Community Food Co-Op
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Board Candidate: Margaret Gerard

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

I have just completed my second term on the Community Food Co-op Board. As one of the longest serving Directors, I am committed to contributing to a thriving local food system. What we eat has a huge impact on all life. I strive to facilitate eating that has a positive impact on the consumer, the grower, and the earth. I have worked toward this goal by being an organic farmer for thirteen years, a Farmers Market Board Member for six years, and a member of the Whatcom County Food System Committee for three years. As a Director, I will work to preserve and strengthen the Co-op’s focus on food and farming issues.

Choose one of the seven goals of the Co-op strategic plan and briefly talk about what interests you and what you could contribute to its development.  

The Local Food System Development goal interests me the most. As a health promoter of people and the planet, I see that the two are inextricably connected. Food grown in a manner that feeds the soil and that is grown close to home is what makes our bodies and our environment thrive. A vibrant local food system is a necessary component of that picture. I will apply my knowledge of the local food system to contribute to the Co-op’s goal of strengthening this system.

Think about a situation that demonstrates your ability to create a climate that values cultural diversity. How would you encourage sharing different perspectives?

For conversations between people with a wide range of experiences and backgrounds, I find the most understanding and connection comes with a clear process and a chance for everyone to be heard without being interrupted. Sharing different perspectives with an open mind and the ability to listen without reacting is something I bring to and encourage in group settings.

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

I believe one of the Co-op’s 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 granting thousands of dollars to farms over the years through the Farm Fund.

Describe any experience you have in reading and understanding financial statements.

As a Board Director for the last six years, I have read and am very familiar with the Co-op’s financial statements. The Co-op’s Finance Director has provided Directors with training to help understand these statements. I have also served on the Co-op’s Finance Committee, where we review financial statements on a monthly basis.

Describe the experience, skills, or knowledge you have working with any or all of the following:

Cooperatives; policy governance; consensus process, non-profit or for-profit boards; a group that used active member participation to achieve its goals.

As Board Director, I have learned much about cooperatives, policy governance, and the consensus process. I have served on the Co-op’s Member Affairs Committee for five years, which has provided me with another opportunity to practice the consensus process and allowed me to connect with Co-op members. I have also served on the Co-op’s Farm Fund committee for six years and have been the Chair for two. I was an organizing member of the Twin Sisters Market for the first six years of its existence. Twin Sisters Market is a nonprofit organization 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 worked together to create a crop plan and a cooperative work schedule. We had monthly meetings where we discussed and delegated tasks and used active member participation as a way to achieve our goals. We formed committees to ensure that specific tasks got 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 seen 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. I have dedicated many volunteer hours to promoting local food resilience in Whatcom County. My farming experience has included working at multiple Farmers Markets. I have worked at the Bellingham Farmers Market for ten years and the Twin Sisters Market for six. This experience has given me 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 built garden beds for low income residents and mentored participants in growing their own vegetables until it ended in 2020. In 2019, Whatcom County formed a Food System Committee to implement a countywide food system plan to strengthen our local and regional food system. The committee has nine seats, each representing a sector of the food system. I serve as the local sales farming representative on this volunteer committee. My efforts towards developing Twin Sisters Market has been all volunteer work as well.

Describe any business or entrepreneurial experience you have.

I am a co-owner and operator of Sunseed Farm and Nursery. Sunseed is a diversified operation, growing nearly 300 different varieties of plants for gardeners. There is much to keep track of and organize in a nursery business. We also grow produce for sale, which is an additional part of the business to oversee. Ensuring everything runs smoothly requires great attention to detail and focus. I also have business experience from being the owner and operator of Grateful Bounty Farm from 2013 to 2017. I have taken farm business planning classes, including WSU extension’s "Cultivating Success” and Sustainable Connections’ "Food to Bank On” courses. Both classes have provided a wealth of information regarding the business side of running a farm. I have just enrolled in a course to continue my understanding of soil health as it relates to all life through The Soil Food Web School.

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 members. 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 be bringing 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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