by Stephanie Ricketts, Board Member
Welcome September, and all of fall’s promise! This is one of my favorite months of the year, particularly from a local food standpoint. The harvest is in full tilt, and all of us living here in Wisconsin are lucky to have a bounty of local produce to enjoy. And…welcome back to school, to all of those families and individuals who are sharpening their pencils and packing backpacks with notebooks!
At the August Board meeting we officially seated our new Board members, Ann Hoyt, Gigi Godwin, and Sarah Larson. I am excited to have these thoughtful new minds at the Board table. We also elected officers of the Board, reviewed the 2019-2020 Board calendar, and seated Board members on the various committees that assist the Board in its duties. These include the Policy Committee, which works on drafting and amending policy language for Board approval; the Finance Committee, which dives deep into the Co-op’s financials on a monthly basis; the Board Development Committee. which handles the election process, Board trainings/learning, and Owner outreach; and the Community Reinvestment Fund Committee. technically a General Manager committee, which has up to two Board members participating in the selection process. We’re setting the stage for a new Board, and Fiscal, year!
Speaking of those new Board members, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gigi Godwin for our first “Meet the Board” interview of this new cycle. Learn more about one of your newest Board members below!
Stephanie Ricketts (SR): What was your first memory of Willy Street Co-op?
Gigi Godwin (GG): I first visited the Co-op when it was in its previous location, across the street at the Social Justice Center. I had moved from downtown to the near-east side and really wanted to get out of my frozen pizza rut and teach myself to cook. The bulk aisle was my mainstay—rice, beans, bulgur, lentils. Shopping at the Co-op gave me a sense of community, and it also opened the door to meeting a lot of interesting people.
SR: How did you first learn about cooperatives, and what was the first co-op you joined?
GG: My first experience at a Co-op was working at Weaver Street Market in Carrboro, NC, where I lived for a year. I was a wee 20-year-old, who worked in the deli kitchen making huge batches of tabouli and mock eggsalad before I knew bulgur wheat and tofu even were! Here in Madison, I first joined Mifflin Street Co-op and I also volunteered in their produce department, and it was a lot of fun.
SR: What do you rely on Willy Street Co-op for?
GG: Of course, food! It’s also about the experience though… in my candidate statement I wrote about wanting everyone to feel welcome when they come into the Co-op. After all these years, I feel like walking into Willy Street Co-op is like walking into my own cooperative version of Cheers. I can talk and connect with anyone in the store— not just people who work there, but other Owners. You’re at the salad bar and you just find yourself talking to someone. It’s a very welcoming environment for me, and I look forward to going there so much. I want everyone to feel as welcome as I do. We’re all in this together.
Part of why I wanted to be more involved in the Co-op and help out behind the scenes is because the Co-op has given me so much on a personal level. I want to give back.
SR: What are your top three favorite Willy Street Co-op foods?
GG: The ripe Hass avocados!
The Co-op’s summer lemon iced tea. I can’t live without it. I drink two every morning!
The salad bar. I love it. It’s so well stocked. I’m so impressed by how well the staff keeps it up, and they rotate exciting options like individual falafel balls, Bunky’s Hummus, kimchi, Deli salads, etc. It’s a good chance to try new things as well.
SR: Do you have any favorite food traditions?
GG: Being a CSA member has taught me to cook with the seasons. I’m a self-taught cook. Cookbooks give me good ideas, and I love taking the box of produce and supplementing it with produce from the Co-op.
Cooking with the seasons also means football is starting! That means grilled brats, chili, taco salad, and curry (I can’t live without making curry). It’s a good way to use up the bountiful vegetables. Willy East carries Maya Kaimal Indian Simmer Sauces, and I am loving the Madras Curry Blend with coconut cream, urad dal lentils, tomato paste, and curry leaves.
SR: Besides being a Willy Street Co-op Board member, what else do you like to do with your time?
GG: I love working out, going to the gym! Strength training really puts a smile on my face, helps reduce my stress, and makes me feel unstoppable.
I love to read. I used to be pretty much only into biographies, but I like more mysteries now too.
I love nature walks. I enjoy identifying wildflowers, butterflies, other plants and insects. I’m a four seasons person, and really love being outside.
And… of course, cooking!
SR: What are you most excited about in being a new Board member, and what do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges the Co-op will face over the next few years?
GG: I attended a lot of Board meetings before officially throwing my hat in the ring. I wanted to make sure it was a good fit. I definitely think it will be a good fit. I can’t wait to be a part of this dynamic group and be behind the scenes at the Co-op. There is so much going on, so many pieces to the cooperative puzzle. I can’t wait to get in there and be a part of it. There’s a lot to learn! I’m hoping to serve on the Board Development Committee, especially to explore how to encourage better candidate turnout in future elections.
I also hope to be a part of that committee because I want people to feel welcome, and know that anyone can run for the Board. That message needs to get across even more. If you’ve got self-doubt, put it out of your mind and go for it!
As for challenges, at Board Orientation we heard from Paige Wickline (Finance Director) about just how tight the grocery business is. Learning about slim profits, percentages of margin, etc. has been so illuminating. It’s a very competitive industry, especially if the products are farm-friendly, organic, etc. I want all three locations to thrive. I know there’s interest in a fourth store, and I don’t think it’s viable now. I want the Co-op to someday explore an option to move into an area that is reaching out to people who aren’t just in Dane County. But if we expand, we still need to thrive as we are now. There’s always more competition moving into the area.
SR: Is there anything else you’d like our Owners to know?
GG: In my candidate statement I did talk about affordability. When I was talking to people I know, and also people I’m just acquaintances with, there were many people who don’t see the Co-op as an affordable option. That’s something I want to work on. I’ve been through times of food insecurity myself, and my experience serving on the Access Discount Committee for two years also motivated me to run for the Board. I want people to know that the Co-op is an option, even if you’re on a tight budget. I don’t want affordability to be an issue that prevents someone from becoming an Owner.