Community Food Co-Op
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Board Candidate: Margaret Gerard

margaret gerard board candidate

What skills and qualities uniquely qualify you for the Board of Directors, and why do you want to run for the Board?

I just completed my first term as Board director. As an organic farmer in Whatcom County for 10 years, I have experience as a manager, co-operator, and owner of a small farm business. I have worked collaboratively to build Twin Sisters Market to its 5th year of providing access to fresh food in needed areas. As a Board director I have, and will continue to serve as a voice for the local farming community and an advocate for the continued support of local farms.

Choose one of the six Co-op strategic plan goals and briefly explain why it interests you and what you could contribute to its development.

The area of the Co‐op strategic plan that interests me is local food system development. My background in farming has helped me to recognize the connection between soil health, plant health, and personal health. For each of these areas to thrive, a vibrant local food system is necessary. My work has allowed me to be connected to our local food system. I will be able to apply my knowledge and contribute to further the Co‐op’s goal of strengthening this system.

What do you believe are the Co-op’s greatest strengths?

I believe one of the Co‐ops greatest strengths is providing Whatcom County access to high quality, local, healthy food options. The Co‐op has shown great support for the local farming community, including the Co-op’s Farm Fund.

Describe your experience reading and understanding financial statements.

As Board director for the last three years, I have read the Co-op’s financial statements. There has been training from the Co-op’s financial director to help understand these statements.

Describe your experience, skills, or knowledge working with any or all of the following: cooperatives, policy governance, nonprofit or for-profit boards, or groups that use active member participation to achieve their goals.

As Board director, I have learned much about cooperatives and policy governance. 
I have been an active member of Twin Sisters Market since year one. We are a group of farmers working to improve access to fresh, local food in Eastern Whatcom County. The market functions as a collaborative, with farmers making decisions about market logistics. We work together to create a crop plan and a rotating schedule of who works on market day. We have monthly meetings where we discuss and delegate tasks, and we use active member participation as a way to achieve our goals. Committees are formed so specific tasks get extra attention. Working with a group in this way has been a valuable experience, and I have gained an understanding for how decisions are made in a group. I have deepened my appreciation for listening to others’ perspectives, and I see the benefit of multiple minds working toward the same goal.

Describe your connections with the community, including volunteer work if applicable.

I grew up in Bellingham and feel very connected to the community here. Part of my experience working on organic farms included working at the Bellingham Farmers Market for seven years. This created a strong sense of community through regular customer contact. I enjoy being a part of growing and selling produce to customers who appreciate the local difference. I also believe that fresh healthy produce should be available to all, even those who cannot afford to buy it. I have volunteered with the Bellingham Food Bank garden project. This project builds garden beds for low-income residents, and mentors participants in growing their own vegetables.  
As described in my answer above, my efforts toward developing Twin Sisters Market has been all volunteer work. An aspect of the market is to facilitate community building in an area known as a food dessert. The market members have demonstrated this by volunteering to host a meal at the East Whatcom Regional Resource center in Kendall, one of our location sites. We gathered donations for the food, created the menu, prepared and served a nutritious, delicious meal. This was a way for us to connect with our local customer base and demonstrate our commitment to being a part of feeding the community.

Describe your business experience.

My business experience comes from being owner/operator of Grateful Bounty Farm from 2013 to 2017. I have taken farm business planning classes including the WSU Extension’s "Cultivating Success” and Sustainable Connections’ "Food to Bank On.” Both classes provided a wealth of information regarding the business side of running a farm. Reviewing the Co-op’s business plan as a Board director the last three years has attributed to my familiarity with how the Co-op does business.

Describe your background with and commitment to organic and natural foods.

I was born on an organic sprout farm in Columbia, Missouri. My parents owned the farm in addition to organizing the first organic food-buying club in the county. My mom has a degree in nutrition, and I was raised with values around eating healthy. I studied the food system at The Evergreen State College, and made the connection that food that is healthiest for our bodies is also healthiest for the earth. Food grown in a manner that feeds instead of depletes the soil, grown without synthetic chemicals and petroleum based fertilizers, food that is unprocessed and unrefined, and food grown as close to home as possible, is what makes our bodies and our environment thrive. My drive for working on organic farms came from a desire to be more connected to the food that nurtures me, while disengaging from the industrial food system. I began to grow food on farms for work, and grow food at home as a hobby. Eating is an inescapable part of being human and I truly believe that we are capable of positively influencing our food system by supporting companies that operate in line with our values, and disengaging with the ones that do not.

What committee/s are you most interested in serving on and what skills and experience would you bring?

I am most interested in continuing to serve on the Members Affairs Committee. I value how this committee is a combination of Board directors, and Co‐op owners at large. I see that bringing together these two groups can provide a valuable communication stream to work together to achieve the Co‐op’s goals. To serve this committee I would bring the people skills I have gained working with the public at the Bellingham Farmers Market and the Twin Sisters Market.  
I am also interested in continuing to serve on the farm fund committee. The skills and experience I would bring to this committee are stated throughout my application.


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