2012-09 LMC Board Minutes

La Montanita Food Cooperative

Board of Directors Meeting Minutes Final

September 18, 2012 – 5:30 pm

Board Present: Martha Whitman, Betsy VanLeit, Kristy Decker, Marshall Kovitz, Lisa Banwarth-Kuhn, Roger Eldridge, Jake Garrity, Susan McAllister, Ariana Marcello

Also Present: Vicki Peck, Sarah Wentzel-Fisher, Jennifer Cornish, Sharrett Rose, Michelle Franklin, John Mullé, Maria Globhs, Scott Altenbach – Co-op members, Mark Epstein – NM Health Connections Co-op, Martha Martinez, Debbie Williams, Alma Martinez – Echo Ridge Co-op, Gary Bundy – Sustainability Studies.

The meeting started at 5:35 p.m. at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque.  Jennifer Cornish facilitated the meeting and Sarah Wentzel-Fisher took notes.

  1. General Welcome and Introductions
  1. Approve the Agenda

Issues Raised: Ariana moved and Betsy seconded to approve the agenda.

Actions Taken:  The agenda was approved unanimously.

Actions Required:  None

  1. Item Title:  Member Comments

Issues Raised: Gary wanted to know about advertisement of new products at the UNM Store so students can know what to expect for the upcoming season. The question will be passed to operations and marketing.

Actions Taken: None

Actions Required: None

  1. Item Title:  Consent Agenda
    Issues Raised: Martha moved and Roger seconded to approve the consent agenda.

    1. Board Minutes August 2012.
    2. Member Engagement Committee Minutes – August 27
    3. Board Development Committee Minutes – Sept 6
    4. Board Research Assistant Proposal – Marshall

Actions Taken: Passed unanimously

Actions Required: Misspelling of John Mullé will be corrected.

  1. Item Title: Annual Membership Meeting Agenda Proposal – Martha

Issues Raised: Betsy moved and Marshall seconded. The annual meeting will be in Santa Fe this year. The Board decided to engage with members around the international year of the coop. By creating game around coop principles.

Actions Taken:  Passes unanimously.

Actions Required: All board members will attend the meeting.

  1. Item Title: Board Self Evaluation – 2nd half B & 1st half R

Issues Raised: While the evaluation revealed high marks for compliance some comments were made that indicate a need for discussion, particularly several comments that would be put before the Policy Development Committee to propose modifications to our those evaluation policies.

Actions Taken: A motion was made by Ariana and seconded Susan to send the suggestions emerging form these evaluations to the PDC. PDC to present a proposal by November’s board meeting. Passes unanimously.

Actions Required: None

  1. Item Title: Board Functioning

Issues Raised: Nominations & Elections Committee has interviewed all candidates and will meet shortly to make board slate nominations. Candidates will have until Monday to withdraw from the race. The election will go live on Nov. 1st, but nominees will be posted next Monday.

Committee Meetings-

Member Engagement Committee, Sept 24, 6:15 @ Martha’s

Board Development Committee, Oct 4, 5:30 @ Betsy’s

Finance Committee, Nov 4, 5:15 @ Warehouse

Board Study Circles – We will be wrapping up the first cycle of these meetings in October. The last meetings (In Albuquerque, 10/11 @ 6pm at the warehouse) will be a celebration.

Board Development Committee – At the last meeting started talking about elections and nominations process. The discussion was raised about how we could make sure that nominees are better informed. We discussed building into the bylaws, a requirement that nominees attend several meetings.

Would there be any objections to the Bylaws committee meeting to discuss this change and presenting a proposal with recommended changes.

This Friday, there’s a conference at UNM called the President’s economic summit. Betsy pointed out this conference because it focuses on economic development, which is one of the interests of the board. It maybe a good opportunity to further engage the UNM community, and the president’s office in general, to bring the Co-op board agenda to the conversation. Marshall will attend the summit.

Several board members have attended Maggie Seeley’s class on Coops at UNM.

Kristy requested that board members respond to emails we send to one another. Feedback is important.

Actions Taken: None

Actions Required: Sarah will have results of these surveys posted before the next meeting.

  1. Item Title: Board Study – Existing Regional Cooperative Networks – Marshall

Issues Raised: SEE Attachment A

Actions Taken: None

Actions Required:  None

  1. Item Title: Administrative Asst. Duties / Assignments / Task List / Timeline Additions

Issues Raised:

Task List:

Co-opera, Betsy will take the next article on.

Sarah connects with Ariana on making it a better process for the monitoring check sheet summary report.

Take of Annual Member Meeting

Take #4 off.

Take #5 off.

