Ellen Kennedy Michel
I migrated to Bloomington, Indiana, from the Twin Cities, where I grew up with the food co-ops....from the first People's Pantry (where I shopped as a teenager) to the amazing and inspiring spectrum of co-ops there today.
I was thrilled to find Bloomingfoods in my new town, a place that offers the excitment of Indiana basketball and soccer just down the road from Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Festival in Brown County. A university town with 72,000 people (plus about 36,000 students), this is a vibrant and fun place to work in a food co-op. We have over 10,000 member households now, and they are amazing people. Catch us at the Lotus Festival each September: we cater the food there!
I served on our board for seven years before becoming a member of the marketing staff in 2001. Since that time we have grown to four stores, with another on the way this summer. Our latest is a 600 square foot location on the campus of Ivy Tech Community College. Next up: Elm Heights Neighborhood Grocery, opening in July 2013, built from scratch. (Our other stores have involved ingenious repurposing). We also have a kiosk at the Bloomington Community Farmers' Market, where we were the first food vendor about a decade ago, and the Tuesday Farmers' Market is next to our NWS store during the summer months.
I enjoy connecting with other cooperators across the country, including those affiliated with startups or involved in other forms of expansion. I have been involved for the past four years in planning and putting together the "Up and Coming, Up and Running Food Co-op Startup Conference" (UCUR/euchre for short), partnering with Food Co-op Initiative, CDSCC, and the conference coordinator, Deb Trocha, of the Indiana Cooperative Development Center. I'm currently the chair of the ICDC board, giving me a chance to connect with others from various co-op sectors. We will be holding the Crossroads Cooperative Summit in November 2013: watch this space for more! UCUR will take place Feb 27 - March 2, 2014. You could visit us then, too—or anytime, really. We had a blast hosting CCMA in 2010, and we love any excuse to show off our co-op and our city.
I am very commited to the Principle Six Initiative and am our staff lead on that project. Bloomingfoods is a founding member of P6—we see it as a way to ensure that our stores continue to have the most meaningful conversations about food access and justice, both locally and globally. P6 supports cooperative trade in order to preserve and encourage authentic food cultures. And it's one of our differentiators: you won't see P6 at TJs or our other competitors...it belongs to co-ops.
I'm also a member of the Howard Bowers advisory committee, a place where we focus on Principle Five: education, information, and training, including leadership development. I'm grateful for that first HBF grant that helped my co-op send me to CCMA, where so much great learning happens. Now to pay it forward.
On a personal level, working at a co-op has meant that I've had access to not only the freshest, safest, and most delicious food, but also to a network of smart, talented, fun, generous, inventive and creative people: the staff and owners of our stores and support organizations. I really appreciate all of you and couldn't do my job without the connections we've made here at CGN and elsewhere.
I'm married to Andreas, a German professor at Rose Hulman Technical Institute, and we have two great young adult children, Jack, a web developer, and Savannah, IU student. We all like to cook and go to rock concerts. I still go back to the Twin Cities every chance I get, to visit the co-ops and my mom. She lives in the City Bella housing co-op a couple of blocks from the soon-to-be-opening 3rd Lakewinds location! The co-ops have truly enriched my life, and I am very grateful. Let's keep building a better world.