Before the election, all candidates running for the 2014–15 Friends & Farmers Cooperative Board were asked to respond to six questions (see below). Please read about these great folks who are excited to take Friends & Farmers through the next stages of development.
The Questions the Candidates were asked…
1. Why is Friends & Farmers Cooperative important to you and to your community?
2. How will your experience, skills, or unique perspectives strengthen the co-op board?
3. What do you perceive to be the main challenges facing Friends & Farmers, and how would you address these issues?
4. What do you value most about the cooperative model?
5. If you have already served on the interim board for Friends & Farmers Cooperative or another community board, please share some of the initiatives or committees in which you played an active role?
6. Is there any other personal information you would like to share, i.e. family, hobbies, work experience, etc.?
Dustin Betz, 1- year term
1. Local foods from local farms support local economies. As a young State College resident who is very passionate about sustainability, especially as it relates to agriculture, I believe that a cooperative grocery will have many reverberating benefits throughout our town and community: supporting one another, eating and living healthier lifestyles, coming together around the joy of great food.
2. I graduated from Penn State this past May, majoring in plant biology and focusing my honors studies on horticultural engineering. I officially incorporated an urban farming startup company called GreenTowers during my senior year, on which I am continuing to work to get financially on its feet. As someone who more or less constantly thinks about agriculture, I have strong copywriting and content marketing skills specific to this field; I communicate and work very well with teams of other passionate people; and I bring enthusiasm and energy to everything I do.
3. The challenge of getting to the point of opening the storefront is the main goal, and I believe our community will make this happen! To get there, I support the idea that has been proposed of creating an online store as a transition phase. Collecting revenue, providing access for our members, and establishing working farm-to-store relationships are only a few of the benefits to this step we can implement on the road to establishing a brick-and-mortar store.
4. My start-up company works on urban agricultural development. The future of urban farming will inherently involve many independent small-shareholder farmers and growers, who are each challenged by finding a market for their produce and providing consistent supply. The cooperative model can be leveraged to develop urban agriculture, because it aggregates farmers together as well as brings together the entire community of members who will support the farmers! Cooperatives just make SENSE for small shareholder farmers, and I value that hugely for the future of our food system.
5. I served on the leadership board of the Penn State Community Garden during my time as a student at the University, and I am the President of my own startup company GreenTowers. What I lack in administrative experience, I will more than make up for in my passionate drive and enthusiasm for the cooperative.
Joshua Brock, 3-year term
1. Local, member ownership is the very best way to support our farmers and producers, further deepen community ties and keep our money circulating in the local economy. We determine our needs, we determine our goals and aspirations, we make it all happen!
2. Since returning to my home state in 2009 after six years in Colorado, I have been concurrently employed by two wonderful local businesses; Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) and Appalachian Ski & Outdoors. My experiences with these locally-owned keystones in the State College region have given me first hand experiences of the daily struggles and successes our local businesses. Additionally, as the owner of a small, family farm in it’s infancy, I feel this furthers my ties to the local food infrastructure. I have also been assisting Friends & Farmers with it’s website, data systems and membership drive on a volunteer basis for the past year and thoroughly enjoy our work.
Helping the community re-learn the values of local ownership, the total cost/value of the current food system, and the tenets and benefits of a sustainable agricultural system and seasonality of our foods.
3. I feel these are best communicated via one-on-one conversations and interactions with members of the local community and smaller, more intimate gatherings that focus on education and open discussion. When people begin to see all the many, many true costs that go into producing our food, they then begin to understand the true value that comes by having it grown and produced within a local system, within the seasons of our local region and by their friends and neighbors in a system that mutually supports one another.
4. The value of “we” vs. the perceived notion of “me”. That true, deep, long lasting benefits come from the support of our friends, families, farms and community vs. unrestrained growth and the pursuit of strictly a financial return to oneself.
