MEET YOUR 2021 BOARD CANDIDATES!

Jeff Corbett

What do you love about BriarPatch Food Co-op?

What I love about BriarPatch the example it sets for how enterprise and progressive ideals can work in harmony to improve the quality of life for all stakeholders – its owners, employees, suppliers, associated charities and the community at large.  To me, BriarPatch provides a working model for how many of our country’s challenges might be effectively addressed.

Yes, I really enjoy walking through the colorful, clean aisles and munching on something sumptuous at a table in the sun at the store’s entrance.  But what I love  is that that item likely supports a local vendor; that the aisle is monitored and stocked by an employee who has meaningful work with livable wages; that all aisles are oriented and housed in a building created and operated with thought and care for the environment and that the enterprise is run so efficiently and well that it is able to reinvest by offering dividends to its owners, benefits to its employees, loans to local farmers, generous gifts to charitable organizations and lasting value to our community.

At a time when business and progressive ideals increasingly seem pitted against one another, examples like BriarPatch take on extra meaning.

Why are you running for the BriarPatch Food Co-op Board?

I want to be part of the example I refer to in the first question.  Though much has already been accomplished and the path forward appears well lit, the opportunity for growth, including expansion into multiple outlets, are strategic steps that will require extra energy and thought.

Why will you make a good Board Director?

Three fundamental reasons:

Desire: I’m committed to the important work of providing our surrounding communities with healthy food; sustaining our local providers with a trusted retail outlet, educating all who are interested about the products and processes; contributing to local causes and, as indicated above, providing a beacon to the wider business community that commerce and care are not opposing forces.

Appreciation:   I understand, believe in and have practiced Policy Governance.  I recognize and appreciate the difference between dialogue and debate and the importance of board holism.

Experience:      I hope that some of the experience attained in the activities described below could be applied to the important work of the board.

Summary of Qualifications

Since 2002, I have provided business development, organizational and leadership effectiveness consulting services to enterprises with a focus on transportation, supply chain and logistics management.

Prior to 2002, I held top-line revenue responsibility for companies in all aspects of the international supply chain; US domestic rail industry, (Sr. VP Marketing Itel Rail Corporation, ocean transport (Sr. VP Marketing Trans Ocean Limited), domestic and international air express and delivery (Sr. VP Sales and Marketing DHL Worldwide Express, Inc.)

In my consulting practice, I serve as a business advisor and coach to senior executives and their teams. Primary areas of my professional practice include: Strategic and business development planning; Business, marketing and sales strategy design and implementation; Facilitating and coaching management teams; Designing and implementing organizational structures, management systems and business processes; Sales force effectiveness and Developing and coaching leaders

I hold a B.A. Degree in Anthropology from the University of Arizona and a M.A. Degree in International Management from the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird).

Mark Fenton

What do you love about BriarPatch Food Co-op?

I love and am proud of so many things about BriarPatch.

I love that it is a cooperative, with open membership and democratic control, dedicated to providing healthful, organic products to all.

I am proud we have developed into such a successful and ethical business that we have become a model for other businesses and are able to provide support and training to developing co-ops around the country.

I am proud that we operate under the concept of a “triple bottom line,” measuring our success by our impact in financial, social and environmental areas.

I am proud that, unlike supermarket chains, BriarPatch is a locally-owned business that generates and keeps money in our community and is one of the largest private job providers in the county.

I am proud of the significant steps we have taken toward our goal of 100% renewable energy — investing in our solar array, replacing hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants with natural refrigerants, switching to LED lighting, reducing our single-use plastic packaging and diverting over 60% of our food and other waste from the landfill.

I am so proud of our committed support for local non-profits, including direct donations, our “Cause round up” program at the cash register, and our community volunteer program.

We have the best deli and produce department anywhere. I am especially proud of the program BriarPatch has developed to support our local organic farmers and provide them with a reliable market for their crops. We have also worked with Farmlink to guarantee and provide farmer loans.

I deeply appreciate our wonderful management and staff, who work long and hard to make BriarPatch so successful and welcoming to all. I am glad that we are able to provide them with  good wages and a great benefit package.

