Report from the board

Dear Karma Community, 

I hope this message finds each of you in good health and good spirits amidst these unprecedented times. The board of directors wishes to sincerely thank you for your continued displays of support, and for sharing your ideas and feedback. Your notes of thanks to staff, offers to deliver groceries to our vulnerable seniors and members in quarantine, and so much more, have been beautiful reminders of how special our Karma community is, and I’m immensely grateful to be part of it. 

To our staff — thank you! We recognize the extraordinary efforts you are making to keep Karma operational, and we hope that we are doing our part in helping you feel safe each time you come to work. 

The board of directors met last night and reviewed our COVID protocols and response, and we want to share a few reminders and updates. 

We know that many of you are eager to help the co-op, and member labour has been temporarily paused. We have created a task force to review the needs of the co-op throughout COVID, and we hope to have member labour creatively redeployed in June. Once the task force has had the opportunity to review our member labour system, members will have the option to take on member labour or move to percentage mark-up or flat fee.

The board of directors, in cooperation with our newly formed Marketing & Communications Committee and the Food Issues Committee, are seeking member input to help update co-op policies, and create a vision for the future of our store. We hope that each of you will take time to provide us with feedback so that we can adapt and improve for you. Please watch for an email with the survey later this month. 

Finally, a quick update on the store’s COVID-19 protocols.Here is what we are doing for you:

  • Sanitizing the check out between each transaction
  • Washing scoops after each use so that we can continue to offer dry bulk
  • Cleaning all high-use surfaces frequently, including door handles, scales, bulk feed handles, registers, etc
  • Vulnerable shoppers’ hour at the start of each day for seniors and immunocompromised members, 11 am to noon
  • Phone/E-mail orders for members who are not able to come into the store 

We are asking you to:

  • Wash your hands before entering the store
  • Practice physical distancing while in the store
  • Wear a mask to reduce the risk of unknowingly transmitting the virus to anyone in our small community

Thank you for your continued support of Karma, and we look forward to meeting or speaking with you soon. 

Sincerely,
Kristy van Beek, Karma President

Becoming an unofficial ambassador for Karma

Happy February, fellow Karma members and welcome prospective members!

For the past year and a half or so, you may have noticed that many new people are coming in to Karma for the first time. Last year alone, over 600 new people came and shopped at our food store, which is fantastic as we need a steady stream of new members to be sustainable. The challenge we face as a community is that many of those new shoppers only came once, and only 10% became members.

Last year, as I started to understand just how many new people were trying Karma for the first time, I began introducing myself to shoppers who looked like they might appreciate some friendly help in navigating our store. Of course, I have made mistakes, but no harm done. I am sure you may also have noticed someone staring at our bulk bins or not sure where to turn to find something on their shopping list, and wondered if it was their first visit.

I have helped people find things on their shopping list or navigate our up cycled containers area, and given many impromptu tours of my favourites, including the admittedly somewhat hidden bulk olives or dark-grade maple syrup.  Just last weekend, I met a lovely young couple with a 15-month-old baby, and it was their first visit to Karma! I welcomed them and gave them a bit of an orienting tour of the store, and I hope they had an excellent first visit to Karma. They would be great members as they want to buy high quality food for their new family, and life-changing moments, like becoming a parent or moving into the neighbourhood, are the best times to establish new habits like shopping at our food co-op. I hope they felt welcomed into our Karma community, and come back!

This is my call to action for all of us members. Let’s make an effort so people’s first experiences of Karma and our community are the best they can be. I think we as members could do so much more to assist visitors to Karma to ensure they have a wonderful, warm and welcoming experience in our food co-op, so many more of these visitors come back again!

Right now, I believe visitors to Karma are essentially left to figure things out alone, and this likely contributes to some disappointing introductory experiences. As a food co-operative and a community, I believe we should all take more responsibility in guaranteeing that our visitors have an excellent first experience that encourages them to come again, to learn more about Karma, and to become new members.

Please consider becoming an unofficial ambassador for Karma when you are in the store, and help make someone’s first shopping experience a pleasure.