5. Although not on the interim board, I have worked closely with this wonderful group on selfless and hard working founders of the Cooperative. I feel this has given me a great perspective on the unique challenges Friends and Farmers has faced, and the new ones we soon realize in this next chapter of the Co-op. As the owner of my own Farm, this also offers me insights into the struggles our of our local producers and businesses.
6. I am an avid outdoor enthusiast, sustainable food aggie and supporter of our small communities here in Central PA. We live in a wonderful corner of the world and I thoroughly enjoy discovering its unique places, people and qualities and want to help others discover that as well as part of Friends & Farmers!
Sara Carlson, 3-year term
I believe this community needs a centralized source of local produce, meats, and dairy, that can be accessed throughout the week. While we enjoy an amazing array of farmer’s markets, the availability and hours preclude a large portion of the community in State College. Friends & Farmers offers cooperative membership options that accommodate all segments of the population and will be an asset to the grocery retail market in Centre County, in that we will source locally, providing an expanded market for farms and families of the area. In my role as an interim board member for Friends & Farmers, I have been able to assist in data analysis for initial interest surveys, the market and feasibility studies, and researching possible locations. As a government project manager, real estate license holder, and market research professional, I am able to continue helping the cooperative in securing a location, evaluating the market, and managing the workload during the start-up phase. I believe this is the most critical time for the cooperative, as many start-ups don’t make it through the early days. A strong board of directors, with business backgrounds and community mindedness, is vital in propelling Friends & Farmers through the start-up phase, into a valuable asset for the Centre County community.
Jim Eisenstein, 2-year term
Since retiring from Penn State in 2005, I have devoted most of my time to the cause of local food. I work two days a week on my son John’s certified organic vegetable farm and blog about my experiences on WPSU’s Local Food Journey as “Unpaid Field Hand.” I handle community outreach for the Boalsburg Farmers Market and help sell for Jade Family Farm there and at North Atherton. I helped form and now serve as the faculty advisor for the student-run “Crop Mob” project that sends students to work for a day on local sustainable farms.
When I learned that a group was forming a food co-op that would feature locally produced food and seek to help our farmers survive, thrive, and build our food infrastructure, I joined the interim board in the Fall of 2012. I have participated actively in the work of the board since then, helping to draft the by-laws and membership policies, reviewing the feasibility study, taking field trips to existing co-ops, compiling lists of local farmers, chairing the “farmer liaison” task force, and researching on-line farmers markets.
I am passionate about local food, and committed to establishing a co-op store distinguished by its emphasis on sourcing as much as possible locally. I have an intimate knowledge of organic farming, and I know and talk to many local farmers. I believe I can contribute to the continuity of purpose on the new board, focusing on building relationships with local farmers.
Michele Marchetti, 2-year term
I joined the interim board of directors of Friends & Farmers in January 2013. Since then, I have wholeheartedly contributed my time and communications skills to this movement, writing newsletters, updating the website, managing social media and taking the Friends & Farmers message to businesses and neighborhood parties. This spring I attended a national cooperative conference with another board member. One of the main challenges we face right now is increasing membership, and I hope to continue my outreach efforts.
I spend a lot of time thinking about and shopping for food. I write a local food column for StateCollege.com. My family just started its eighth year as full-year members of Tait Farm’s CSA. My favorite place to be on a Tuesday afternoon is the Boalsburg Farmers Market. Friends & Farmers fits seamlessly into my passions and principles.
It’s a worthy cause. Friends & Farmers can transform this community, strengthening local farmers and the food economy and making it easier for consumers to make food choices that bolster their families, their neighbors, their economy and their environment. The fact that we will do this by joining together to accomplish what we can’t do alone makes this adventure especially meaningful.
Devin Mathias, 3-year term
1. The cooperative is important to me and the area in that it helps foster a environmentally-friendly, locally-focused community. This is important to me personally and as an example for my children.
2. The primary experience I will bring to the the Board will be in the areas of fundraising and marketing experience. These two areas are undoubtedly helpful during the development and growth of the co-op.