#6 can go off the task list.

Ad Bylaws committee needs to meet and have a recommendation by June about requirements for candidates attending board meetings.

Policy development committee will come back in Nov. with a proposal for changes to B & R policies.

All board members will attend annual meeting at the end of October.

Board Development Committee will develop a tool for understanding the agenda. (Susan volunteered to do this, after the annual meeting)

Actions Taken: None

Actions Required: None

  1. Item Title: Meeting Evaluation

Issues Raised:

It was great to have guests and have them contribute to the conversation.

Part of our board evaluation is evaluating if we’re doing our job.

A question – Does the consent agenda seem to be working for everyone?

The comments and suggestions for changes make it clear that board members are preparing for the meeting.

Because non-board members haven’t read the consent agenda, it’s hard for guests to know what is happening.

Could the agenda be posted on the public website, with a description of how different parts of the agenda works.

Perhaps a document that explains how the agenda works.

Actions Taken: None
Actions Required:  None

  1. Item Title: Next meeting construction

Issues Raised:

We will be having executive session next meeting to discuss board positions.

Terri’s compensation and evaluation.

October handbook update.

Actions Taken: None

Actions Required:  None

  1. Item Title:  Adjourn regular session

Actions Taken:  The meeting was adjourned at 8:15 p.m.

Actions Required:  None


La Montanita Food Co-op

Board of Directors Meeting – September 18, 2012

Existing Regional Cooperative Networks – Marshall

This presentation is the one that would have been presented last month. The presentation is in two parts. The first is a nine-minute video, then a short PowerPoint presentation.

The Neighboring Food Coop Association presented the video at a CBLD conference.

Five ideas in five minutes:

  1. My personal experience: Buying products from marginalized farmers in the third world working within the cooperative model.
  2. What do Coops bring the table – Looking to the UN’s statement on Coops (all coops in their various forms)
  3. Seeing the coop landscape – we started thinking about our community of coops. We decided to make a map of coops in our area.
  4. How does this help us build out cooperative economy?
  5. Back to the future – working together and coops is an old idea.

How do we begin to networking with other coops to build connections, and build a cooperative economy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBMgsxZJdV8&playnext=1&list=PL36441F116DC843FC&feature=results_video

The following PP presentation is about food coop networks.

Neighboring Food Co-ops

Amplify power of individual co-ops.


  • Economic: Organize group buying, regionally; Support regional growers and processors better.
  • Social: Support existing social and govt. organizations, consistent with our values.
  • Political: Leverage our united voices.
  • Information: Share our collective wisdom.
  • Expertise: Maximize the impact of our “best & brightest.”

NCGA: A Successful National Network

  • Started as regional CGA’s and later centralized. In spite of growing pains, it has grown into a powerful organization.
  • Business services co-op owned by local co-ops.
  • National purchasing program. – This allows small grocery stores to get the types of prices WholeFoods gets, allowing small grocers to compete.
  • Joint Liability Fund
  • Technical assistance for co-ops.
    • Expansion.
    • Turn around services for struggling coops.
  • Political advocacy.
  • Co-founder and supporter of National Organic Coalition, which lobbies at the national level.
  • Much more.

Regional Food Co-op Networks

  • Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA).
  • Twin Cities regional activities have been absorbed by Central Corridor NCGA.
  • Seattle network described as in its “infancy.”
  • Any others?

Neighboring Food Co-op Association

  • Several years old.  2012 saw first annual meeting as an organized co-op.
  • About 30 members including small, large and startups, from VT, NH, MA, RI, and CT.
  • Total annual sales of $200 million; 80,000 members; and about 1,450 employees.
  • Appears to have 2 staff: Exec. Dir. and Outreach.
  • Board is mostly gm’s of member co-ops.
  • Office is in northwestern Mass.

NFCA Purpose

  • “The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) includes 30 food co-ops and start-up initiatives in New England that are working together toward a shared vision of a thriving regional economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable food system and a vibrant community of co-operative enterprise.”  (From NFCA website).
  • Measure members’ econ. Impact (From flyer included on website).



  • Regional food sourcing is primary focus.   Many member stores are probably too small to do any more than simple purchasing from growers.
    • Cave To Co-op collaboration with regional artisan cheese makers.
    • Farm to freezer collaboration with regional vegetable growers.  Sales of fresh frozen, local produce.


  • Support co-ops too small to join NCGA
  • Support for start-ups.
  • Needs-based discount program.
    • Expand City Market program to other co-ops.