Andrea Dawber

Karma Vice President

 

2019–2020 Board Orientation & Planning Days in November

Hello from your new 2019–2020 Board of Directors! At the recent AGM, Karma members elected a new board and, for the first time in many years, we have a full complement of 10 directors! It was great to see such interest in the board and engagement in the co-op. Several directors are continuing two-year terms but to get all the new members up to speed, Karma’s President, Kristy van Beek, organized two days of board orientation and planning that was also open to any interested Karma committee members.

On behalf of all of us attending, I would like to thank Kristy for organizing and facilitating two great days of board orientation, governance training, engaging conversations, and planning. Our new Board of Directors and several committee members came together to learn about our new roles and to identify the work we need to accomplish in the year ahead.

On Saturday, November 16, 2019, we explored various aspects of board governance and our roles and responsibilities, identifying gaps in policy/practice as we proceeded. Later that day, Dan Kleiman, household member and regulatory litigator, spoke about Karma’s duties and obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. He shared a few legal stories about workplace accidents and identified common safety needs for workplaces like Karma to protect its staff and member volunteers.

On Sunday, November 24, we started the day with a comprehensive history of Karma by Howard Kaplan, who became a member in Karma’s inaugural year of 1972! We all greatly benefited from Howard’s excellent memory and oral history telling, which was captured on video for our future records. Kristy then facilitated a full day of workshops to dig into Karma’s Why, How, What, and we performed an analysis of Karma’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Over the course of the two days, we identified a list of 20+ issues to address over the coming year. Our next step is to solicit further feedback from staff to help us prioritize tasks, including items that can be addressed quickly and easily.

Next month, the board will be seeking member participation on 2 to 3 priority projects. In the upcoming e-Chronicle, we will announce the member expertise and skills we seek to move these special projects forward. On behalf of Karma’s new board, I welcome your questions and feedback, and invite your active participation in our food co-op. After all, the co-op exists to serve its members, and we’d love to hear your view of what we’re doing well, the areas to improve on, or any new ideas you may have. You can contact us at board_list@karmacoop.org.

For more information on our new board members, please see our Board of Directors page on the website.

Submitted by Andrea Dawber

Report from the board

It’s easy to tell Fall has arrived, now that honeynut winter squash have once again appeared at Karma, and then disappeared into shopping baskets just as quickly! Local tomatoes are still ripening but the air is starting to get a bit crisp, and it’s the perfect time to reconnect with community, friends and neighbours.

The Karma AGM is one place to do this! Monday, October 28, 6:30pm at the Friends’ House will be our yearly gathering full of friends, snacks, hot beverages, Karma updates and other business. All members are encouraged to participate!

Thoughts about joining the Board? It’s a great opportunity to develop and share skills, and organize with community-minded, supportive folks. We are recruiting directors and would love to chat with you about it! Email board@karmacoop.org or read here to learn more about the duties of the Karma Board of Directors. While all skills are welcomed, in particular, we are looking for members with expertise in law, building/construction, sales, accounting, and HR.

We look forward to seeing you at the AGM!

Your Board

 

Recruiting for Karma’s Board of Directors

As many of you know, Karma is lead by a volunteer board of directors. This is a wonderful opportunity to shape the future of your food co-op.

Karma needs to fill seven positions on its board at the co-op’s Annual General Meeting later this month. Ideally we would see several two year positions be filled to ensure smooth board transitions every year, and some one year terms for those who are eager to work on special projects, and contribute valuable direction and guidance to the co-op.

This year, the board will begin the strategic work of looking back at Karma’s significant accomplishments to date and looking forward to assess the future needs of the organization as it approaches its 50th anniversary in 2022.

All skills are welcomed! In particular we are looking for members with expertise in Business/Organizational Management, Financial Management, Board Secretary, HR expertise, Legal expertise, Engineering/Construction expertise, and Real Estate expertise. New board members will receive training.

This is one of the best ways to make a difference and help shape the community at Karma Co-op, and you will earn 6-10 member labour hours per month.

Should you have any questions about becoming a board member, please feel free to contact Kristy van Beek at president@karmacoop.org.