3. I perceive the main challenges to be the facility, growing the membership base and securing the funding to maintain the co-op. The facility will not be an area of expertise for me, but the remaining two are exactly where my experience lies.
4. I value two things the most: the intangible benefit to the community by bringing people together and focusing on local products; and the educational value and example it sets for my children.
6. I am a single-father to three children (10, 9 & 6). I am passionate about fundraising. I love hiking and soccer. I am a Penn State & Florida alum and I am proud of each institution. I never thought I would return to State College after my PSU graduation, but am ecstatic about the community and the circle of friends I and my children have built here.
Sarah Potter, 1-year term
1. The cooperative represents unique growth in our community. Our local economy will become more robust. But also our health, education, and community-mindedness will expand because of this democratic, good-food, and education-focused business.
2. Food and community are two things l am very passionate about. My background is primarily in education, but I also have a degree and have worked in agriculture. Working alongside so many great board members and volunteers over the last several years has been great. I’ve enjoyed putting together the puzzle that is making a food co-op and have done a lot of research to access resources and make this store a reality.
3. The co-op is at a stage where it needs to become more concrete for the community. There are over 250 members who have been excited from day one to see this store open…but we need 1000 more member-households to open the doors. How do we get folks to understand what the co-op will mean for our community? That is the challenge. I think that education, member drives, and more volunteers are all steps in the right direction.
4. I have visited many food co-ops and cooperative businesses and value the democratic way that the businesses are run, and the way that knowledge and resources are so freely shared. Their success and resurgence is impressive.
5. I have been a part of the co-op initiative since its inception. During that time I helped to draft the bylaws and have served on the site selection committee, membership committee, and for the last year and a half as the interim president.
6. My husband, Joshua, and I have lived in State College area for four years and have two children, Ellory and Lucy. We love this area, and are excited to see what more will unfold in our community through Friends & Farmers.
Vic Russo, 2-year term
1. I believe strongly in the need to improve the quality of the food we all eat. I think Friends & Farmers Cooperative (FFC) is an important element in making better food available on a more widespread basis.
2. I have executive management experience with PSU as the President and CEO of the Ben Franklin Partnership.
3. I believe that the concept of the FFC has to be distributed widely. People are ready for this concept and I see this weekly as one of the participants at the North Atherton Farmers Market.
4. Paraphrasing Margaret Mead I think a small group of committed people who feel strongly about an issue can change the world. And we need it in the area of better nutrition.
5. I served for a short period before my retirement on the board of the Centre County Farmland Trust. I took responsibility for the development of the website.
6. After retirement from PSU, my wife and I started a small sustainable farm raising angus beef cattle and sheep because of our strong commitment to better nutrition for ourselves, family and friends.
Meagan Tuttle, 1-year term
I am excited about the opportunity that F&F provides to invest locally—to invest my talents, money and food choices, within my own community—to support a healthy environment, a stable economy and more access to fresh, local food choices. Additionally, I believe Friends & Farmers is an important step to build on and strengthen the local food community that exists today.
One of the most valuable elements of the cooperative is the ability to invest in and make decisions about our food. Helping potential members understand the impact they can have on their community, economy and personal food access through the cooperative model will be one of the key elements to achieving membership goals, allowing the cooperative to reach further development milestones.
As a planner, I frequently engage with residents to learn about their ideas for and challenges within the community, and prepare plans and programs to address these needs for the future. I seek to connect individuals with ideas to resources and information that can help initiatives spread. I can bring these skills in collecting the ideas and input of many, developing a collaborative vision and goals, and connecting community resources to assist the cooperative at this important state of development.
I also volunteer on a committee to represent the interests of young professionals with the CBICC and am on the board for the Centre Region Bicycle Coalition. In my free time, I am usually hiking, running or biking in Rothrock, or researching new ways to make delicious meals from my weekly CSA delivery.