By Joshua Youngblood
At the owner drive in January, Board Director Dave Watson and I had a chance to talk with a dissatisfied owner. She was still a loyal shopper despite refusing to fully rejoin the Co-op after having become inactive following the equity adjustment of a few years ago. I was very appreciative to gain her perspective on a variety of issues, and I did my best to respond to as many of her concerns as I could. The conversation reminded me both of the importance of open dialogue and how fortunate we are to be members of a co-op where owners and non-owners can voice their concerns with the confidence that someone will be listening.
The Board is constantly seeking to express the will and needs of co-op owners as effectively as possible. The Co-op’s Vision and Ends policies shape the Board’s work towards achieving a co-op that meets all of our expectations and hopes, and the input from owners and other community members that support us are vital as we prepare for the Co-op’s future growth and change.
As part of the Board’s efforts to anticipate the future needs of the Co-op and communicate the long-term vision to the owners, newly formed research committees have been looking at the evolving demographic make-up and economic landscape of the Tallahassee area. At the February meeting, the Demographics Committee presented research about the area population, particularly its aging residents. The committee is trying to determine what is being provided today and what needs will go unmet in the future. Three general areas of need identified include greater healthcare security, access to nutritious food (and to education about available resources provided by local, state, and federal institutions), and reliable transportation.
Staying connected to the needs of the owners is how our co-op will best be able to meet its ambition of helping to create a healthier more sustainable community where fresh food and wholesome products are available to everyone. It is also how the Co-op’s leadership knows if it is truly reflecting the needs of its owners and if we are effectively communicating the decisions and thinking of the Co-op’s management and governance.
Not all of our concerns as owners of the Co-op are addressed as completely as we would like. And no matter what efforts we as a community—whether as the Board, owners, or staff members—make to communicate as clearly and openly as possible with each other, confusions, misunderstandings, and disagreements will happen. However, the freedom to express our thoughts and look each other in the eye in the effort to achieve agreement, or at least understanding, remains. This is something that sets us apart as a co-op, and it is something I can assure you that New Leaf Market’s Board and staff work to preserve through our service to the Co-op.
When you submit a comment to the Board or management, write an email, ask a question at the customer service desk, or seek out a manager, you may not always see how your concerns are addressed. As President I have the opportunity to not only review comments and respond to owners and other customers, but also to witness just how seriously every comment, suggestion, and question is taken by Larrane and the staff. Change does not often happen overnight, both in the world at large and inside our small corner of it. As members of the Co-op though, we can use our ideas, convictions, and unique perspectives to make our community better and stronger.