Rosemary Fifield

My association with the Hanover Co-op began in 1974 as a shopper. Through subsequent years I became a member, a vendor of herbs and bakery, and, in 1993, a full-time employee of the Co-op’s Education Department. I worked for the Co-op for 22 years, 17 of them as Director of Education and Member Services.
 
During those years, I learned how important this co-op is to a multitude of people and organizations beyond providing the quality products and services we all depend on. As a cooperative, ours is a shining example of what people can achieve when they work together to accomplish something they couldn’t do on their own. As a business, it employs hundreds of our neighbors and friends and provides a market for local farmers, growers, bakers, and other producers. It supports the community through charitable donations, educational programs, sponsorships, and participation in events. It works to improve our environment through its practices and services. It is more than just a grocery store.
 
The Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society is the second oldest food cooperative in the United States, dating back to 1936. Throughout its history, it has contributed to the greater cooperative movement, supporting not only its fellow food co-ops, but also credit unions and other cooperative businesses. It has been a leader among food co-ops, an encouraging example for younger organizations that have looked to us for inspiration. Its employees and board members have contributed time and energy to make other co-ops a success.
 
Our co-op is important to many, and I would like to serve on its Board of Directors to help ensure that it continues to thrive. I have an insider’s knowledge of how things work, as well as a member/shopper’s perspective on what could be better. In retirement I have served on two Co-op committees, allowing me to remain involved while achieving some distance from operations. With experience on the boards of several non-profits as well as my town’s school board, I understand and appreciate both the commitment and the opportunity that serving on this board presents.
 

Candidate Questions

How should our Co-op go about educating others about health and wellness issues pertaining to products sold?  In answering this, I’m assuming the products referred to are food and not those sold in the Health and Beauty Aids department. Federal law defines how information on supplements, etc. can be given. Educating others about health and wellness issues pertaining to food products assumes that others wish to be educated on those issues. Not all shoppers do. We must respect that by making sure that the information is offered in a way that is not intrusive and that allows for customer choice. Classes, events, and in-store demos give shoppers the opportunity to engage—or not—with knowledgeable individuals. Displays, brochures, blogs, and information shared on social media allow interested customers to delve further into topics of their choice. Equally important are well-informed employees because they have daily personal contact with shoppers and are immediately available to answer questions. In the age of the internet there is more misinformation than ever before, and having knowledgeable staff who can help people sort out the facts is important. Access to the Co-op’s dietitian for both employees and shoppers is a real service to those who want to know more about health and wellness as it pertains to food products. Health and wellness signage posted near products is least effective. It contributes to clutter and has a history of irritating some customers who feel they are being chided for their choices. With a diverse membership, it’s important to remember that all should feel that this is their co-op and that they can shop in a welcoming atmosphere that meets their needs.

How do you stay active within your community? I have served on the Thetford School Board, as well as on the boards of the Upper Valley Business and Education Partnership (UVBEP) and Health Connections, a non-profit devoted to reducing substance abuse, especially among young people. For several years, I served on the board of the Cooperative Development Institute, an organization working with co-ops of all types across New England and New York, and more recently on our co-op’s nominating committee for the 2016 election and this year’s Hanover Cooperative Community Fund committee.

What experience do you have working in a group setting where differing or opposing viewpoints are often expressed? I was a member of the Thetford School Board in the early 1990s and quickly became the chairperson as the only moderate on an otherwise deeply divided board. Radically slashing the school budget was a major goal for two of five board members. Community members on both sides of the issue, including the Thetford Alliance of Taxpayers and concerned parents, attended our meetings in droves. As Chair, it was my role to conduct civil meetings and keep them on point, often in the face of interruptions and vitriol, while giving people equal opportunity to be heard. I learned a lot about remaining open-minded and cognizant of underlying issues that can affect why people feel the way they do and how they express themselves. Overall, mutual respect and the ability to listen are crucial.

 
  

 Nourish. Cultivate. Cooperate.

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