2013-04 LMC Board Minutes

La Montanita Food Cooperative

Board of Directors Meeting Minutes

April 16, 2013 – 5:30 pm

Board Present: Martha Whitman, Marshall Kovitz, Roger Eldridge, Ariana Marchello, Lisa Banwarth-Kuhn, Susan McAllister, Kristy Decker, Jake Garrity, Betsy VanLeit, Jessica Rowland (Advisory member)

Also Present: Deborah Good (admin assistant), Jennifer Cornish (facilitator), Sarah Skenazy (board research assistant), Michelle Franklin (CDC Manager), John Mulle (Valley STL), Robert Tero (Management), Sharret Rose (Admin)

Board Not Present: None

The meeting started at 5:30 p.m. at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque.  Jennifer Cornish facilitated and Deborah Good took notes.

  1. General Welcome and Introductions
  1. Approve the Agenda

Issues Raised: Betsy moves and Kristy seconds to approve the agenda.

Actions Taken:  The agenda is approved unanimously.

Actions Required:  None

  1. Member Comments

Issues Raised: Ariana reports that there were no relevant member emails to the Board email address this month. There are no other member comments.

Actions Required: None

  1. Consent Agenda

a.  Board Minutes March 2013

b.  Board Development Committee Minutes – April 5

c.  Member Engagement Committee Minutes – March 25

d.  Nominations & Elections Proposal w/new Candidate Packet – Martha

e.  Agenda Template – Susan

Issues Raised: Roger asks whether it is necessary that Board candidates be fingerprinted, as outlined in the New Candidate Packet. Answer: This is in the bylaws and to date, we are not aware that any candidates have raised concerns about the requirement. Ariana moves and Roger seconds to approve the consent agenda.

Actions Taken: Passes unanimously

Actions Required: None



  1. Management Monitoring Reports – X3 – 2nd Quarter Financials

Issues Raised:

  1. Martha moves and Betsy seconds to approve the report.
  2. Bob Tero reports because Terry is away at the NCGA meeting in Minneapolis. Bob:
  • We had a good quarter (December 2012-February 2013). Income was a little under last year. There were several additional costs this year that help explain the difference:

o   A new training program called Open Book Management.

o   Additional promotion.

o   Rent at the new CDC.

o   One less day in February this year (2012 was leap year), which meant fewer sales in 2013.

  • Personnel announcements: Valerie Smith will be the next Store Team Leader at Nob Hill. Joseph Phy has been chosen as the Assistant Store Team Leader at the new store (under construction).
  • The engineering of the new store has faced additional challenges (plumbing not set up for food service), which has slowed down the process but Bob reports they are still expecting to open in mid-to-late July.
  • The CDC has a new website: www.coopdistribution.com
  1. Questions / Comments on report:
  • Roger: Who paid to address the plumbing issue in the new store, landlord or tenant? Bob: The Co-op did as tenant. It was not very expensive. The loss of time is the bigger factor.
  • Martha: (Referring to the report) Is there an explanation for the strange drop in expenses as a percent of sales for this quarter? Bob: Future medical payments fund was highly overfunded, so a significant portion was funneled back into income on the balance sheet.
  • Our sales growth is a combination of more shoppers and inflation.
  • Betsy: In Gallup, what is contributing to improvements? Answer: Quality of operations, consistent delivery of goods. Put a lot of new products in.
  • Deborah will make the following comment on X3 on the Monitoring Check Sheet: “Financial reporting was excellent.”

Actions Taken: Passes unanimously.

Actions Required: None

  1. Board Self-Evaluation – 1st half B policies

Issues Raised:

Martha: Score-wise, we did excellent. Board members made several comments in the survey worth making decisions on:

  1. Comments suggested that the requirement that all board members serve on a committee may not be practical for a member from Gallup. However, technology (e.g. webcam and speakers) could make it possible to have remote participation in committee meetings.
  2. Marshall commented that it would be worthwhile to have a “policy in which the board requires civil behavior from its members and from all others who participate in any meeting for which the board is responsible.” While this has not been an issue recently, it could arise in the future.”
  3. Marshall also suggests eliminating the part of policy 3.7 that states, “The meeting facilitator and timekeeper shall be rotated among Board members monthly,” in the absence of an outside facilitator. Perhaps facilitation should only be expected of those comfortable doing it.
  4. A number of comments related to an annual orientation for board members. Suggestions included:
    • tailoring the orientation to be relevant for current board members as well as new ones;
    • making the orientation a social occasion;
    • breaking the orientation into two parts, one for new members and one for current members; and
    • having current board members participate by offering their perspectives as part of the new member orientation.

