News

Welcome our new board members

The board election results were announced at our Annual Meeting on 10/20. Join us in welcoming Matthew Orensteen, Tracy Sides & Stephen Streng to the board. 

Each board member was elected to serve a 3-year term. You can get a feel for those that were elected by reading their responses to the questions they had been asked during the election.

One of the questions refers to Mississippi Market’s Strategic Priorities.  Those strategic priorities are:

  • Achieve operational excellence
  • Become the most trusted advisors
  • Deliver exceptional customer service experiences
  • Foster growth in the local food economy
  • Support and develop an engaged work force

BOD Matthew OrensteenMatthew James Orensteen

1. Why are you interested in running for this particular board?
I am interested in being more involved in the direction of the co-op and its impact on the community. As a long-time member and employee of Mississippi Market Co-op, I feel dually able to provide insight as a board member.

2. What challenges will the co-op face in the future? How could the co-op overcome these challenges?
The co-op faces a number of challenges. First and foremost in my mind is finding an identity in the marketplace as organic and natural foods become more mainstream. We overcome this challenge by being more than a store. By being a co-op and maintaining and growing a connection with our communities that is recognized and valuable.

3. What is your vision for Mississippi Market’s future growth?
I see the co-op growing to be a community hub for people to learn, socialize and of course purchase healthy and socially responsible foods and goods. This will continue to happen and evolve in the communities we currently serve as well as with new communities and neighborhoods, hopefully very soon with the opportunity on the East 7th site.

4. In your opinion, what is the role of the co-op in the community?
Primarily, the co-op exists to provide our members and customers with the organic, natural, local and sustainable products that they have come to expect from us. Inextricably linked to this is the exceptional customer service and knowledge of our staff. The co-op is more than a place to shop, it is a place to learn and a place to connect with one’s neighbors.

5. Choosing one of our Strategic Priorities listed on page 5 of this package, describe how our board could help drive that priority.
Foster growth in the local food economy: As the board guides the co-op through growth opportunities, the expanded customer base and communities reached have more access not only to local products but a place to see and learn about what our local food economy looks like and how it affects all of us; co-op member or not.

6. Describe any professional or volunteer experience you’ve had that would provide insight of skills on the board, including having served on a board or governing committee.
In my new position as Merchandising Coordinator my understanding of how we are perceived by our customers and community has grown exponentially. I can clearly see how every position at the co-op is connected to that perception. From our cashiers and stockers providing great customer service to our department managers and buyers being committed to carrying the best local and organic products all the way up to management providing the training opportunities for all of our staff to be empowered to share our knowledge and passion with our members and customers.
My understanding of this interconnectedness as an employee and my desire to see it fostered and continue to flourish as well as my experience in a leadership role is a big part of what I can “bring to the table” or board, if you will.

7. Tell us about your favorite co-op food, and how do you like to enjoy or share it?
As simple as it is, the Hill and Vale ground beef from our Meat Department is my current favorite. I love sharing it with my loved ones in the form of a cheeseburger. Topped with a slice of tomato from my garden, people who aren’t used to eating locally and sustainably raised beef get to eat a burger off the grill “again, for the first time.”

BOD Tracy Sides pictureTracy Sides

1. Why are you interested in running for this particular board?
I believe in the cooperative business model. I live and work on the East Side of Saint Paul and have been involved with the effort by Gateway Food Cooperative to establish a food co-op on the East Side. My personal and professional passion is community health. For all of these reasons, I am interested in serving on the board of directors of Mississippi Market Natural Foods Cooperative.

2. What challenges will the co-op face in the future? How could the co-op overcome these challenges?
Two primary challenges I see are 1) effectively engaging and recruiting member-owners and shoppers from the culturally-diverse neighborhoods in which Mississippi Market Co-ops are or will be in operation and 2) maintaining access to supplies of locally grown produce amidst the growing interest of larger grocery retailers.

In both cases, these challenges are also opportunities. Regarding the first challenge, authentic relationship-building with diverse communities who live near the co-ops is an essential step in developing the trust and understanding necessary to effectively promote the food co-op as a place in which to invest and shop. An example for this type of outreach is the Sunday Supper series that we implemented through the Gateway Food Co-op. Addressing the second challenge may require further “cooperation among cooperatives” to help catalyze the infrastructure development necessary to scale up the local food system, for example via the Minnesota Food Cooperative Board Association.

3. What is your vision for Mississippi Market’s future growth?
I envision Mississippi Market opening a 3rd store on the East Side of Saint Paul, expanding the demographics of our member-owners to include more ethnic and economic diversity, and strategically partnering with private organizations to creatively promote the cooperative business model to mainstream audiences (e.g., Saint Paul Saints).

Intentionally pursuing these potential growth opportunities in alignment with the cooperative principles will allow, not just the ends, but the process itself to be fun, constructive and community-enhancing.

