The 2012 Strategic Leadership Retreat for the Viroqua Food Co-op (VFC) was perfectly timed for this newbie – an opportunity to determine “Who Is at the Table?” On Saturday, October 27, the VFC Board of Directors and VFC Management came together at the Rooted Spoon Kitchen Table in Viroqua.
Art Sherwood, our Facilitator with Cooperative Development Services, a consulting co-op, encouraged us at the onset to get to know one another better by sharing our Co-op story and everyone’s was unique. Honestly, the Co-op IS my story. When I considered moving into the area, Viroqua and the Co-op were two big reasons. After three years of planning and effort and FINALLY making the move from Colorado, I walked into the Co-op and said aloud (although somewhat quietly), “I’m home!” Use the Desi Arnaz vocalization and you’ve nailed it. Seriously.
A few hours into our strategic retreat, the Management Team joined us. We discussed the evolution of the Co-op —from day one, to present day, as well as the next vision—that of the BoD, General Manager and Leaders of the store. We realize we need to intentionally understand our owner’s values—which we also realize are our own.
How does our store currently reflect our ownership values? Two themes were common throughout: sustainability and community. As strategic leaders in our Co-op, we need the ability to think strategically and thus anticipate, envision, maintain flexibility, and work with others to provide direction and facilitate changes that will create a viable future for the organization, consistent with cooperative principles.
We also managed to keep it light and connect on a personal level, helping everyone in attendance to realize how we really are on the same page, reaching for similar goals. At one point, our facilitator posed this question: “If aliens came and removed everything that once was the VFC…what would be missing?” To this the group responded in earnest with answers like: natural and organic food; community; jobs; happy faces; healthy people; farmers; local economy; options; pink lady apples; local & organic coffee; and, my personal favorites – good wine and conversation.
I am honored to have been elected by the membership of VFC and will strive to represent you as the Board of Directors determines its strategic vision for 2013 and beyond. I would also love to hear your Co-op story!