Board of Directors

BriarPatch Co-op owners elect our Board of Directors. Owners are eligible to run for the Board (a three-year term) one year after joining the Co-op. See Directors’ profiles and statements by clicking their photos below.

Board Member Board Member Board Member
Alan Weisberg
President
Rick Sheller
Vice President
Louise Jones
Secretary
Board Member Board Member

Mark Fenton Debbie Plass
Board Member Board Member Board Member
Richard Drace Alana Lucia Lew Sitzer


Board Director Biographies

Alan Weisberg, President
Personal Profile
Occupation: Educator
Education: PhD, Education, Stanford University; BA, History, UC Berkeley
Business Experience: BriarPatch Board for 7 years, ran own consultancy business for 25 years
Board / Community Leadership Experience: Nevada County Board of Education for 7 years, President of Board of 2 nonprofits, consultant to help high school principal’s leadership skills
Year joined BriarPatch – Approximately 1988 1995+-
Why are you running for the BriarPatch Board?
BriarPatch is doing very well as a business while also striving hard to meet broader, “cooperative” goals. I have been on the board for about 7 years and have seen an incredible transformation of the business and of the Board of Directors. There are several reasons why I have decided to run for another term. Most pertain to my current involvement as Vice President and as a member of our building purchase committee. I will discuss my motivation at the upcoming candidate forum before the April Board meeting.
Why will you make a good Board member?
My experience on the Board gives me tools to be a good board member. These include chairing the Building Design Committee for the new store, and serving as Treasurer and then as Vice President in recent years.
What do you love about BriarPatch?
I love BriarPatch as a community, as a hub for many good things happening in Nevada County. And I love the food we offer.
What percent of your groceries do you buy at BriarPatch?
My wife and I buy at least 80% of our groceries at BriarPatch.

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Mark Fenton
Experience
I worked at the Sacramento Natural Food Co-op from 1976 to 1982, first as Assistant Manager, then as General Manager. As General Manager I was responsible for all operational aspects of the store, including purchasing, sales, staffing (hiring, firing, training, scheduling), and financial management. I worked closely with the BoD, staff, and membership. During my tenure SNFC tripled in size and built up the resources to move to its current location.
In the mid-1980’s I worked for several years with Amigo Cantisano at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. In 1989 my wife and I purchased the business and grew it from a small operation to a large-scale national business. In the process we developed a catalog of over 1,000 organic growing products, moved to larger locations three times, expanded our retail store, shipping operation and wholesale farmer department, computerized all systems, dealt with sales, purchasing, audits and tax issues, budgets and financial projections and reports, staffing, advertising and all other aspects of the business.
After retiring in 1997, I served on the BoD of the Long Valley Road Association (with a membership of 90 parcels) for 4 years, and as President for 2 years. I am an active member of the Nevada County Biodynamic Association and care for 3 acres of land. I belong to SYRCL, the Wilderness Society, National Resource Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, Nature Conservancy, Greenpeace, and many more environmental and service organizations.
I earned a BA from UCSD, a California lifetime teaching credential from Sonoma State and did 3 years of post-graduate work at UCD.
I have been a BriarPatch owner for 28 years, shop here several times a week, and buy 95% of my groceries here. I have always considered the Co-op one of our area’s brightest assets. In addition to being a healthful food alternative, it is a positive social achievement, based on the confidence that people can successfully work together as a community for common goals. I care about the Co-op and want it to continue to succeed.
I feel that our Board is functioning well and making constructive strides in many areas. In the past few years, we’ve completed a comprehensive long-term strategic plan, streamlined our committee system, and updated our bylaws and policy manual. We’ve adopted policy governance, a system designed to allow the Board to guide the Co-op toward fulfilling its goals and strategic vision while allowing management to run the daily operation.
The Co-op has thrived over the past few years, becoming profitable and rapidly growing in sales and membership. We now need to decide about our future: do we want to sign another long-term lease, purchase our building, or find a new site to accommodate our continued growth? The Co-op is at a crossroads, and I feel that continuity of leadership is especially important at this time. This Board has proven itself and has worked effectively and harmoniously with management to move BriarPatch through a time of difficult transition. I would like to continue contributing to the Co-op’s growth.
I offer my previous experience as General Manager of Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, as former owner of Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, and as a BriarPatch Director for the past 3 years.
Throughout my entire business career I’ve been involved with and committed to organic agriculture and the natural foods movement. I strongly believe in cooperative principles and I value and encourage input from owner-members, staff and management.

