By David Durrett – a current intern at GreenStar Food Co+op, David Durrett is a lifelong resident of Ithaca as well as a graduate of Ithaca College. He is a freelance reporter whose work has also appeared in Tompkins Weekly and The Ithaca Voice, among other publications. 

GreenStar Council Member, Pat Sewell

GreenStar Council Member, Pat Sewell

Pat Sewell, a member of GreenStar Food Co+op’s Council as well as GreenStar’s staff, uses his governing knowledge and experience as an employee for the good of the co-op.

When Pat moved to Ithaca in 2004, GreenStar was one of the first places he worked as a member of the  floor staff. Committed to the Co-op, he still holds the position on a substitute basis in addition to his profession as an adjunct professor at Tompkins Cortland Community College.

As a staff member, Pat is responsible for stocking shelves, running the register, cleaning and other tasks. He works at GreenStar’s Collegetown and DeWitt Mall locations, where staff tend to have broader and more loosely defined responsibilities than the main store due to their smaller teams. He believes that it is important that the Co-op’s workers be represented in the organization’s governing body, something he says is unusual for many companies.

As a  business, GreenStar is unique in that it allows up to two seats on the Board of Directors to be filled by staff members. Pat became a staff liaison to  Council’s Governance committee in 2019 and ran for Council in 2020.

“At the end of the day, the workers are one of the most invested groups in the company,” Pat said “They go there and they get paid, but they also get the interests, values, beliefs, and identities tied up with the workplace. It’s really important to have people who are in operations as part of every aspect of the store, not just making it run, but part of the visioning aspect.”

Pat also appreciates GreenStars commitment to paying its workers a living wage and treating them well, being environmentally-friendly, sourcing local products, minimizing waste, low pesticide use and other socially conscious policies, which is why he chose to work at the Co-op.

“I was looking for a business that reflected my values and GreenStar hit all the key points,” Pat said.

Pat is knowledgeable about governance and tries to put that knowledge to use when it comes to procedural issues, such as when executive sessions are necessary or what constitutes a conflict of interest.

“Having a good insight of how the governance structure works and what it’s supposed to achieve makes it really helpful for us to get our job done,” Pat said.

Pat believes that GreenStar is a critical part of the Ithaca community, because money spent at GreenStar stays local and benefits the area.

“GreenStar is always investing in the community,” Pat said. “That’s probably its most important contribution, basically, its unparalleled investment. We hire locally, source locally, sell locally. When dollars are spent at GreenStar, they go to people here; they go to my neighbors.”

Pat said times have been difficult for GreenStar, especially due to the pandemic. The pandemic started around the time GreenStar opened its new store – May 2020 – preventing it from receiving as much publicity as it should have.

“The last few years have been really hard,” Pat said. “They’ve been hard on everyone, they’ve been hard on the store, they’ve been hard on our ability to connect with folks.”

Pat hopes to help GreenStar reconnect with the community and recover from the pandemic’s disruptions to social connections. He said the next few years will see GreenStar deepen its roots in Ithaca to build up structures to make a healthy livable city.

“We’ve all kind of holed up in our own individual houses and became pretty alienated,” Pat said, “We have to work to get that community feel back and to make sure people know we’re here.”