And finally, I love that we are a community hub.  I always look forward to shopping at BriarPatch and visiting with friends and staff.

Why are you running for the BriarPatch Food Co-op Board?

Over the last 12 years our Co-op has grown phenomenally in sales and membership. The Board of Directors has worked effectively and harmoniously with management to make BriarPatch one of the largest and most successful Co-ops in the nation.

During this time, I have served on the Board and have been a part of all the decisions that have shaped our progress, including hiring Chris as General Manager, setting our renewable energy goals and our policies for supporting local organic farmers and non-profits, purchasing our store, revising our by-laws and Policies, adopting the Policy Governance Model as our organizational structure and recently making the decision to open a second store in Auburn.

I have served as the Co-op Treasurer and Chairman of the Finance Committee for the past 7 years, during a time of challenge, growth and expansion on many levels.

I am running for another term on the Board because now, when we are taking one of our biggest steps forward by opening a second store, it is of utmost importance that we have financial continuity on the Board. As a long-time Board member of proven commitment, ability and financial experience, I believe I can make a significant and necessary contribution at this crucial time.

I am so proud of BriarPatch for how well it is run and for all it has achieved and would like the opportunity to continue to help guide it into the future.

I am running for another term on the Board because at this time I believe it is of utmost importance that we have continuity on the Board. I feel that having been my work on the BriarPatch Board Finance Committee for the last 12 years and as the Co-op Treasurer and Chairman of the Finance committee for the past 7 years, I have has contributed to our success.  I also believe that continuity of financial leadership is especially important as the co-op goes forward with its expansion. The Treasurer is responsible for overseeing the maintenance of financial records, issuing financial reports and filing of required reports and returns. The Treasurer is also responsible for assisting in hiring a CPA to conduct financial reviews and audits. The Finance Committee itself is responsible for overseeing the financial management of BriarPatch for the purpose of advising the Board.

I am so proud of BriarPatch for how well it is run and for all it has achieved and would like to remain a part of the Board helping to guide it into the future.

Why will you make a good Board Director?

Throughout my entire business career, I have been committed to organic agriculture and the natural foods movement.  I strongly believe in cooperative principles and value and encourage input from owner-members, staff and management.

I have extensive, relevant business background. I was the General Manager of the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, and for years I owned and operated Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, one of the first organic farm and garden supply businesses in the country. During this time it grew from a small local business to a large-scale national company.

During my 12 year tenure on the BriarPatch Board, I have participated in many Board Development workshops and attended multiple National Consumer Cooperative Management Association conferences. These CCMA conferences provide sophisticated, targeted training which, in addition to my personal business and Board experience, has elevated my understanding and skill as a Board member over the years. I have served as the Treasurer and Chairman of the Finance Committee for BriarPatch for the past 7 years.

Throughout my time on the Board I have worked harmoniously and productively with the other Board members and the Co-op management and staff. I am proud of everything we have accomplished together and of BriarPatch’s extraordinary success.

I feel that I have proven my commitment to the BriarPatch and can help provide the continuity, experience and expertise the Co-op needs as it expands into the future.

Summary of Qualifications

I have worked most of my professional life in businesses committed to organic agriculture and the natural foods movement. I was a co-manager and then the General Manager of the Sacramento Natural Foods Coop from 1976 through 1981. We moved to Grass Valley in 1981 and I worked with Amigo Bob at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply for several years. Ultimately, my wife and I bought the business from Amigo and grew it from a small local operation to a successful large-scale national company. We provided the vision for the company’s growth and oversaw all aspects of its operation, including financial planning and management, purchasing, hiring, staff training, research and development, promotion, catalogue, etc. After we sold Peaceful Valley, I continued to do product development for the company for about 11 years. I am now retired.

I have been on the Briarpatch Board and a member of the Finance Committee for about 12 years and have been the Treasurer and Finance Committee Chairman for the last 7 years.

My educational background includes a BA from UCSD, a California teaching credential and 3 years post-graduate work at UCD.

I joined BriarPatch in 1984, have been a BriarPatch owner for 37 years, and buy 90-95% of my groceries here.

