Meet the 2019 Board Candidates

  in Blog

This year we have three open seats on the board of directors. Here are the candidates (in alphabetical order) vying for these seats. Winners will be announced at the General Ownership meeting on April 18.

Naomi Call

I deeply appreciate Oryana’s values, and the many ways that Oryana nourishes my life and our community. The values that I embrace in my daily life, and teach in my work, parallel Oryana’s.

I view Oryana as a conduit for sharing numerous resources and tools needed for the continuing evolution of our community. I value being part of a team, and would welcome the opportunity to be of service, expand my knowledge, and share my wisdom.

My life work is rooted in healthy living. For over 40 years I have worked as a: restaurant manager, executive chef, cooking teacher, nutritional director, and yoga teacher. I am an international author, teacher and filmmaker who strives to make an ever greater difference. A primary reason I moved here was Oryana. Organic, local food and community are priorities.

I continually work toward becoming a more educated steward of the earth, and conscious community member. I have co-founded two educational centers and a Waldorf School. Volunteer positions included: Chair of the Board, Executive Director and teaching. I am a passionate farmer, teacher, volunteer, artist, and activist.

Reaching the financial and community targets laid out for 2019 offer both challenges, and exciting opportunities. When I am presented with a vision, and a team wanting to make a difference, the challenges simply become stepping stones toward the goal. I embrace a positive outlook, and believe that what we put our attention on is what will thrive.

Some opportunities I would welcome working toward include: serving an ever more diverse and all inclusive community, seeking ways to continue collectively inspiring and motivating the customer base to help shape a community dialogue, and continuing to reduce our footprint.

I truly embrace a healthy lifestyle, community awareness, and engagement. In the same way that I strive to be an ever wiser steward of the Earth, I would strive to continually listen, connect and reflect Oryana’s mission.

Laura Cavender

Many of you know me from my work at the co-op stocking carrots, teaching classes, leading food tastings, and answering questions about everyday cooking. We’ve all seen how good, simple food can bring people together. Two people can find common ground across a tomato grilled cheese sandwich and soon connections are being made, community is being built, and the world is a little better. While working here at Oryana, I’ve experienced firsthand what that impact looks like magnified by nearly 7000 co-op owners.

By spending our food dollars at the co-op, farm markets, local eateries, and directly with growers and makers, our collective impact has fostered a stronger, more resilient foodshed. I’m proud of Oryana and our membership. Not only are we able to buy awesome food at a fair price, but the way we’re doing it enriches our economy, respects the workers, and empowers the community.

The many people that compose the Co-op ownership are the Co-op itself. This is what sets us apart from the other great grocers in town. We are ‘of the people, by the people, for the people.’ This is Oryana’s superpower and also how we’ll continue wisely growing.

Where I see a great challenge and opportunity is in focusing on that differentiator and finding tangible ways for Oryana owners to engage in their ownership of the co-op.

Excellence and integrity have continued to define Oryana. Both personally and vocationally, I have a lasting passion for building people’s relationship with food, their connection to themselves, and community with others. These are core to Oryana’s Ends Policies. Because of this, I’m ecstatic to be part of visioning the Co-op’s future by representing the broad ownership and beloved community that Oryana is made of. Through transparency, thoughtful listening, and genuine curiosity, I hope to join the diverse representation we already have on the Oryana Board.

Chuck Mueller


I have served on Oryana’s board for 4 years. I take seriously and understand the role of being on the board. I believe in the mission and the values of Oryana Community Cooperative. I am confident that I add value to the board. I believe in people, purpose, and planet before profit. I believe in transparency, democracy, and the cooperative business model. I appreciate supporting local farmers and paying the local farmer a fair price for their product. I am passionate about giving back to and supporting our community. I am proud to be an owner of Oryana.

