Looking Forward, Looking Back

By Joe Romano,

Marketing Manager

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

— T.S. Eliot

January marks the beginning of a New Year for us here at GreenStar and with it comes both reflection on the past and setting our sights on new beginnings. In most western cultures this month is named after the great Roman god of gates and doors and of beginnings and endings. Janus is most often depicted as a human with two faces, one looking forward and one looking backward. He was worshipped at the beginning of the planting and the harvest seasons, at birth and marriage, and at all the beginnings of important events in a person’s life. Janus also represents the transition between primitive life and civilization and between peace and war, and the growing-up of young people. Essentially a god of human evolution, a circumspect god, Janus is the one who reminds us where we have come from and looks ahead at where we are going.

Looking back, most of us now are very familiar with the story of GreenStar’s humble beginnings as a “grain store.” You have watched as we have evolved from a simple buying club with a tiny number of bulk and grain products that could be picked up in garages and basements to our current GreenStar expression of the cooperative business model and spirit.  We have truly matured as an organization and it is certain that we have worked hard for our growth and evolution as a co-op. Looking forward, there is even more we can do to support our local community.

Looking back at this year in the world, the nation and our own community, we saw a troubling year of economic downturn, clearly caused by the excesses and imbalances inherent in our traditional capitalist business model. As a result, most businesses lost money and many were forced to close. It is important to recognize, as we pass through the door of this new year, that our cooperative business model not only took us through this year safely, but that we exceeded our budgets in both stores and have in fact seen up to twenty percent growth in our Oasis location. We were able to continue hiring and in 2010 we will give our entire staff raises. This has been a boon not only to our staff and member-owners but to other local businesses as well.  It means that hundreds of people and families were able to continue paying their bills and making purchases in our community. Our success also meant that all of our many local vendors were able to keep selling their products at GreenStar even through troubling times. We cannot underestimate the impact that a successful business like ours has on our community. For example, on the tenth of last month, at least thirty-one local businesses took our lead and offered discounts in their stores emulating our successful 10% on the 10th program! At least one business called it a “phenom” in the effort to promote buying local in Ithaca.

Looking forward, many opportunities to enact our cooperative mission and model are presenting themselves and we are poised to expand our vision and our presence in our community so that our cooperative principles can take root in even more ways.

This past year, we achieved a milestone event in America, the election of a man of color to the Presidency of the United States. This can only be seen as a true evolution for a nation born in racism and slavery, an achievement made possible by the work of activists on the ground, those whose names we do not know as well as those whose legacy we celebrate as a nation.

This year, the annual celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will begin on Monday, Jan. 18, at 9 am with a workshop by MLK Community Build at the Women’s Community Building, followed by a luncheon at 11:30 am at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School. This year’s theme will be “Where Do We Go From Here — Chaos or Community?”

GreenStar has long been a part of this celebration; we have served on the celebration committee for many years and every year we donate plenty of food, drink and dessert. More importantly, we see it not as a day off, but as an active day ON where we try to advance Dr. King’s dream in our community. The most visible aspect of this is the fact that we donate 100 percent of our net profits from Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to the ongoing celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in Ithaca. This year we will also be participating in an effort called United Against Hate, a project of the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) Talking Circle.

While America has achieved milestones in some areas, you may be aware of the many acts of racial hatred that still manifest in our own community, most recently, the racist hate messages being left on the answering machine at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC). United Against Hate is a simple but powerful response. It starts with a simple sign, which you will see displayed at both of our stores, that speaks out against the hatred. It continues with you, speaking up to everyone who will listen against these and any other expressions of hate and racism. We will have copies of the sign available at the front desk for you to take for your home, business or vehicle. Looking forward, as Dr. King did, we envision a day when we have truly evolved beyond all forms of hate.

While we are on the subject of saying “no,” there have been many efforts to inform people about the dangers of “hydrofracking” over the last year. This unsafe method of extracting natural gas -- with the attendant groundwater contamination concerns, noise and destruction of our way of life -- has been the topic of much concern in our community. We at GreenStar, as an institution, have taken a stand against “fracking” and our board president has signed a letter on our behalf expressing that the current DEC oversight is not enough to protect our community, the environment and our planet.

Looking back, it was only a year ago when we were settling in with a new General Manager (GM), Bini Reilly. She has steered us through this year admirably. Our staff and Council have both enacted many important changes during her time here. Looking forward, we have begun the process of a GM search and are eager to welcome a new General Manager to GreenStar in the spring.

So I suppose our doors are guarded here at GreenStar, just as Janus guards all doors, listening closely as last year’s words grow faint and awaiting those newer voices that make each end a beginning. 

We at GreenStar wish everyone a healthy, happy and harmonious New Year.


  • 04.10.15

    By Dan Hoffman,
Council Member

    2013 Dan Hoffman12th Moon, Kristen Kaplan, Eric Banford, Susan Beckley, Jessica Rossi and Mark Darling finished the counting in just under four hours.

    412 Total valid envelopes

    21 total invalid = 19- no ID, 1- first of two ballots, 1- no ballot in envelope

    Also = 1- name tag, 5- 2 cent slips, 1- Member Labor Request and two wooden nickles.

    Two thirds vote required to pass.

    Q#1 = PASS

    361 YES,

    12 NO

    Q#2 = FAIL

    222 YES,

    147 NO

    Q#3 = PASS

    311 YES,

    61 NO

    Q#4 = PASS

    331 YES,

    22 NO

    Q#5 = PASS

    340 YES,

    30 NO

    Q#6 = PASS

    366 YES,

    7 NO

    GreenStar member-owners are the only ones who have the power to change the Co-op's bylaws, the organization's most basic and important document. There is an opportunity to do so (or not) during this month — at the Fall Member Meeting, at the stores, or by mail.

    GreenStar's Council has established an ad hoc Bylaws Review Committee, which started meeting again earlier this year, after being inactive for at least two years. Council had referred a couple of issues to the committee, which identified several more on its own. In August, Council voted (unanimously, except in the case of #2, below) to send the committee's six recommended bylaws amendments to the membership for a YES or NO vote on each of the following questions:

    1. Should the Co-op be allowed to use a withdrawing member's refundable equity contribution [which could be up to $90] to pay off any outstanding debt the member has to the Co-op (such as for bad checks)?

    2. Should all Council candidates and members be required to satisfy any requirements associated with operational licenses maintained or sought by the Co-op (such as to sell or serve alcohol)?

    3. Should Council be allowed to conduct closed executive sessions for two additional topics — possible litigation or contract negotiations?

    4. Should the composition of Council's Immediacies Committee be changed to match that described in Council policy, and that of the Executive Planning Committee?

    5. Should the use of gender-specific pronouns (such as "he" or "she") be eliminated in the bylaws?

    6. Should three "clerical errors" made when the bylaws were amended in 2010 be officially corrected?

    Much more information on the proposed amendments, including detailed explanations, pro and con statements and voting instructions, are available in the Fall Member Mailing, which all current members should receive in the mail by October 6. Members can vote up until close of business on Oct. 31 at either store, by mailing in the ballot from the Mailing, or in person at the Fall Member Meeting, on Friday, Oct. 16, at the Space.



Current Job Postings

  • By Alexis Alexander,
Membership Manager

    I have woken to a new day, a day when GreenStar's annual Member Meetings and pancakes are defined as pure elegance and inspiration. Surprised?

    The morning after our Fall Member Meeting, I'm entranced by the experience of last night. I realize how far GreenStar has come over the years, and how integral and essential a partner we are in the wider regional food movement before us. Our roots as a buying club and grain store have matured into a multimillion-dollar community-ba...



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