Rachel Berry

What do you love about BriarPatch Food Co-op?

I love the BPFC because it’s a shining example of how a business can thrive financially and at the same time be in service to the community.   Our co-op provides services that directly impact our health and wellbeing, such as providing access to high quality, healthy food with a focus on local and organic; helping grow local food security by supporting local farmers; donating healthy food to those in need; and educating people to make healthier food choices.  Our co-op contributes to environmental stewardship through prioritizing clean energy and reducing/reusing/recycling materials, and with its priority on local, it keeps $4.4M circulating through our local and regional economy instead of outsourcing those products from faraway places.   The BPFC made over $165K in community donations in 2019 plus facilitated another $65K in donations from shoppers through CAUSE at the register .  Can you think of any other local business that does this much to contribute to community well-being?

On top of all this, the BPFC is a thriving business run by talented employees who report high job satisfaction.  We feel welcomed when we walk in the door,  and we experience a sense of community and connection.  Both my 13-year old daughter and my 86-year old mother light up when I suggest we go to BriarPatch, because it’s a pleasure to be there and there are so many great things to choose from.   I love that our community has been working together for over 45 years to help craft what the BriarPatch Food Coop has become today, and that we have a strong foundation from which we can now broaden our reach and impact in our region.

Why are you running for the BriarPatch Food Co-op Board?

I’ve benefited from BriarPatch Food Co-op since I moved to Nevada County in 2009.  In those first years living here, whenever I completed my shopping, I would see the photos of the board members on my way out (remember where they used to be on the left of the exit doors?) and I’d feel grateful for their dedication in helping this community co-op thrive.   When board member Kwong Chew encouraged me to run in the 2018 board election,  I was a bit stunned.  I didn’t have the business and financial background others on “the wall” had, but I did have a deep passion for community health and, by that time, strong roots in the local food and farm movement.  I wanted to take my turn contributing to the BriarPatch’s success, and gratefully I was elected by our owners.

Three years later, I am more excited to run for my second term because I understand what a privilege it is be part of this amazing team! The board members that came before me worked hard to adopt policies and practices that clearly define the goals and expectations of BPFC while empowering the General Manager to execute these goals in any reasonable fashion that does not put the co-op at undue risk.  As a board member, I help assess how well the co-op is performing and help refine policies that can further support its success.  Although policies and governance may sound dry, it’s actually an inspiring process to see how staff rally together to rise to new challenges, create more impact and often exceed expectations to serve our community.   With our upcoming transition to a multi-store model, I’m excited to help the co-op navigate this historic move.

Why will you make a good Board Director?

Despite my first impressions, I realize now that I don’t have to be a financial genius or successful entrepreneur to make a meaningful contribution to this team.  While I continue to hone my skills reading P&Ls, multi-million-dollar projection budgets and market studies,  I am happy to bring other assets to help round out our board.

Since 2010, I have worked in in the local food and farm movement (most currently as the Associate Director at Sierra Harvest), where I have gained a deeper understanding of the strengths and challenges we face in Nevada County in terms of access to fresh, local organic food.  I have over 20 years of experience working in health promotion and community education, as I am a passionate advocate for self-empowerment for health and wellness.   I spent four years living and working at The Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas, California, where I was exposed to ideas and practices that help create more ecological resiliency and experienced what it was like to live within the concentric rings of natural systems.  Most of my professional work has been executed within the context of a team and working collaboratively to meet common goals.  My life experiences have shaped me in such in a way that I feel comfortable risking my own vulnerability to speak my mind, but also understand that my viewpoints can be influenced by my own biases and blind-spots.

In the end, my experience on the board has taught me that  having a deep commitment to the health and resilience of our community,  bringing my focused attention and reflection on monthly board reports, and a holding a vision for what is possible for BPFC are some of the best ways I can serve our member-owners, and I hope to continue to have that privilege.

Summary of Qualifications

  • 10 years cumulative experience serving as a board member for various organizations
  • 10+ years active involvement in the Nevada County food and farm movement
  • 20+ years working on collaborative teams to promote healthy people and healthy environment
  • Strong leadership and communication skills
  • Passion for community health and wellness

Richard Drace

What do you love about BriarPatch Food Co-op?

