Wednesday, 30 December 2009 12:29By Joe Romano,
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.
By Laura Buttenbaum,
What is a co-op? This seemingly straightforward question can elicit a wide range of responses, from visceral and intrinsic to completely organizational and economic. According to the International Cooperative Association, "A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons unite...