What is Membership?

Since the beginning, GreenStar's mission focused on making nutritious, whole food available to its members. But membership means more than just access to good, healthy food...

When you join the Co-op you become a Member-Owner of a locally-owned and cooperatively operated values-based business. We focus on the social and environmental impact GreenStar makes on our local and global community, as well as economic performance. We put our values first, and return all profits back to the Co-op or donate them to the community.

The co-operative business model has proven to be a strong alternative to traditional profit-driven businesses. And, for every dollar you spend in a locally-owned business or cooperative, 45 cents is return to the community, compared to only 13 cents when you spend a dollar at a chain store.

One Member – One Vote means your voice truly counts!

Like all consumer co-ops, GreenStar is owned and democratically run by the people who use the store. Unlike traditional corporations where the amount of a stockholder's investment determines his or her voting power, every member at GreenStar has equal voting rights. As a Member-Owner, you have an equal say in the future direction of GreenStar.

By investing and participating in your co-op, you're putting your values into action.

Through your Equity Share investment and patronage, GreenStar supports the health and well-being of our member-owners, our community and the planet by:

  • Purchasing from local farmers and businesses
  • Paying a livable wage
  • Using clean energy and recycled office supplies
  • Supporting organic agriculture and fair trade producers
  • Offering health insurance to employees
  • Donating to local charities and events
  • Providing education on nutrition, health and sustainability
  • Improving access to healthy food to those on limited budgets through the FLOWER program



We Could Have Danced All Night

By Kristie Snyder,

GreenLeaf Editor

GreenStar member-owners gathered in the Co-op's warehouse property on the evening of April 22 for the Spring Annual Membership meeting. A new feeling was in the air, as members mingled over a light dinner, talked and traded with farmers and vendors, heard updates on the state of the Co-op and listened to Council candidates, then danced for hours to the sounds of Jorge T. Cuevas and the Caribe Jazz All Stars.

A separate Member Forum was held April 14 to give those members who wished to do so more time to voice their opinion. A summary of the topics raised there was presented at the Membership Meeting, with the opportunity for members to leave written feedback.

The changes, to a meeting with a different format, and to having two separate meetings, were part of an effort by the Membership Committee to boost attendance while giving more members what they wanted in a meeting. "Our attendance at the member meetings has been declining," said Membership Manager Alexis Alexander. While searching for a remedy, the Membership Department surveyed other co-ops about their meeting formats, and found that the most successful meetings featured a social or educational activity. Hence, the dance party idea. And, in an effort to give members more opportunity to interact with local producers and farmers, and with the space available to do so, the Vendor Fair was added.

The idea for a separate Member Forum was conceived by the Membership Committee after noticing that evaluations of prior meetings showed two very different reactions to the traditional "open mic" time built in to each meeting for members to air their questions or concerns. Many members felt they were not given enough time to speak, and a nearly equal number felt the open mic period took too much time away from other potential activities. To satisfy both groups of members, the decision was made to host a two-hour long Member Forum. About 25 members, including Council members and staff, participated in the April 14 meeting, facilitated by Membership Committee chair Ethan Winn. The list of discussion topics generated at that meeting included governance, increasing member participation, expanding the commitment to local food and food system education, cell phone and laptop use in the stores, respect, hydrofracking and radiation concerns.

The April 22 meeting kicked off with a social hour, during which members enjoyed finger foods prepared by GreenStar's Deli, and a more subdued version of the Jazz All Stars. The Vendor Fair included representatives from several local businesses and organizations, including Rootwork Herbals, The Good Life Farm, Blue Heron Farm, Cayuga Pure Organics, Regional Access and Local First Ithaca, who sold their wares and chatted with members. Council members were available to talk with members, and the Massage Station was represented in full force, with five therapists on hand to offer a variety of approaches to relaxation. The kids were entertained in their own space with an array of crafty activities — they even had their own sandwich platter.

As members settled at their tables, the official business of the meeting began. Council President 12th Moon noted, "I see a lot of smiling faces — this is indicative of how GreenStar has been going the past year." He praised Council's recent adoption of the Policy Governance model, as well as attempts to connect more deeply with the national cooperative movement. Ethan reported on the topics from the Member Forum and invited members to offer their feedback. Treasurer Bob Rhea then took the mic to present an overview of GreenStar's finances. All is well in terms of sales, which have been steadily increasing despite the still-shaky economy, but in order to build equity to finance a possible expansion the Co-op may need to consider a change to the current member equity and fee structure. A Working Group has been formed to address that issue (interested members are invited to contact Alexis at 607.273.9392 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if they would like to participate).

Interim General Manager Brandon Kane, who's been in that position for a year now, received a hearty round of applause, which only increased as he presented a series of things that GreenStar can be proud of: we employ 170 people, we're a living wage employer and the largest retail living wage employer in Tompkins County, our membership numbers just surpassed 7,500, and the new FLOWER low-income discount program has enrolled 200 participants. Sales this year are expected to reach $15 million in total, $2 million of which are at Oasis.

While all those numbers are impressive, Brandon pointed out that the statistic to perhaps be most proud of is that 75 percent of GreenStar's sales are to member-owners — in contrast to a 40-50 percent national co-op average. "Seventy-five percent sales to members is unheard of," said Brandon.

Recent news includes the case sales held in the warehouse each Saturday, a new program to wholesale to local businesses and organizations, an effort to share the mechanics of the FLOWER program with other co-ops, and a renewal of GreenStar's commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Brandon noted that, as a member of the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), GreenStar joins 112 co-ops, with one billion dollars in annual sales, that share information and services and join together to procure national purchasing contracts. "This is the epitome of cooperation," he said. And, with the support of NCGA and co-ops like GreenStar, more food co-ops have started up around the country in recent years than at any time since the 1970s, the decade of GreenStar's birth. "This is an exciting time for co-ops," said Brandon.

The IGM report was followed by statements from the candidates for Council's spring election. After hearing from each of the candidates, members were invited to ask questions, and they did, on subjects ranging from what a potential candidate would do with very specific financial information that he has requested, to candidates' ideas for promoting more fun for members, to how candidates felt prepared to act as "bridges" between the staff of a $15 million in sales business and its member-owners. Look for Council election results in the stores, on the website and in the June GreenLeaf (results were not available at press time for this issue).

As the business of the meeting wrapped up, desserts were ceremoniously marched out, the band returned with renewed vigor and members danced for hours.

Alexis said the comments she received about the meeting as of press time were overwhelmingly positive. "The meeting was well-attended, and people have said it was fabulous," she said, "they were thrilled to be there, and they were proud to be GreenStar members."

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