s future goals and priorities, followed by a roundtable discussion with the Co-op Council on any topics of interest. Please call (802) 262-3242 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm your spot.
Members are also welcome to attend our monthly council meetings, which are generally the first Monday of each month at 5:30 pm at the Co-op. Our next meeting is June 4. Check hungermountain.coop to confirm future dates and preview our agendas. Council meetings are an opportunity to view the workings of the council, and members have an opportunity at the beginning and end of each meeting to address comments to the council.
I encourage all Co-op members to consider running for the council. Serving on the council is engaging and informative, and it is a unique community service. Council members represent their fellow members and oversee the operations of a dynamic grocery operation. Each year in October the Co-op holds elections for at least three three-year seats. More information and applications to become a council candidate will be posted in the store and on our website in August.
Scott Hess is the Council President of the Hunger Mountain Cooperative.