By Michelle Engelman Berns of Long Beach Grocery Co-op in California
A Valentine for Up & Coming food co-op conference
“Up and Coming gave me the first hand glimpse into the heart of a co-op; which is its people.”
My history with co-ops, up to my move to Long Beach 3 years ago, was as an owner/member of North Coast op in Eureka, CA for the last 12 years. So when I heard that Long Beach was striving to build a new co-op here, I contacted Damon Lawrence and said I’m all in.
Fast forward to volunteering for events, and then being asked to be on the Start Up Board of Directors. Long Beach Grocery Co-op (LBGC) also received the honor of receiving one the $10,000 Challenge Grant from the Food Co-op Initiate and the Bower Fund; which included a trip to the 2015 Up and Coming Conference in Bloomington, Indiana.
One of my first experiences happened before the conference even started. I had taken the red-eye from Los Angeles and got in around 4:30 a.m. and was waiting for a shuttle to take the hour-long drive to Bloomington. I happened to see another traveler sitting at the bench close to the departure area. It was chilly and raining and I was pretty tired, when I noticed the man reading a novel. After sitting a few minutes at the cold concrete table, I asked the gentleman if he was also, by chance, going to the food co-op conference.When he said he was, an immediate kinship was formed.
You see, I know many of you understand the deep river of understanding that is at the heart of the cooperative experience. I knew it first as a customer, and now and an owner member and active learner of the inside workings of what it means to bring a start-up co-op grocery store to life. The gentleman happened to be Dave Gutknecht; the long time editor of Cooperative Network Magazine. During the course of the conference, He allowed me to pick his co-op brain, we talked about fiction, and most importantly had deep conversations about what friendship within the co-op community means.
Up and Coming gave me the first hand glimpse into the heart of a co-op; which is it’s people. I am very excited to attend this years conference, and to continue my personal co-op education . I am proud of my part in the continuing volunteer co-op commitment to the bring people of Long Beach and surrounding southern California areas a store that will embrace all the Cooperative principles; and the opportunity to bring better health, community, food justice, and education with LBGC.
FCI: Why We Like This: Because we love helping to bring Up & Coming conference to all startups, and seeing you all there! If you have not signed up yet, the Early Bird Discount applies through 2/17/2017. REGISTER NOW!