Actions Taken: None

Actions Required:

a.     Board Development Committee will budget for the next fiscal year for a webcam and speakers to make skype contact possible for off-site committee members. Deadline: May 14 (for the May 21 board meeting)

b.     Policy Development Committee/Marshall will develop a proposal to (1) address behavior of board members and guests at meetings, and (2) eliminate policy on rotating facilitation responsibilities. Deadline: June 11 (for the June 18 board meeting)


  1. Board Study – Prior 12 months Board Study Synthesis

Issues Raised:  See Attached

Actions Taken: None

Actions Required: None

  1. Board Functioning

Issues Raised:

  1. Earth Day event will take place on Sunday, April 21. Kristy reviews the schedule and details for the Board of Directors table, which will have a theme of “Did you vote?” The table will have a sign in sheet for members to provide email addresses for the on-line election.
  2. Martha attended the St. Paul Co-op Conference (NCGA) – see her report in the Board Study Notes (Appendix A). The goal of the conference was to inform directors and GMs about natural trends in the natural food business and the future of food co-ops so they can respond at local level.
  3. Board Retreat is on May 18. C.E. Pugh (former La Montanita GM, current Director of Operations of NCGA) is preparing a video for us to watch on trends. He is producing materials that can go on the Co-op website for other boards to use too.
  4. Annual Meeting is scheduled for Oct. 19 in the evening. CDS is planning an event in Abq on the same day, Oct. 19, 9-5, at the Hispanic Cultural Center. Member Engagement Committee will discuss whether or not to reschedule the annual meeting.

Actions Taken: None

Actions Required: None

  1. Administrative Assistant Duties

Issues Raised:

  1. Martha will continue to write a monthly Co-Opera article.
  2. Deborah needs an additional month to re-format the Board Handbook.
  3. The Bylaws Committee requests an additional month to develop proposal(s) regarding patronage dividends
  4. Deborah is working with Sarah Wentzel-Fisher to update the Board of Directors page on the Co-op website, but needs an additional month to confirm that all changes are made.

Actions Taken: None
Actions Required:  None

  1. Meeting evaluation

Issues Raised:

  1. Martha appreciated that board members shared responsibility in the Board Study.
  2. Ariana commented that the Board Study helped us see themes that have repeated themselves in our discussions over the course of the year.

Actions Taken: None

Actions Required:  None

  1. Next Meeting Agenda Construction

Issues Raised:

    1. Board will review bylaws proposal from Marshall and Martha
    2. Board will continue talking about annual meeting
    3. Retreat happens before the next meeting (instructions for prep will come by email)
    4. Finance committee minutes will be on the agenda

Actions Taken: None

Actions Required:  None

  1. Adjourn regular session


La Montanita Food Co-op

Board of Directors Meeting – April 16, 2013

Topic– Review of the Board Study Discussions from the Past Year

Goal for group conversation: Each board member will present on a topic. This is an opportunity to wrap up the Board studies from the year, and cull from them concrete takeaways, key observations, and future study possibilities.


June & September 2012 – Cooperative Collaboration and Networks – Marshall

July 2012 – Eco-Mind – Betsy

August 2012 – Ends – Jake & Susan

October 2012 – How to Grow and Sustain Networks – Ariana

November 2012 – Common Ground and Shared Identity – Lisa

December 2012 – Can New Mexico Feed New Mexicans – Kristy

January 2013 – Finance Committee Presentation – Roger

February 2013 – Food or Co-op – Martha

March 2013 – Multiplier Effect – Jessica

The following is a summary of each member’s presentation. Possible ideas for future study topics are labeled with an underline.