  • Some political work.
    • Partnering with National Farmers Union regarding federal Farm Bill.
    • Partnering with New England Farmers Union and other organizations to oppose VT legislation harmful to co-ops.
  • Advice: Look for good matches with partners.  Look carefully, before you jump in.  Work with experienced people.

Funding For NFCA

  • Dues based, scaled, % of sales.
  • Co-ops may petition for exceptions in hardship cases.
  • NFCA seeks to generate income from its own operations.  Ex. fresh frozen produce program.
  • According to Robyn, members are not currently getting value for their dues, but they are seeking to build capacity for the long term.


  • NFCA is active on FaceBook.
  • NFCA has links and info about IYC.
  • Section on Press has links to articles about member coops, networking, and a recent Co-operative Grocer article about NFCA.  Includes Press Releases about NFCA and members.
  • Information about New England Farmers’ Union
  • Links to resources for co-op start-ups.

Making The Leap

  • How do we at La Montanita expand our network from food to other co-ops?
  • Start by understanding the landscape.
    • Who else is out there?
  • Are there lessons to be learned from NCBA and/or others who have done this?
  • Reach out.
  • Identify common needs.  Start with the basics, ex. governance.
  • Start a conversation.
  • We, as a board, can engage other boards.

One of the things that our partnership with Sustainability Studies has produced is a survey of coops around New Mexico, as part of the Coop course organized by Maggie Seeley. This already is producing great network connections with other coops.


  • Because of La Montanita Food Co-op, there will be a thriving, multi-sectoral co-operative economy in our region, increasing in both scope and impact, to which our co-op is meaningfully connected.
    • Thanks to Don Kries
  • Putney Co-op board has an executive limitation regarding support of NFCA.


  • Beyond what we are doing now, what might regional collaboration look like in the southwest?
  • How can we engage our communities in conversations about regional co-operative associations?

One of the things I think about is an event that happened early in 2012 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center on Southwestern Coops. One-way to think about how regional collaboration might happen would be hosting another meeting / summit like that one to begin to tease out commonalities in our goals.

While NFCA is a good model, it’s important to acknowledge the regional differences between New England and the Southwest. The conversation is about whether we should focus on food coops, or include other coops in the conversation.

Because Coop isn’t always in the name, the prevalence of coops isn’t always so obvious.

Wheatsfield coop in Austin organized a cross-purpose coop summit.

Looking at the NFCA, La Montanita is already doing a lot of what NFCA does. I worry sometimes that our GM is taking on too much by doing a lot of the regional technical assistance work that NFCA is doing in New England. What we might consider is reorganizing this work so that there’s a collective of coops that shoulder more of the regional development and support work, and let our GM get back to managing our grocery stores.

It’s important to consider this both from a governance perspective and from an operations perspective, just to understand what work needs to be done in both realms.

Martha – What I would like to see is our efforts put towards figuring out our cost effectiveness in doing this work. It seems like the board shouldn’t be inserting itself into what operations is actively involved in.

There are lessons to be learned from NCBA (National Cooperative Business Association.)

It seems like there are opportunities through a networking of producers in our foodshed; they might be inspired to create coops. The Foodshed program seems like a great place to continue to foster this development.

Sweetgrass is just one example, but there is a lot of percolation about how to get small-scale food producers organized and connected.

A question – coops outside of the food sector, what are incentives for other coops to get involved in a regional cooperative effort?

Echo Ridge – It’s the resources and educational connections—they are invaluable—to learn about the cooperative model at a deeper level.

NM Health Council – Learning different approaches is really valuable—an alternative view to learn from. What we’re all working on is community health, in the broadest sense, and to know what others are doing is invaluable. Knowing we’re not alone.

So is what we need a group to have shared access to resources like a lawyer or an accountant?

NM Health Council – It’s hard to say exactly what the tool is, it seems like a conversation amongst coops would allow us to identify the tools we need to build our coops.

Perhaps it’s about how we can better achieve our ends through collaboration with other coops.

Echo Ridge – Having a meeting of coops and brainstorming would be really useful. It would provide a basis for where to start.

Many groups don’t know about the coop model.

What did you mean by “People are in a different world” when you referred to the coop meeting you attended? Groups like REI, electric coops, and food coops all in the same room, it’s hard to address the commonalities.

La Montanita has taken on so much in helping bring people into a cooperative model.

NM Health Council – Maybe looking to the New England group would tell us something about the way coops naturally find space for collaboration or not.

Perhaps we could resurrect a group like the SW Coop Development Center to be a leader in terms of collaboration and work between coops.

Mostly, this was intended to be a conversation. It’s about visioning, and brainstorming. We’re far from tangible development of these ideas, but in getting there the first step is imagining how it might start, and where it might go.