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Louise Jones, Secretary
Occupation: Group and Personal Fitness Trainer
Education: Certified by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America in Group and Personal Fitness. Les Mills RPM Certified. Pending Healthways Silver Sneaker Certification. B.A. Degree with Honors in Education from the State University of New York. Graduate of the Modern Gourmet Chef’s Institute, Boston. Information Technology and business training from Microsoft, Novell, I.B.M., Sierra College and CSU Chico in IT and business disciplines including Project Management, Accounting, Security and Conflict Resolution. Cal_PEAC (California Professional Election Administrator Certification) from the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials.
Business Experience: Information Technology Analyst experience in hardware/software systems and their administration, Project Management, & Database Management. I have worked with applications that apply to the BriarPatch such as “point of sale” input, bar coding, inventory control and management, accounting. payroll and human resources. I have run budgets for two government organizations (County and State) simultaneously and have experience in performance reviews, interviewing, hiring and worked with and solved personnel concerns.
Board/Community Leadership Experience: My leadership expertise includes working as a Project Manager and creating the Project Management Methodology Cookbook. Other leadership activities include chairing the Justice Community of Interest and leading a project to integrate Criminal Justice; Truckee Supervisor for County Elections, Organizational Development – Education Plans, employee recognition, change management; and coached the County technical division on Self Directed Work Teams. In 1999, I created a Y2K Business Continuity Plan that was accepted as the statewide standard for small counties. I have served on the board of the Twin Cities Concert Association, and served on the original board of KVMR 89.5 Community Radio when the NCCBG was formed.
Year joined BriarPatch: I have shopped at BriarPatch since 1981 and watched the Co-op’s development from its Washington Street home to today.
I have always subscribed to businesses that deal in food and groceries of the natural and organic nature. Once considered alternative, I am not surprised that this lifestyle has become mainstream. Having been active on the BriarPatch Strategic Planning and Governance Committees, we now have a Strategic Plan that asks for several studies and plans. I would like to share skills from experiences that I have in these methodologies to continue implementing the vision put forth in the Plan. Since I am retired, I have the time to work in my community. I have been interested in working for the BriarPatch for a long time. I think that the Board, the management, the staff and all others involved performed a marvelous feat by building this new store. I congratulate all of you. Through the Committees that I served on, I became acquainted with the members of the Board and the flow of the BriarPatch governance. I was honored to join the Board with a recent appointment. I would like to continue my tenure and share my knowledge and experience to carrying this effort even further.
What do you love about BriarPatch? I am always interested in the quality of food and other groceries. All my life I have been referred to as “Granola” by my family, friends and co-workers. I shop at the BriarPatch because it assures food quality and the operation projects a community feeling. Keeping this standard and even improving upon it is another interest of mine.
Percentage of groceries purchased at BriarPatch? 95%

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Rick Sheller, Vice-President
Occupation: Sales/Purchasing (28 years in the natural food industry). Current employer is National Cooperative Grocers Association, current position is Supplier Programs Manager. Prior employment was with UNFI/Mountain People’s Warehouse, 13 years, Director of Sales.
Education: BA from Cal. State U., Hayward, degree in Environmental Studies and Biology
Business Experience: Most of my experience (28+ years) is in sales management in the wholesale/distribution side of the natural foods industry. For the past 10 years I have worked for the NCGA managing the Co-op Advantage Program and regional and national supplier contracts for NCGA members (including BriarPatch).
Board / Community Leadership Experience: I am seeking my 2nd term as a Director for BriarPatch.
Year joined BriarPatch: 2002
This will be my second term as a Director. In the past year the Board has changed how it interacts with the General Manager and increased its engagement with the owners of BriarPatch by adopting the model of Policy Governance. Last September we held our first Harvest Dinner to solicit feedback from owners on how to engage with owners and our community. Subsequently we started the monthly Breakfast with the Board meetings and are forming an Owners Committee to help create future events of owner, Board, and community interactions. A higher degree of Board/owner/community engagement and a positive working relationship with our General Manager were priorities for me when I initially decided to run for the Board. Both are significant to the continued success of our co-op. I would like the opportunity to help continue the process.
I am employed by a co-op. I understand how co-ops work. I know the value of and need for transparency. I understand natural foods and the need to support locally grown products. I have worked and lived in our community for 20+ years. I am a team player and I appreciate the Board’s willingness to speak with one voice. I am committed to the continued success of our co-op.
What do you love about BriarPatch? The good food, commitment to support local growers and vendors, sense of community, commitment to a triple bottom line (store-community-world), friendly and knowledgeable staff.
What percent of your groceries do you buy at BriarPatch? 85%+

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Alana Lucia
Occupation: homemaker
Education: Humboldt State University, Sierra College; fields of study: Environmental Sciences, BA in Spanish Education
Business Experience: 5 years Accounts Payable Manager, 5 Years Customer Service Manager.
After moving to Nevada County I was employed with two of the largest solar manufacturers managing their Accounts Payable Department. Before leaving Humboldt County I was a Customer Service Manager for a well-known restaurant. I was employed by BriarPatch during the transition from the Joerschke store to its current location ending as a lead cashier. I really enjoyed the customers, employees and the potential of BriarPatch. My employment term was short as my husband and I decided to dedicate my next 5 years to raising our daughter.
Board/Community Leadership Experience: I’ve been involved in several neighborhood associations for many years; formerly the You Bet/Red Dog Association and its Outpost Group, and currently the Greater Cement Hill Neighborhood Association where I manage the association’s website.
Year joined BriarPatch: 2005
Endorsements: Shan Kendall, Akim Aginsky
Why are you running for the BriarPatch Board?
BriarPatch has moved to the forefront of being the community hub for Nevada County. There are more local food options, community education options, and good employment opportunities. As BriarPatch moves forward, I would be an asset in the research and decision-making process in conceptualizing the future of BriarPatch. Especially important to me is that BriarPatch continues to provide the type of employment that attracts and keeps the dynamic people that have made it not only a place to purchase quality food, but a community hub.
Why will you make a good Board member?
My past experience as a BriarPatch employee brings a necessary insight to the Board of Directors. A strong employee base creates the right environment for our customers. Though we shop at BriarPatch for its abundant food choices and community atmosphere, we must also recognize BriarPatch as a key Nevada County employer who provides a positive livelihood for its many employees. With my background in accounting as well as customer service, I have a good understanding of what it takes to balance this mix.
What do you love about BriarPatch?
I appreciate the terrific organic food options especially from local sources that BriarPatch offers for our dietary lifestyles. It’s the community hub atmosphere BriarPatch attracts that keeps me loyal and willing to engage as a Board Member.
What percent of your groceries do you buy at the BriarPatch? 95%