Marshall: Cooperative Collaboration and Networks (Arturo and John’s talk)

  • The whole idea of cooperation and collaboration means giving up some freedom, creating the possibility of resistance to the idea.
  • Cooperation is necessary for survival. Thought: Importance of education in passing on collaboration as tools for survival and betterment.
  • Collaboration can be easier if you are of a similar culture, although if a particular culture (e.g., the ranchers) emphasizes independence, collaboration is challenging.
  • Even when people can collaborate together well, they need to function within the elements of the larger community and need to ask for additional help, which runs contrary to a culture of independence.
  • Clear vision is really important in order to organize people. One of the big issues that co-ops face is the issue of scale. We are competing against the Whole Foods of the world. Collaboration will take us only so far, but we also need to scale up by networking. Walden Swanson, one of the great co-op thinkers of the world (works for CDS), came up with a controversial idea: “one big co-op.” What if we were able to achieve scale by admittedly giving up a lot of the independence of individual co-ops, and have certain aspects managed nationally? The idea is a bit outrageous but makes a point. NCGA is an example of how organizing on a larger scale allows co-ops to do much more (sharing resources, technical assistance).
  • A possible vision for organizing and networking in NM : linkage, transparency, and cognition. Those three concepts are what all co-ops have in common, at least conceptually. What if we brought all co-ops together to share with one another about how they all address these three?

Betsy: The Eco-Mind (book)

  • The book is very powerful in reminding us not to believe everything we think/hear. Book outlines “thought traps” and then deconstructs ideas that we tend to think are true but in many instances are not. For example, many believe the following statement: “Humans are greedy, selfish, competitive materialists.” There is, however, a lot of evidence that humans are also altruistic and peaceful.
  • A second thought trap: “It’s too late. We are beyond the point of no return. Democracy has failed.” The ideas that cooperation always fails and democracy has failed is not backed up by the evidence. There are many examples of people coming together and doing good things.
  • At the upcoming retreat, when we’re talking about trends, I think it is very important for us to look at those trends and consider scaling up (as Marshall discussed). But I think we also need to be careful about falling into mainstream thinking because “that is how things are.” We are different from Whole Foods with its emphasis on competition and profit. There might be very different ways of doing same things and maybe we don’t have to compete in the market in the same way. Let’s not fall into thought traps because we lose our values and our core if we don’t constantly ask, “Are we continuing to embody what we believe about being cooperative beings, the importance of democracy, involvement, and participation?
  • Future Board Study idea: This describes an attitude we should have toward all of our study. We could look at The Sacred Economy, a book that has a radically different understanding of what an economy could be.

Jake & Susan: Discussion about Ends

  • There seemed to be a consensus that we don’t have a good statistical way of measuring our ends.
  • Future Board Study idea: Specifics on our impacts. What part of the budget reflects these ends?
  • We have lots of qualitative/narrative information, rather than quantitative data. It’s interesting to think about scaling up without getting caught in the way of thinking the corporations do. We do a lot of incredible work that we have a hard time capturing and quantifying.
  • Future Board Study idea: Trying to pinpoint more exactly what we want to see and measure, and then taking it to someone who can help us measure it.

Ariana: How to Grow and Sustain Networks (Heterarchy)

  • Heterarchy flattens hierarchy and flips around power relationships. Technology plays a big role in this flattening by allowing groups across disciplines and large spaces and seemingly different interests to minimize differences and maximize commonalities.
  • Our reaching out to other co-ops in different sectors has added to our knowledge about what we do.
  • How can we also work together as a group—keeping our independent spirits—to create scale-up while still retaining our core individualities as co-ops?
  • NCGA is a co-op of co-ops, so that is one kind of heterarchy because it runs on the same kind of democratic principles as other co-ops. The new Cooperative Grocer Network website has a forum for on-line discussion.
  • It is important to think about the role of “hubs.” La Montanita is a hub. How do we affect co-ops in NM?
  • As long as we are focused on an idea, this philosophy says we can work with all types of co-ops (electric co-ops, etc). There are ideas we can all focus on and that is worthwhile work because it can impact our local economy.
  • We are not competing against Whole Foods nationally but against the four Whole Foods stores here in New Mexico.
  • Future Board Study idea: Identifying other co-op hubs in New Mexico and making efforts to interlink with them; developing a vision as a way to inspire other co-ops to excel here in our own economy.

