Oryana Board Candidates 2024

We have 6 candidates running for 3 open positions on the board in 2024. Voting, both online and in-store, starts March 20. All votes will be totaled at the General Membership Meeting on April 18 and the winners announced immediately. Take some time to get to know the candidates and be sure to vote in this year’s election.

Annmarie Erickson

We don’t often get a say in the businesses we patronize, but that’s an important benefit of co-op membership along with great groceries, discounts, classes and community. Managing 11,000 passionate shoppers is no easy task, but I believe one of the key responsibilities of a board member is to effectively represent member/owners, while supporting the voice and vision of the professional staff. Board members help maintain the organization’s balance. They ensure members feel heard and staff expertise is honored. My long background in nonprofit management and board service has helped me understand how to achieve and maintain that perfect pitch.

Oryana is a community serving its community. Board membership is an opportunity to demonstrate commitment to the co-op’s values, its community programming and economic impact. Oryana’s success is built upon a tested business model within a values-based framework. Again, board members, standing behind professional staff, work to balance business and community, keeping Oryana a place where shopping means more than filling a cart. Although we do like full carts!

A quick note on qualifications; I have more than three decades of experience in nonprofit management, marketing, public relations, and customer service. I have led and worked on successful, issues-oriented campaigns – each a master-class in collaboration and communication. I have served on several nonprofit boards including identifying, hiring and supporting new leadership at two organizations. I am a writer and published poet.

Finally, I am a foodie. I love good, healthy food and lots of variety. I love a knowledgeable team that encourages me to try something new. I love a new recipe. Oryana is more than a grocery store and I would be delighted to contribute to its future success.

Kathi Mulder

Since I was a college student, food co-ops have been an integral part of my life. Wherever I have lived, being a member of the local food co-op has been a defining characteristic. Whether it was volunteering to fill bulk bins, passing out tasty samples to seniors, teaching cooking classes, or helping guide my own children in how to be responsible co-op members, I have embraced all that food co-ops are.

I had the honor of owning and directing Dance of Life Midwifery for 32 years. Many of the shoppers at Oryana are my babies! Several years ago one of the staff created a prescription pad for me to write scripts for my pregnant clients to shop at Oryana, reinforcing the fact that eating well was the best thing they could do for themselves and their babies.      

As a Peace Corps volunteer, I learned the art of adaptability, flexibility, resiliency, and what it means to work with different groups of people toward a common goal. Since then, I have served on many different boards in different capacities.  I am currently serving as vice chair of the Michigan State Board of Licensed Midwifery and chair of the Grace Community Birth Center in Haiti. I welcome the opportunity to put my experience and skills to good use by serving Oryana in another capacity, as an active board member.  

I imagine continuing to offer good, high quality food at affordable prices for all age groups while maintaining core co-op values presents both challenges and rewarding opportunities.  It seems vital that we work to maintain our cooperative philosophical roots while keeping up with current trends and demands. Our babies and children are depending on us.

Kathy Baylis Monteith

Up for re-election 
It is with gratitude and humility that I submit my application to run for re-election to the Oryana Board.  It has been my honor to serve during this time of great change at our co-op…adding a second store location, dealing with a global pandemic, and most recently, hiring a new General Manager (GM).  

As you know, our outgoing GM, Steve Nance has been responsible for helping grow Oryana into the amazing cooperative we are today.  In addition to his 14 years as GM, Steve and his wife, Robin, each served on the board of directors prior to his taking the reins on the operations side.

Over the past year, the GM search further unified our Board as we engaged in the critical work of finding Steve’s replacement. We were led by our Board President, GM Search committee, and supported by national search consultants to hire our outstanding new GM, Sarah Christensen.  

The continuity provided by Oryana’s diverse board will play an essential role in supporting a smooth transition for the new GM. I believe my efforts as a board member will contribute to this aim.

As for my Oryana leadership roles, I have served as Board Vice President, and subsequently as committee Chair of Board Development during a time focused on both individual and collective evolution as a board.  The strengths I bring to the board include my communication skills, leadership, and commitment to continuing education and personal growth.  

Heading into the future, I see continued competition for Oryana related to the consolidation of the grocery industry at large.  Locally, as our community grows, we can maintain our competitive advantage through our commitment to cooperative values and socially conscious goals.  

Oryana strives to create value for our members/owners, employees, and farmers/suppliers while educating the community about healthy food choices, preparation, as well as the environmental and economic benefits of locally sourced items.