4. In your opinion, what is the role of the co-op in the community?
Mississippi Market is a vital source of healthy, ethical, and local food, products, and services. As an extension of this role, the co-op also functions as a catalyst for health and well-being for both individuals and the community as a whole. Cooperatives can contribute to transforming our current extractive economy into a generative, life-affirming economy.

5. Choosing one of our Strategic Priorities listed on page 5 of this package, describe how our board could help drive that priority.
Foster growth in the local food economy – The Board of Mississippi Market drive this priority by increasing both supply and demand for local foods. For example, the Board might support In of a regional food system based on rooted, local ownership. In terms of ensuring a sufficient supply of locally-grown produce, the Board could partner with other area co-ops to explore how to leverage collective purchasing power in catalyzing innovative and sustainable infrastructure, such as aggregation and processing centers.

6. Describe any professional or volunteer experience you’ve had that would provide insight of skills on the board, including having served on a board or governing committee.
I spent a lot of time re-imagining systems and identifying ways to effectively implement life-affirming change. After two decades as a public health professional at the local, state, national, and international levels, I started my own social enterprise called Bravely Be, which aims to restore wholeness and community among people with the land—the essential foundation to all health. I have served on the Board of Directors at Clouds in Water Zen Center and was a founding member of the Gateway Food Cooperative (East Side of Saint Paul), where I have also served as a Board Member since April 2012. Professionally, I lead multisector collaborations to transform our broken food system with a special focus on Saint Paul’s East Side, where I live and work. I aspire to bring the full breadth and depth of my skills and experiences in public health, small business ownership, and community organizing to serve the Mississippi Market Board of Directors.

7. Tell us about your favorite co-op food, and how do you like to enjoy or share it?
I love kale – especially stir-fried with toasted almonds. Yum!

BOD Streng photoStephen Streng

1. Why are you interested in running for this particular board?
I have considered running for the board ever since I purchased my house two blocks away from the co-op in 2000 (and one of the reasons we bought it was because it was so close to the Market!). Family and other obligations have kept me from running until now, but I always retained my desire to serve my community by helping a pillar of St. Paul’s rejuvenation continue to succeed and benefit the neighborhood and city.

My professional background includes experience in nonprofit marketing and fundraising; as a professional writer and editor; and as an academic researcher on rural land planning, land use, policy, and design issues. Weaving these together has been my training in art and design, and I would be honored to combine the knowledge gained in each of these professional domains with my creative problem-solving skills to enhance and secure the co-op’s future.

2. What challenges will the co-op face in the future? How could the co-op overcome these challenges?
A clear challenge to the co-op is the impending opening of Whole Food’s new store in Saint Paul. I look forward to working with the board and the co-op’s management in determining how we will respond to this formidable competitor. For example, their store will be over twice as large as both our current stores combined. We can’t possibly compete with selection and perhaps even price. So what will be our specialized niche? What can we do better than they possibly could? A key element of our successful response will be capitalizing on, and further strengthening, our committed relationship with the community.

A longer-term challenge is, ironically, the increasing popularity of locally-sourced foods. As more grocery stores stock more local food, its supply will become limited. Unfortunately, farmers can’t respond by just growing more, because development is constantly reducing the supply of local farmland. We may need to explore new roles for the co-op in food production, farm development, and new farmer education.

3. What is your vision for Mississippi Market’s future growth?
If the co-op opens a new store we will have grown into a unique, new stage that may challenge many people’s conception of what a natural foods co-op is and should be. Increasing size often leads institutions to stray from their original, community-based values, and large co-ops in other industries routinely act contrary to our cooperative values. The board is the vital guardian to ensure our growth amplifies our ability to honor our values rather than cause us to comprise them.

4. In your opinion, what is the role of the co-op in the community?
The co-op is one of the vital institutions helping glue us all together into a community. The most immediate way is by bringing like-minded members together to shop for nourishing, sustainably produced food and to support its production. However, the co-op also connects us to farmers and food producers and members of other co-ops to weave together an even larger, stronger community.

5. Choosing one of our Strategic Priorities listed on page 5 of this package, describe how our board could help drive that priority.
Foster growth in the local food economy: this priority fits well into a board’s “big picture” responsibility. Our board can explore with other co-op boards to see if together we can secure for our members a steady supply of affordable, sustainably produced local food.

6. Describe any professional or volunteer experience you’ve had that would provide insight of skills on the board, including having served on a board or governing committee.
The experience I’ve gained in various nonprofit marketing and fundraising/development positions during my current career have given me valuable insight into the financial issues businesses face, particularly in raising capital for expansion. Further, my two early jobs during and after college in member co-ops, including being the assistant produce manager at a natural foods co-op, gave me valuable practical insight into co-ops. I also have experience as a research fellow in the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota. That experience gave me important understanding of the complex and layered issues surrounding how we produce our food.

7. Tell us about your favorite co-op food, and how do you like to enjoy or share it?
The favorite I’m enjoying right now are the Michigan peaches. My wife and I look forward to them all summer. They are wonderful plain, on top of pancakes, or with ice cream, and they taste even better when eaten during a lazy summer meal with my wife and son.