I look forward to working with you!

 

 

Report from the board

Greetings Karma Owners!

It was exactly a year ago this month that I first discovered a hidden gem, our amazing little food store. 

I came to Karma initially, after watching videos by YouTuber, Fully Raw Kristina, on my quest to test out a raw vegan diet (diet result, #fail). In one video, Kristina takes a trip to her local food co-op, and I immediately wondered, “Why don’t I shop in a food co-op?” You see, I live in a co-op, and as such, I already shared the values which are innate to the fabric of many co-ops: community, responsibility, democracy, connection, co-operation. In just over a month, I attended an introductory orientation, joined as a member, ran for the board, attended my first AGM, and was elected. In just one short year I have learned so much about Karma — certainly more than I’d ever anticipated! And, I’m finally beginning to feel like I have a sense of what’s going on.

Let’s start with some of thing things that happened in July — the good, the bad, and the ugly

I’ll first clear up the bad, and the ugly. The bad news is that the store suffered two floods in the month of July, in addition to one in May. Our staff, and in particular our general manager, Talia, have been phenomenal and working tirelessly to minimize the impact of this. A huge thanks for all of your extra efforts! It seems some considerable repairs will be needed (that’s the ugly). The Building Committee have been working together with Talia to research our options. We will update members at our upcoming AGM on what work was done, and what costs were incurred. Please be patient, as there will be repairs underway this month.

The good (great!) this month was our visit from Jon Steinman — member-owner and former board member of Canada’s largest food co-op, The Kootenay Co-op in British Columbia, producer and host of the Deconstructing Dinner podcast, and author of Grocery Story: The Promise of Food Co-ops in the Age of Grocery Giants. Jon gave a great talk to approximately 60 people, where he shared the importance of food stores like ours. Food, as Jon reminded us, is a basic human necessity. We all inherently know this to be true, and, where we live, we are lucky enough to be able to easily forget and even take our access to food for granted. And yet, as basic a need as food is, most Canadians (roughly 81%) purchase their groceries from one of the top five Canadian grocers, who provide little to no information about where the food comes from, what went into its production, or who produced it. Consumers also have no control or influence over the food system — the grocers primarily dictate the producer’s standards and price and shape the competitive landscape, leaving small producers virtually unable to compete. One of the greatest benefits (joys?) of being a member of Karma, is that we too are owners of our co-op, and we can access food that has been vetted to ensure that our products meet the standards of our members, our producers receive equitable compensation for the products they supply, and smaller producers have a market for their products. To learn more, pick up a copy of Jon’s book next time you’re in the store. You can also follow Jon on Twitter (@Grocery_Story) or Instagram (@jonsteinman_grocerystory). 

On the horizon we have our next Annual General Meeting and election of new members to our board of directors. As owners of our co-op, it is vital that we attend to not only ensure a future for our co-op, but also to help shape it. I understand that our meetings usually fall on the first Monday following Thanksgiving weekend; however, since that is the date of our upcoming federal election, the date, and possibly the venue, will have to be shifted slightly this year. Please keep an eye out for a Save The Date coming soon announcing more details of this year’s meeting, and plan to attend. I am also putting a call out to you now to please consider running for a spot on the board. Currently, we are functioning with a board which is about half the size of what would be considered ideal. As you can imagine, this makes it challenging to truly thrive as an organization. Our board, our committees, our manager, our staff, and I’m sure many of you have amazing ideas to make Karma even better — but we can’t do it without you. I would ask you to think about what the future of Karma means to you, and if it’s in your heart to do so, please consider joining us next year so that we can continue to enjoy our special gem. 

Wishing you all the very best as you soak up these beautiful days of summer. 

