March Board Reflection

By: Juanita Rice


Are you aware of our Co-op Principles? I was reminded of them as I laid out “news and views” that reflect activity at Open Harvest in February and March.



During Owner Appreciation Week, Board Members took turns hanging out in the store and greeting shoppers—owners and non-owners alike. It was wonderful to meet you, listen to you, and give you the best answers we had. We were inspired: you are very cool. This is why we serve on the board. It’s a load of work, but we believe in the store, and believe in its cooperative ownership and its principles. You are the real directors because we represent you. Your main question was “Where is Open Harvest moving to? ” We are SO CLOSE to finalizing a new location but our lips are sealed until it’s a done deal. Stay tuned for an announcement and celebration. It’s real. It’s happening.


Thank you all for shopping at Open Harvest. It’s not just good principles, it’s smart to invest in the local economy, the natural food production business, and your health. Together, we can avoid cruelty to the earth itself. The biggest surprise in recent science is that soil is literally alive. It has a biome, like humans. It can be disrupted by chemical poisons and by continuous disturbance. Earth life suffers from clear-cut forests and debased “farmland,” what a researcher in the forties called “suicide agriculture.” In the 21st Century, some would even call it “genocide agriculture.” It’s an economy of extraction that can make farmers destitute and turn land that has been productive for centuries into wasteland “desertification”. The planet is complaining. You are responding, by supporting alternative and regenerative practices through your shopping choices. You may sometimes feel powerless, but your shopping dollars can be votes for peace and health. You have the choice.


As another step toward social justice, and open membership, on February 24th, new staff and directors joined in a two-hour Cultural Inclusion Workshop led by Nicholette Seigfreid of Inclusive Communities. This workshop illuminated how unintentional signs of bias tend to alienate potential members and shoppers. We examined implicit bias, intention vs impact of communication, microaggressions, and stereotypes, looking at the way misunderstandings lead to hostility and needless suffering over “difference.” We also celebrated a February public lecture with Abbi Swatsworth, director of OutNebraska, which acts to protect the safety, wellbeing, and civil rights of Nebraska LGBTQ(A)+ residents.


At our monthly business meeting on March 2nd, we began using a new budget/financial tracking dashboard that is simpler to understand, provides a clear picture, and is more streamlined to update. With big changes on the horizon, that’s good news for our General Manager, who has one foot in store management and the other foot in the relocation process. Plans are in place for organizational continuity, thanks to her, and to the staff (who are also riding a moving train). Amid all this change, they—and we, the Board of Directors—know we must keep track of store stability. By the way, Members can attend meetings and get a taste of this reviewing process if you are interested.


Here are a few of the positive recent developments related to the Relocation Project: we hired Ashley Kobza as Campaign Coordinator for our Owner Investment Campaign. We are applying for a big grant with letters of support from project stakeholders. Finally, you, the members, really stepped up: Approximately forty (40) of you came forward and expressed interest in volunteering to help fundraise. For those of us working behind the scenes, it’s inspiring and invigorating to receive this response. This is going to succeed! We are truly a cooperative! We’ve already began the first trainings for campaign work on February 19th and March 8th, with more to come. Sign-up to volunteer on our Owner Investment Campaign today!


Life at Open Harvest Coop Grocery has been busy and eventful with much good news to share, but among recent events are two terrible fires that struck our fellow members and producers. You have probably heard about the fire at Shadow Brook Farm and Dutch Girl Creamery. The creamery building was gutted, which also contained $8,000 worth of the seeds for spring planting, computers with important records, and –worst of all—badly injured Ian Richmond who handles the vegetable growing, while Kevin Loth and Charuth Van Beuzekom manage the goats and dairy. A week earlier fire struck the nearby home of Alene Swinehart, a longtime OH supporter and former Board Member. She made her house a neighborhood resource, referred to as the “Sage House.” Yoga and meditation groups met there regularly, and small business start-ups called it home. Luckily, no one was injured, but it is a hurtful loss to the community. The Board donated an OH gift card towards both causes, in earnest recognition of Alene and crew at Shadowbrook Farm. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” Links are provided below for both GoFundMe Campaigns. We encourage everyone to give what they can.


This update reflects our collective work in February and conversation at our March Board Meeting. It’s a good reminder of why we do this work, what inspires and what encourages us. Environment. Health. Good food. People. Society. Principles.


We hope you stick around for the ride. Join us in resolution.


In cooperation,
Juanita Rice
Board Member



  1. Principles are our 7 Cooperative Principles: principles/
  2. Ian Richmond (GoFundMe Campaign); Alene Swinehart;
  3. Examples of Resources from Inclusive Communities, courtesy of Nicholette Siegfried.
    1. Implicit bias.  video: article:
    2. video:
    3. video:
    4. articles: