I don’t generally fail. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I just flat-out failed at something. I’ve worked on political campaigns that did not succeed, but that’s the fault of the electorate, not me. But a dear volunteer project to which I have spent almost three years giving varied amounts of energy (is that grammar right? It sounds weird) has utterly failed, and I can’t seem to find a silver lining. I had to write the following letter today:
Hello co-op members and friends,
This is a sad note to write. With much regret, the Fairground Gardiner Food Co-op Steering Committee has decided that we do not have the support, funds, or time commitments to continue working on this project. We all agree that it’s a great idea, but the lack of a bigger commitment of the community and limited time in our own lives has meant that over the summer most of us have resigned from the Steering Committee. When we noticed that almost all of us had resigned, we realized that we needed to start talking about returning co-op dues and shutting down the project.
We will be having a meeting on (TBA) to address and stuff envelopes to return membership dues to members. Your help in this would be appreciated.
If this sad email provides a groundswell of excitement for the co-op, perhaps those who are excited could form their own steering committee and continue our work. I’m sure several current Steering Committee members would help a new SC form, as we would all love to see this project happen. We just don’t have the time and energy to carry such a large project ourselves anymore.
The idea of a member-owned, non-corporate food co-op in Gardiner will always be a special one in our hearts. Here’s to hoping that it will be a reality someday, if not today.
How utterly stupid that we couldn’t do this. It seemed like such a small project, but it was just impossible for us. Almost no one but me wanted to stick to the original member-owned idea. I don’t get it. Why would you want to just open up a store? Very few people saw the magic of a non-hierarchal co-op where everyone works and no one works for any one person, but everyone works for everyone.
I figured this co-op would be just one line on my illustrious biography: “In 2008 she helped create a member-owned, local-produce driven cooperative grocery in Gardiner, New York, which is still in operation.” I imagined cute hand-painted wooden signs, community members in overalls painting walls and hauling in fridges and handmade wooden shelves. I was totally up for the challenge of coordinating orders and creating systems – oh Gardiner, you have no idea how sad you should be to miss out on my amazing ability to create systems!
What I got was bizarre heated fights at meetings with extremely annoying people, endless endless meeting hours spent explaining the whole damn project to new people we knew would come to one meeting and never reappear, and irritating yuppies who kept saying that it was a good idea but they could only join if they didn’t have to work the four hours a month because they are so so busy raising their damn kids and whatnot. I bit my tongue until it was practically falling off in order not to tell them that they had their priorities all fucking screwed up – that what matters FIRST is that you have a safe – and buying horrible groceries from giant corporations cannot be considered safe – way to procure food. Food! The very first thing we as human beings need! And SECOND and way down the list is taking your annoying kids to their ballet classes. I calmly explained to dozens of these beige I-voted-for-John-Kerry-type mommies and daddies that we saw a value in taking control of our food choices as a community, that none of us had lots of time in our lives either and some of us even had kids too, but we felt this was a vital project and would make the four hours a month, BLAH BLAH.
Failure. All my wasted politeness. All my time spent dreaming up organizational strategies, writing cheerleading emails (“We believe in this project, but we can’t do it without your vital support!”), drafting a packet full of systems and guidelines, contacting other co-ops, endlessly typing up meeting minutes – a waste. Is there anything more annoying than lost, wasted time?
It’s over. I’m over it.
My life right now is pretty much evenly divided between my craft (cooking) and trying my best to make New Paltz the perfect example of how a town should function. Can’t people see that and just let me go about my work without so much stupid opposition? I have so much passion and energy to put into this town. I’m slowly, painfully learning how towns work. I’m slowly, painfully forcing myself to go to boring Town Board meetings and teach myself about all the nuts and bolts of the machinery that is New Paltz.
I’m the chairwoman of the New Paltz Green Party, and the Green Party is, by anyone’s measure, the second most powerful political party in New Paltz (Republicans are pretty much laughed at here, although less than ten miles away in most directions they have a strong foothold. Welcome to the weird world of NY politics, the state that would be red but for NYC!). I take this responsibility very seriously. I’m determined to use my energy to strengthen the Green Party and focus our energy, but that too is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I’m not used to not knowing how to proceed, but I’m really not sure where the Green Party should go right now. We’ve got all these great, smart (almost everyone in the GP is smarter than me, I like that. But I’m more organized then they are!), passionate people in the party. Greens are active on almost every committee and board in town. But we need more of a support network for them, we need them to be active as Greens, not just citizens, in order to build the party.
And we need to come together to do Green Party activities: we’re having a food drive this weekend for Family of New Paltz, and almost no one is volunteering. Come on people – it doesn’t get more basic than this. People are hungry in New Paltz. Family feeds them. Sit at a goddamn table for an hour and harass your neighbors into donating some food to Family. This is not difficult. This is life in a community.
This is work that must be done.