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Lew Sitzer
Personal Profile
Occupation: Retired high school teacher, organic gardener
Education: MS, USC; BA, UC Riverside
Business Experience: Director, NCTV (5 years); Dean of Admissions, American International School, Bucharest, Romania (5 years)
Board/Community Leadership Experience: United Way Board, Nevada City School Board, NCTV Board, BriarPatch Board, Occupy Wall Street Nevada County
Year joined BriarPatch: 1978
Why are you running for the BriarPatch Board?
I am running for the Board to further assist in the growth and development of the Co-op as a hub of the community, continuing to promote its reach into the facets of our lives; healthy food, healthy life-styles, local and sustainable farming, improving our school lunch programs, and educating ourselves, with films, conferences, and workshops, while not losing sight that we are here to serve our entire community.
Why will you make a good Board Director?
I have been a member of BriarPatch for over 30 years, an organic farmer for over 40 years, on the board for the last 3 years and have supported its move to the new store and its dynamic manager and committed staff. BriarPatch has become a community institution and I am proud of how much it has grown and improved. The time ahead will be as challenging as its past years. Being familiar with the entire BriarPatch operation at this time is important as we look at considerations such as additional parking, farm to market connections and purchasing the building.
What do you love about BriarPatch?
The BriarPatch membership has grown to 10,000 members and has not lost it wonderful sense of community. I love shopping at BP, seeing people I know, enjoying the crowds of people who are discovering its great offerings and its always helpful and friendly staff. I appreciate how seriously BriarPatch takes its product research to assure us that we are eating the healthiest products available.
What percent of your groceries do you buy at BriarPatch?
I do 95-100% of my shopping at BriarPatch and often eat 3-5 meals there each week. I invite you to sit down with me at any time to talk. I continue to give feedback to a staff open to reasonable ideas and opinions. I am thankful that BriarPatch exists in our community and will do my best to see that it continues to thrive.

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Richard Drace
Personal Profile
Occupation: Retired business owner, building designer, project manager, and nonprofit director
Education: Honors B.A. in Interdisciplinary Humanities, Stanford University, M.A. in Religion, Yale University, Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Humanities, Syracuse University
Business Experience: Owner, Owner Builder Summer Camp, a residential program that taught hands-on building skills in classroom, workshop, and jobsite settings to adult prospective owner-builders.
Founder and Executive Director, Common Ground Communities, a nonprofit self-help affordable housing development company
Owner, Viridian Development, Inc., a design/build/project management company
Board/Community Leadership Experience, former involvement: Founding President, Nevada City Schools Foundation; Governance Council, Nevada City School of the Arts; Founder and Executive Director, Common Ground Communities; Board member, Gold Country Piano Institute; Board member, Sierra Green Building Assoc.; volunteer, Music in the Mountains. Current involvement: Board member, North Star Historic Conservancy; volunteer, Nevada City School District Foundation Bike & Hike; volunteer, SYRCL; volunteer, Sierra Express Bicycle Club
Year joined BriarPatch: 2008
Why are you running for the BriarPatch Board?
I am a firm believer in social activism at the local level. I have been actively involved in local community organizations since moving here in 1980. For the last several years, due to family illness, I have not been active in any organizations; it now seems the right time to become involved once again. I feel beholden to our local community, which has been very supportive of community endeavors I have been a part of, and I would once again like to reciprocate in kind. BriarPatch epitomizes support of local growers, consumers, and other community organizations. I have been impressed with the progress BriarPatch has made as it has grown over the years. I hear very positive remarks about the quality of the BriarPatch Board, and I would be proud to e included as a Board member.
Why will you make a good Board member?
I have helped a number of organizations get started, and/or become better organized and more efficient in their operations. Professionally, I have managed projects involving several million dollars, and have been instrumental in fundraising and financial management for several of them.
What do you love about BriarPatch?
BriarPatch sells real food. It supports local growers. It is responsive to community needs and input. It has grown up without losing its soul. It has proven itself to be financially viable. I feel like I contribute to both my own health and the health of the planet when I shop there.
What percentage of your groceries do you buy at BriarPatch? 49%