Sincerely, 

Kristy van Beek

PS. I’d love to hear from you! Reach me on Twitter (@kikilynnrocks), or by email, president@karmacoop.org

Strategy and Planning Committee

Left to right: Reece Steinberg (Board Liaison), Sarah Bradley (Chair), Karen Fliess, Paul DeCampo

This committee first came together as part of a Strategic Planning initiative. The work began over the summer of 2018 with analysis of a series of surveys and food industry reports. It is possible that since Karma’s Mission and Core Values are well established, a formal Strategic Plan process may not be necessary.
This committee will work with the board and the General Manager to determine our course of action. Currently, we envision that our work will focus on market and internal analysis, leading to suggested strategies and tactics for retaining and building membership. We are aligned with the General Manager’s advice that we engage in additional analysis of the member surveys and expand the research to include input from staff. We are not looking for new committee members at this time, but may invite participation as our mandate comes into focus.

submitted by Paul DeCampo, on behalf of the Strategy and Planning Committee

2018 – 2019 Board of Directors

Kristy van Beek, President

Kristy van Beek comes to Karma with 13 years of retail expertise, having worked with many professional retail skin care brands. Kristy is known professionally for having strong skills in sales, marketing, training, merchandising, and strategic business planning. 
In her spare time, Kristy dedicates her time to her two rescue dogs, and many volunteer organizations including Karma, METTA Housing Cooperative, Canadian Ski Patrol, Redemption Paws, and vegan outreach activities. 


Jocelynn Rodrigues, Vice President

Hey. My name is Jocelynn and my pronouns are they/them.

I have been a Karma member since moving to Tkaronto in 2017. Collaboration and cooperation are my jam. What I love about co-ops is that they are vibrant, resilient, and deeply rooted in/informed by community.

The Dish With One Spoon Wampum belt, a covenant between the Haudenosaunee and the Anishnaabe to peaceably share the Land and nature’s gifts, espouses deep cooperativism and I reflect on what it might mean to be a food co-op on these lands. How might we uphold and strengthen this covenant, together? I seek to engage with what it means to live and do work as a settler upon the traditional and contemporary unceded territories of the Haudenosaunee (Huron-Wendat, Seneca), Ojibwe (Mississaugas of the Credit river) and Métis peoples. I give thanks to the many Indigenous communities throughout the world who have brought forth and continue to steward cooperative energy since time immemorial. Chi Miigwetch. I am equally grateful to the many visionary African Americans who demonstrated, and continue to do so, the loving and liberatory nature of cooperatives. Check out Jessica Gordon Nemhard’s foundational work and book Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice. I exist in the space I do today because of all those who held space before me. And for that, I am deeply grateful and perpetually inspired.

I am passionate about life, nature, vibrational living, and the brilliantly deep interconnectedness within and beyond this planet. I bring an eclectic mix of skills from accounting, to social work, to Reiki, to Permaculture (recognizing and honouring the contemporary and traditional Indigenous wisdoms that these teachings stem from), and beyond. I love to cook and eat plant-based foods, brew kombucha, laugh, play soccer, smell soil, connect and learn from plants, sing, create music, and dance in all the ways. I am into DIY vibes and repairing/up-cycling objects; founding the Vancouver Fix-It Collective in 2015, and I make my own household products, among other things. Nature and the cosmos are my teacher. I am continually inspired by, and in awe of, nature and the built-in abundance that it operates from and I wonder how we can translate this abundance into our experience in this now moment – particularly within co-ops. I currently work as a Reiki energy healer, holding space for folks to remember who they have always been. Each day I continue to dive deeper into remembering who I am, and why I am here. It is a journey of love. I am thankful to all those who came before me (and will continue after me) to co-create Karma into what it is – thank-you to everyone – your efforts inspire me. I am excited to serve on the Karma Board and I look forward to more collaborating. Come say hi!


Rosemary Frei, Secretary

Rosemary has a BSc in agriculture from the University of Alberta and an MSc in molecular biology from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary She retired in 2016 from a long career as a medical journalist and pivoted to become a full-time volunteer, activist and journalist. Her articles appear in outlets ranging from Rabble.ca to BoingBoing.com. She does Kundalini yoga regularly to keep up her joy quotient. Rosemary has served on boards for other organizations ranging from the Canadian Science Writers’ Association to the Wilderness Adventurers of Ontario. She joined Karma Coop in January 2018 and looks forward to contributing to Karma’s double-stranded DNA of strengthening both social consciousness and food security.


