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Board musings · Outpost Natural Foods
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Your Board

Hi, I'm Your Board

Outpost's Board of Directors will use this blog to discuss issues the board is exploring as it envisions Outpost's future. Can't make it to a meeting? Check here frequently to read what the Board is up to. Your current Outpost Board of Directors,...
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Your Board

Sounding Board

Sounding Board
By Your Board on August 30, 2016

In recent board meetings, we have been discussing how the popularity of cooperatives ebbs and flows, and specifically how that relates to the increasingly competitive environment of Milwaukee grocery stores.

It turns out that cooperatives do best in times of uncertainty, like the Sixties and in the aftermath of the recent financial crisis. This makes sense when you consider that cooperatives emerged as a means for people to come together, often during times of adversity, to accomplish what they could not on their own.

A recent New York Times article titled Debt. Terror. Politics. To Seattle Millennials, the Future Looks Scary. got me thinking that we are proceeding through a period of increasing uncertainty. If cooperatives do better in times like this, it would follow that they should prosper, even with increased competition.

The Times article suggested that people in the Sixties struggled with comparatively simpler questions of “racial segregation, poverty or the war” versus those of today – ones like: “Is the food we eat still food?” or “How do you get your head around a threat to the entire planet?” While this struck me as counterintuitive at first, I came to the conclusion that it was true.

Even with the historic unrest in Milwaukee just a few days earlier, most people I know seem generally more concerned with issues related to the future of the planet. Issues like climate change and our food supply get bound up with those relating to the economy, politics, and even terrorism. So it’s not hard to see why existential angst is on the rise.

It is not clear yet whether this sense of foreboding will shape consumers’ purchasing behavior. On one hand it appears that we live in a world of seemingly endless and immediate satisfaction – one filled with lots of cheap, and convenient alternatives. On the other hand, our locally-controlled cooperatives offer a way to build resilient communities by focusing our efforts and capital where they are most effective.

My sense is that we know this “one-click” world is illusory, and that a hyper-competitive environment of razor-thin margins all but guarantees that this abundance of choices will be fleeting. So for me, being more intentional about my choices is my way of pushing back and exerting control over my world.

The reason I continue to support cooperatives is because I know that, if I do, they’ll be there for me when times get tough. The same cannot be said of the big box stores.

 

Jan Pierce

Board Director

 

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