Lisa: Common Ground and Shared identity

  • In this Board Study discussion we looked at the Co-op’s identity as compared to that of the Elk’s Club, which had a more narrow sense of identity.
  • How do we engage members with members?
  • There has to be a sense of identity and you have to value that sense of shared identity to make things happen.
  • Future study idea: Look at the Cleveland Project and where it goes in a few years, and contrast that with another article about the shopping center in Southern California (San Diego) that was not a co-operative but was developed by a community of people who shared a common sense of economic identity and needs.
  • In this Board Study discussion, we talked about the people who associate with the Co-op having different levels of identity. We have to find out what the different hooks are in the pyramid of identity. I think marketing is working on coming up with new ideas and returning to old ideas (e.g., New member orientation in stores).

Kristy: Can NM feed New Mexicans?

  • Reaching food deserts with healthy, local produce is our goal, but the diets in those places do not always demand healthy, local food. This is sometimes the result of cultural differences.
  • The Co-op has a role to play in providing education around food.
  • The government’s role in local food influences how people eat, how food is produced.
  • Future board study ideas:
  1. Ways to reach food deserts
  2. Exploring local customs around food in a food desert
  3. Measuring our impact on the economy or other local impacts
  4. What is our role in influencing government?
  5. What are ways that we can educate consumers about La montanita’s role in the local food movement?

Roger: Finance Committee Presentation

  • The goal was to present financials for the lay person, and then focusing on an additional topic in more depth (e.g. this year patronage dividends). This way of presenting the financial statements has been very well-received.
  • Possible thought trap: Growth is necessary to keep the Co-op going. Is this true? Is there a possibility for a sustainable steady state instead of constantly growing?
  • Any ideas for finance committee for this year’s presentation? Martha: assets, depreciation, the fact that we don’t buy buildings

Martha: Food or Co-op? (Also shares thoughts following NCGA conference in St. Paul)

  • Good food, cheap food, local food, organic food – Idealism says to reach for all of them, which we have not achieved.
  • Food or co-op is a false dichotomy.
  • The Co-op (as a source of groceries) is largely inaccessible to people of lower income.
  • We created the natural and organic movement to the point of now being co-opted. So co-ops have moved on and spearheaded the local movement, probably before it was recognized as a strategy.
  • NCGA did a commissioned study last year comparing the impacts of co-ops on national level to conventional groceries, and found that on average we pay better, provide more benefits, more of our money stays in the community and are more environmentally responsible than conventional grocers. NCGA will do a new study in a few years to see how the numbers have shifted.
  • In NCGA, there are 134 co-ops – 171 stores in 36 states.
  • The natural foods industry is booming because grocery stores and corporations are finding that it is profitable. It will impact a lot of co-ops that are being introduced to this new competition.
  • “Stronger together” is the national co-op brand. There is talk of standards.
  • Local food is a good niche for us. Organic has become expensive label.
  • People don’t choose where to shop based on governance model. Education of the co-operative model needs further investigation and creativity. But it will always be secondary in people’s minds to their satisfaction with quality of the product they are buying.
  • GMO issues are not going away. Co-ops are working on labeling programs that are gaining some traction.
  • Future study topics: Education of co-ops and of the trends, helping people understand the business we are in.
  • Response from Betsy: What does it mean that we are “in the business”? That is a thought trap. There are a lot of assumptions there that could be unpacked.

Jessica: Multiplier Effect

  • A number of studies have quantified the multiplier effect. We talked about how the co-ops ends relate to the multiplier effect, and what information reported to the board can help us understand our impact.
  • Multiplier effect imagines the Co-op as part of a web of hubs that have communities that radiate out from each hub.
  • “Inefficiency” actually increases the impact at the local level, including impact on social capital.
  • Numbers are important.
  • The New POS system allows us to track spending of local vs. non-local foods and when the volunteer discount cards are being used.
  • Future Board Study idea: Follow-up on the meeting that Martha, Marshall, and Betsy had to discuss an informal, exploratory proposal with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research
  • Quant data important, but social capital is also important. The Co-op probably does this better than other types of grocery models.


Additional Thoughts/Study topics (Martha):

  • Periodically examine our assumptions
  • What does it mean to minimized diff and maximize commonalities when working with other co-ops?
  • Band together for scale while maintaining individuality
  • Shared identity vs. inclusivity
  • How could we take those financial presentations available to the members?

Additional Thoughts/Study topics (Jennifer):

  • Prioritizing growth vs. steady state
  • The Cleveland Project
  • Role of government in food or more generally