Donald Altman, Treasurer

I first joined a food co-op store – Don Vale (Karma II) – in the fall of 1976. Very early on I became involved in the volunteer management of the co-op which has been the pattern for all my involvements. Then, when it folded, I joined Bain Food Co-op around 1980; and when it folded, I joined Karma around 1986 or so. As well, I was amongst a group which tried to start a supermarket co-op in the Regent Park area of Toronto in the early 1980’s. I have taken a leadership role – mostly treasurer – in all these organizations. At Karma Food Co-op I have been a board member and treasurer, and I have been on the Finance Committee continuously since 1991. Most recently I was the Finance Committee Chair.

At the ONFC, trade name of the OFFCC (Ontario Federation of Food Co-operatives and Clubs, Inc.), I have been on the finance committee since 1979 serving as member, treasurer and mostly as chair. I have also served several terms on the board.  

I also have many years’ experience on the boards of other co-operatives and credit union including what is now Alterna Savings and Credit Union, the Worker Ownership Development Foundation, the Church Isabella Residents Co-operative, and The Co-operators Group Limited. I have a lifetime achievement award from the Ontario Co-operative Association, am a life member of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto, and a 25-year achievement award from the Ontario credit union system. I also have been awarded the Gary Gillam Award for social responsibility from the credit union system.   I passionately believe that co-operation is the business model between capitalism and state socialism that provides the best alternate model for people involvement and the control and the distribution of surplus. I want to change the system, and I do that by volunteering and supporting co-operative organizations. Karma is one of these organizations.


Reece Steinberg, Strategic Planning

Reece is a college librarian, winter squash enthusiast, amateur cabin-builder, occasional advice columnist, and several-times-weekly shopper at Karma. He joined the Co-op as a working member shortly after moving to Toronto in 2015, and has participated in store cash and opening, outreach, events, strategic planning, inventory and other activities. As Planning Secretary, he is interested in working with other members and staff to build upon Karma’s strengths, focusing on effective strategies for keeping Karma a sustainable and community-minded cooperative with a solid future.


Lindsey Shorser, Technology Secretary

Lindsey is a sessional instructor at the University of Toronto, an avid cyclist, and amateur drummer. Since joining Karma last year, she has enjoyed using Karma’s products to make sourdoughs and fermented vegetable dishes. Her previous board experience includes various university-based organizations and committees of the Canadian Mathematics Society. She has also been involved with non-profits such as Ve’ahavta, the Daily Bread Food Bank, and the Kensington Market-based Who’s Emma Collective. Currently, Lindsey is serving as Technology Secretary on the Karma Board of Directors and coordinating the website redesign project.


Tom Smarda, Director

Tom Smarda spent ten years during the ’70s hitch-hiking around North America, playing music from the Yukon to Guatemala, from the east coast to the west coast, in Canada, as well as the United States. Exposed to many cultures, witnessing the ongoing destruction of the Earth, hand-in-hand with increasing poverty and injustice, inspired him to write songs that hopefully can constructively and compassionately address some important universal concerns. He believes that we can house, clothe and feed one another without destroying the Earth in the process for future generations.


Jocelynn Rodrigues

Vice President, 2018-2019 Board of Directors

Hey. My name is Jocelynn and my pronouns are they/them.

I have been a Karma member since moving to Tkaronto in 2017. Collaboration and cooperation are my jam. What I love about co-ops is that they are vibrant, resilient, and deeply rooted in/informed by community.

The Dish With One Spoon Wampum belt, a covenant between the Haudenosaunee and the Anishnaabe to peaceably share the Land and nature’s gifts, espouses deep cooperativism and I reflect on what it might mean to be a food co-op on these lands. How might we uphold and strengthen this covenant, together? I seek to engage with what it means to live and do work as a settler upon the traditional and contemporary unceded territories of the Haudenosaunee (Huron-Wendat, Seneca), Ojibwe (Mississaugas of the Credit river) and Métis peoples. I give thanks to the many Indigenous communities throughout the world who have brought forth and continue to steward cooperative energy since time immemorial. Chi Miigwetch. I am equally grateful to the many visionary African Americans who demonstrated, and continue to do so, the loving and liberatory nature of cooperatives. Check out Jessica Gordon Nemhard’s foundational work and book Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice. I exist in the space I do today because of all those who held space before me. And for that, I am deeply grateful and perpetually inspired.