I feel strongly committed to the co-operative vision. BriarPatch is a great example of how a co-operative endeavor can be so influential in making the world a better place – providing and promoting healthy food; supporting local farmers and sustainable agriculture; sponsoring many worthwhile community organizations and endeavors – and so welcoming to all that grocery shopping is a feel-good experience.

Our Co-op Principles and Ends policies are excellent guidelines, and I believe we do a great job in our progress towards fulfilling them. Our policy governance system is an admirable model for keeping us attuned to our vision, running our store, and representing our members.

I’m proud that BriarPatch is a conscientious and inclusive employer; a leader in our community in offering good-paying jobs and benefits working for a talented and empathetic management team.

BriarPatch is a major player among co-ops nationwide.  We are often acknowledged at our annual national conference – even winning a co-op of the year award – as an outstanding example of what a co-op has offer.

I’m continually impressed by our knowledgeable and friendly staff – in the store, the offices, the bakery, and the warehouse. I trust that the products I buy are healthy and fresh.

Our success is enabling us to reach-out beyond our local community to offer all these qualities to yet more people – we’re embarking on spreading the love!

Why are you running for the BriarPatch Food Co-op Board?

I’ve had the honor of serving as a crew member on a smooth sailing ship, under the guidance of a remarkable captain (Chris), for going on nine years, and I value the small part I’ve played during our many voyages.

Our Board has become more adept and more versatile in these years – We’re more balanced in terms of gender, age, backgrounds, and community involvement. We’re a good mix of veterans who bring seasoned experience and insights, and newer directors who bring fresh ideas and represent many community interests and involvements.  We collaborate well, we’re mutually supportive, and we take seriously our commitment to speak with one voice.

As one of the veterans, I’ve been part of exploring our options for bringing what we do best to more people – purchasing our present store; exploring various new opportunities that have resulted in purchasing our present store and now recently choosing our new location in Auburn. I’d love to be part of contributing whatever I can toward realizing our dream of opening our second store.

If I have the privilege to serve another term, and see our new store up and running (and, of course, also awesome), then it will be my time to step aside and welcome a new director.

Why will you make a good Board Director?

Having served in leadership roles as a committee chair, vice-president, and president, I understand our governance system – how our board fulfills its role to set policies and assure that they are carried out; and how we play our limited but important role offering support and expecting accountability of our management team to run the store.

My contributions would reflect how I’ve benefited from our training workshops and retreats, the ample good advice from our consultants, and the admirable examples set by my fellow board members.

I’ve collaborated well with fellow directors and management; I feel good rapport with our general manager and his excellent staff.

I’m proud to have been a part of encouraging several BriarPatch endeavors that support values important to our members– such as our CAUSE round-up at the register  program and our sponsorships of community organizations such as Sierra Harvest.

Although we are fortunate to rely primarily on the specific professional expertise of our staff and consultants, directors who offer skills in finance, organizational management, project development, and community advocacy are helpful to the board’s role in strategic planning. Through my own professional endeavors, background in non-profit organizations, and what I’ve learned from being a Patch director, I’m confident my contributions would be significant.

Summary of Qualifications

Current occupation:  Retired

Educational background:

B.A. (Honors Humanities), Stanford; M.A.R. (Master of Arts in Religion), Yale; Ph.D. (Interdisciplinary Humanities), Syracuse.

Business & Community Leadership Experience:

Sole proprietor, Viridian Development – a residential and small commercial design/development company.

Sole proprietor, Owner Builder Summer Camp – a jobsite/workshop oriented enterprise teaching hands-on construction and contracting skills.

Founder and Executive Director, Common Ground Communities – a non-profit self-help affordable housing development company.

Founding Board President, Nevada City Schools Foundation.

Parent Governing Council, Nevada City School of the Arts.

Vice President, Gold Country Piano Institute.

Board member, Sierra Green Building Association

River Monitor Volunteer, SYRCL

For a printable version of the candidate profiles, click here.