Most of my career as a social worker has been helping families and children navigate through some of life’s most difficult challenges. I focus first and foremost on the strengths that people have rather than their deficits. I am skilled at helping people make positive connections with each other and their local resources. I am community-minded and volunteer my time with other organizations such as the National Writers Series, Community Foundation, State Theatre, Film Festival, Stand Up For Great Lakes, Opera House, and Grand Traverse Lighthouse. I am a life-long learner and eager to gain new skills.

One of the most significant challenges for Oryana is to remain financially strong and viable and at the same time continue to follow its mission and purpose in a competitive and ever-changing landscape.

One of Oryana’s biggest opportunities is its capability to grow and be a beacon in this community. Many businesses sell healthy and organic food. However, very few can say that they sell healthy and organic food with a mission and business model similar to that of Oryana. Oryana practices a cooperative business model using high ethical standards with a strong focus on a healthy community.

I feel I can best represent owners of Oryana by being actively involved in the community, being a entive and engaged with owners and stakeholders on a regular basis, and keeping myself well informed.

Katherine Palms

I was hired as a Grantmaking Associate at the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation last year. I also serve as a Trustee and Secretary of our Family’s Foundation. Both experiences continue to give me great experience in learning how important board members are to an organization. Oryana, to me, is a home away from home. A community I couldn’t live without. I am extremely passionate about the co-op concept and eating local. As I am growing as a professional in the Traverse City area, I felt aligning myself with an organization that shares similar values is a very important next step.

I am committed to being a strong community member, doing my part to live intentionally to take care of the planet, and to show kindness and love to those around me. I feel my values align with Oryana’s because I am dedicated to this community. I care about the health and well-being of myself and others, enjoy teaching areas like faith, yoga, barre, essential oils, and plant-based nutrition, and I am continuously learning how I can do all of these things in a well communicated and professional manner.

I believe my strengths are that I am young and have tons of energy. I have knowledge and experience as a trustee and grantmaking associate. I am always eager to learn, and am a passionate community member. I am concerned that community members do not understand how important it is to shop where you know it will make a difference. I think that cheaper grocery stores and Lucky’s create competition, but if the public is continually educated on Oryana’s principles and values, Oryana will continue to succeed.

I am eager to represent owners of the millennial generation. I always get comments about how Oryana is too expensive. I have friends who laugh at me and say how Meijer and Walmart are the be er places to shop. I hope to change that perspective on Oryana and encourage and promote Oryana’s commitment to high quality food that is environmentally bene cial to the earth and community members.

Colleen Valko


I have been interested in the co-op movement since I was at MSU, where I served on the board of the Student Housing Co-op in East Lansing and worked for the East Lansing Food Co-op. I moved to T.C. after graduating and worked for several local food companies: Cherry Capital Foods, Tamarack Holdings, and Food for Thought. I’m passionate about food and our local food economy, and feel that my hands-on experience working in the food industry and co-ops are an asset for Oryana. During my first term on the Oryana board, I chaired the recruitment and nomination committee, and was elected to the position of board treasurer. The board has been a great learning experience for me and I look forward to the good things that we will be able to accomplish in the coming years.

I support the core principles of the co-op movement: democracy, equality, and equity. I am passionate about solidarity and social responsibility within the food system. As the current treasurer, I respect the democratic process and act in the best interests of the owners.

I have served one two-year term on Oryana’s board; my experience both as a director and as the board treasurer will serve me well in the upcoming term. As a student, I was employed by East Lansing Food Co-op, and was a member of the student housing co-op, where I served for one year as corporate treasurer. I believe in and emulate self-responsibility, honesty, and openness.

The region is likely to experience accelerating growth. This will bring new market opportunities for Oryana, but will also increase the likelihood of additional competitors moving into the region. Addressing these challenges and opportunities will require Oryana’s board and managers to be ahead of trend and to fully understand the unique value proposition that will help maintain a vibrant competitive edge.

I believe in democracy and utilitarianism as key guiding philosophies in cooperative governance. I believe my education, my short tenure in Northwest Michigan, and my Millennial demography will provide me with unique perspectives as an Oryana board member.