I am passionate about life, nature, vibrational living, and the brilliantly deep interconnectedness within and beyond this planet. I bring an eclectic mix of skills from accounting, to social work, to Reiki, to Permaculture (recognizing and honouring the contemporary and traditional Indigenous wisdoms that these teachings stem from), and beyond. I love to cook and eat plant-based foods, brew kombucha, laugh, play soccer, smell soil, connect and learn from plants, sing, create music, and dance in all the ways. I am into DIY vibes and repairing/up-cycling objects; founding the Vancouver Fix-It Collective in 2015, and I make my own household products, among other things. Nature and the cosmos are my teacher. I am continually inspired by, and in awe of, nature and the built-in abundance that it operates from and I wonder how we can translate this abundance into our experience in this now moment – particularly within co-ops. I currently work as a Reiki energy healer, holding space for folks to remember who they have always been. Each day I continue to dive deeper into remembering who I am, and why I am here. It is a journey of love. I am thankful to all those who came before me (and will continue after me) to co-create Karma into what it is – thank-you to everyone – your efforts inspire me. I am excited to serve on the Karma Board and I look forward to more collaborating. Come say hi!

Report from the Board of Directors—January 2018

There were a lot of spirited conversations at this past year’s Annual General Meeting. It was my first AGM and what clearly resonated with me is how deeply members love and are dedicated to Karma. There was a lively discussion around Karma’s financials and a presentation by the Co-op’s new auditor, Thomas Kriens, of Kriens-LaRose. Karma continues to see a decline in sales although the rate of decline is slowing. The Co-op still needs to see sales growth for sustained health. Membership is also down relative to last year, but work is being done to more accurately track memberships and how/where new members are learning about the Co-op. These are both consistent themes in discussing Karma’s movement going forward. With the onset of Amazon purchasing Whole Foods, the challenge becomes how small specialty food retailers remain competitive and draw and retain new and existing members. Some exciting projects are coming down the line this year. A generous donation from an anonymous Karma member has enabled the co-op to hire Chiara Camponeschi, a social media and marketing consultant, to create a tailored social media strategy and digital campaign to help the Co-op more effectively connect with prospective members and generate new member leads. A Community Development Committee website sub-committee has also been formed to explore how the site can be more accessible, relevant, and engaging to prospective, new, and existing members. The board will also be looking forward to additional strategic measures the Co-op can take to ensure its long-term health.

We are optimistic and excited for the year ahead and see a new infusion of energy and enthusiasm as we welcome three new board members, who are joining three continuing board members. The board is excited to welcome Dayna Stein, Donald Altman (returning) for a two-year term, and Aidan Nulman for a one-year term. Kate Rusnak moves into the second year of her second two-year term on the board. Alice Barton was acclaimed for a one-year term after previously finishing a two-year term. Alli Floroff was acclaimed for a second one-year term. (Learn more about these new and returning board members by reading their biographies.) We also said goodbye to Paul Danyluk who served for five years, Brayden Lowery who served for three years, and Erin Lawson and Daniel Dundas, who both served for two years. We thank Paul for his solid leadership as board President over the past year and for providing continuity to the board. We thank Brayden Lowery for keeping the board organized and streamlining virtual organizational systems as the Corporate Secretary. We thank Erin Lawson for her warmth and enthusiasm and for acting as our meeting minute-taker. We thank Daniel Dundas for stepping into the Vice-President and Vice-President of Staff Relations roles this past year and guiding staff contract negotiations and board recruitment. As always, the board members serve Karma members, and we encourage you to connect with us in person at the store or by e-mail at board@karmacoop.org. Stay tuned to the e-Chronicle, where we will be writing regular messages.

 

by Alli Floroff (President) on behalf of the Karma Co-op Board of Directors