How do we envision the Three Rivers Market, Knoxville’s Community Food Co-op? For some it is their local grocery. For some it is a place they trust to provide the best local produce, their wellness center and favorite lunch spot. For others it is a community hub that provides an outlet for connection and purpose beyond the store walls. Whatever that vision is, we joined because it added some sense of value to us. I began shopping at Three Rivers Market when I was in college in the 90’s in the old house on Broadway and it has always held a special place in my heart as a place I could trust, a place with purpose, and a place that, I felt, could offer a more holistic model for business and community. Now, many years later, I am one of the newest Board Directors and this past week began my Co-op training. I learned the history of co-operatives, the principles that guide them and the values they uphold. I learned our roles and responsibilities as a Board Director, about Policy Governance, and got an overview of the grocery
I asked myself, what is the Three Rivers Market history? Who were the people that founded it? Do we have photos? Do we celebrate our past in any way? What are the principles and values and how can they shape our work? What history helps us do is understand where we came from so that we may better understand where we are and informs how we move forward. I went in to this training with a general understanding and it made me realize that it wasn’t enough. If I really wanted to help guide our co-op further I really need to learn and understand all of these questions.
Our roles and responsibilities of the Board are to take care of the health of the store. This is primary. We are entrusted to look out for the financial health as well as the health of our reputation with our community. We have a duty of loyalty. Loyalty to our responsibilities, loyalty to our members, and loyalty to the co-op itself. We have a duty of care, we must understand the business, and care for its fiscal health. We have a duty to the laws, bylaws and the Mission of the Three Rivers Market. Through the use of Policy Governance to help guide the process of decision making we are better able as Board Directors to fulfill our roles and responsibilities. This is a democratic system designed to offer stability and oversight to the co-op. We learn how to govern effectively. We strive for a shared understanding of our identity and values so that we may better commit ourselves to the task of learning, developing and operating in the most effective way.
Whatever vision we have for Three rivers Market it is strongest when it is a shared vision that strengthens our community. A co-op can do many things and the potential that it offers to our local health and community can’t be understated. Who are the Board Directors? We are you. We are people that decided that The Three Rivers Market adds enough value to our community that we will devote at least 3 years to helping out in whatever way we can. We hope that we can carry it forward in a manner that inspires you to consider the same in the future. Three Rivers Market is more than a grocery store or a local connection to farmers or a community hub. It is all of these and more. Thank you. – Erin O’Tool, Board Director