I continue to believe in “food as medicine” and love that Oryana is promoting clean, low-impact, and high-quality products. I appreciate you considering me as one of your representatives on the Oryana Board.

Samuel Reese

As a career craft brewer with Kalamazoo-based Bell’s Brewery, my professional goals have long been defined by providing Michiganders with an alternative: a better, locally-brewed beer.

For the last decade, I served as Director for Upper Hand Brewery in Escanaba, where my team and I built a brewery from the ground up with local contractors, regional suppliers, and an obsessive commitment to celebrating and representing our proud little Yooper community.  

I am passionate about preserving the agricultural heritage of Northwest Michigan in the face of rising operational costs and residential redevelopment of centuries-old farmland. I believe that a regional economy driven by tourism and one rooted in our local farms and foodways are not mutually exclusive.  

Oryana provides a vital alternative to the commoditization of our kitchens, and I feel compelled, as a member-owner and former supplier, to offer my experience as a small business operator to build upon its 50 years of success as a conduit for our farmers—our neighbors—to put better, fresher, and healthier food on our respective tables.

As an Oryana Director, I will contribute my broad history navigating the dynamics and difficulties of the increasingly volatile beverage and alcohol supply chains, as well as extensive experience managing and executing food-oriented events as community fundraisers and educational opportunities.  

15 years in small business have cemented in me the very real responsibility we have as manufacturers and retailers to source our solutions directly from our community, to educate our shoppers on the compounding positive impact of fiscal localism, and the importance of supporting ecologically and economically sustainable business practices. 

I assure you: Cargill, Tyson—or for that matter, Anheuser-Busch—do not need your dollars.  Your neighbors do.


Marty Heller

Up for re-election
It is with delight and enthusiasm that I apply for my second term as an Oryana Board of Directors candidate. Three years can go by quickly, but we have plenty of milestones to mark the time. I am proud of the Bylaws revamp that I helped shepherd as committee chair, offering our growing organization a modernized, clarified and fit-for-purpose governing agreement. I am overjoyed as we welcome a new CEO and a new chapter for Oryana, building on the awe-inspiring legacy of our past and resetting our intentions toward refreshed goals and lofty ambitions. With your endorsement, I commit to bringing solidarity and continuity to this transition, “showing up” for the oversight and governance work that gives space for the staff outpouring of talent and love that makes Oryana the community gem that it is. In some ways, serving an organization that is performing as well as Oryana feels easy, but if there is one thing that three years of monthly monitoring and status reports has taught me, it’s that grocery is a tricky business, and there is always room for improvement. With some major milestones behind us, the Board is prepared to revisit our role and responsibility in this continuous improvement.

I feel deeply passionate about exploring the ways in which Oryana – and food co-ops across the country – can support our communities in taking bold climate action: decarbonizing while building self-reliance and resilience. The jig is up: climate instability is upon us, and those communities that embrace the need for change with courage and creativity are likely to flourish through the inevitable chaos ahead. I feel food co-ops can serve as vital mycelial interconnectors and stewards of co-operative principles in the work ahead. May it be so!

Michelle Opel Bernhard

I am so excited to apply to serve on the board of Oryana because I am committed to ensuring people have access to fresh, local, and affordable natural and organic food options. I am newer to Traverse City (newlywed; my husband has been here 25 years) and excited about the opportunity to spread the mission of such a vibrant co-op.  

My personal journey to health & wellness (losing 160 pounds naturally over 10 years ago) has driven my professional passion for the natural/organic food industry and I currently serve in multiple executive consulting roles in the natural/organic CPG space.  I am so fortunate to not only preach the message of food as it relates to health in my daily personal life as a certified health coach, but to get to work in an industry committed to spreading the message of food, sustainability, and better-for-you ingredients for the betterment of communities and our planet. 

My industry expertise combined with my personal journey and passion for the impact food has on our health and families will bring a unique perspective to the board; I have quite literally reversed multiple comorbid diseases personally by changing the food I ate and want to provide education and access to others to do the same.  

The current economy and inflation as it relates to discretionary spending available for food presents a challenge to Oryana and our community that needs to be managed creatively.  I envision Oryana as being uniquely positioned to have a voice in creative solutions so that our members and community continue to have access to healthy, nourishing foods that create positive impact in our homes, communities, and world.

I look forward to the opportunity to serve and get to know you!