The Co-op Board of Directors is very pleased to announce that we have a new General Manager: Troy Bond. We caught up with Troy for a chat via email recently as he hurries to complete the tasks for his move to Decorah. Troy starts at the Co-op on January 26th. When you see him and his family, please join us in a hearty welcome!
–Steve Peterson, Board President
Tell us a little bit about your experience in the grocery world.
I started in the natural foods business as a shopper concerned with food choices and health. In 1988 I joined the Puget Consumers Co-op in Seattle, Washington while I was working at a marketing job. Being a shopper first always reminds me to see the store the way a customer sees it, which has been invaluable in keeping stores I managed looking good.
I always wanted to align my personal values of sustainable agriculture, personal well being and nutrition with my career, but I couldn’t figure out how. Then, ten years ago, my wife and I jumped into it feet first by opening a natural foods store in Cedar Falls called The Market (now called Roots Market.)
Since then I have broadened my experience with positions as a store manager at Whole Foods Market (where I was awarded an All*Star Award for leadership both Nationally and Regionally) and Central Market, as a buyer and marketing specialist at Gateway Market in Des Moines (before they decided to go conventional) and as a consultant.
Why are you excited about working at the Oneota Community Co-op?
The Oneota GM position fits all my criteria (in no particular order):
• My heart is in natural, organic, local and artisan foods. It’s what I buy, prepare and eat—almost exclusively. For instance, while living in Des Moines I have been a member of CSA.
• The Oneota shop is beautiful and a good size for growth. Its physical location is at the heart of downtown and in a perfect place to be the center of the neighborhood.
• I’m proud to become a member of a co-op again where more of my money stays in the community.
• I want to live in my home state of Iowa where my kids can be close to their grandparents and get a good education and enjoy a superior quality of life.
• I think I have something to offer the co-op. I have a lot of experience to draw from in natural foods, retail grocery and leadership.
• Besides, my late Grandma Jacobson—a dyed in the wool member of the Sons of Norway—would be very proud of her grandson if he lived in Decorah.
We know you are interested in local and sustainably grown foods. How did you develop that interest?
Friends of mine from college (Trinity University) turned me onto books like Diet for a Small Planet (Lappe) and Diet for a New America (Robbins) which helped me understand how factory farming has impacted animal welfare, the environment and our health. That led me to shop at natural foods stores, to find more compassionate alternatives—either protein substitutes or naturally raised meat. About the same time, an introductory class on yoga was the first time anyone ever explained to me the effects of diet on the body and mind. From there I started questioning what I ate and tried not to let my taste buds dictate my health. Those influences really helped me break out of old patterns, which of course was unsettling with my family at the time because in their minds I was breaking with our unspoken food traditions.
We know you are moving here with your family. Tell us a little about who they are.
My wife, Sharon, became the supplement buyer for our store originally. When I took a job with Whole Foods, she stayed at home and has raised two precious (and precocious) kids: Donovan is five and a half and Siena is three. They are typical children: Donovan loves dinosaurs and Siena dresses up as a princess. And to my consternation, their favorite food is chicken nuggets. (Don’t get me started.)
Besides family, what other kinds of interests do you have outside work?
Work and family take up most of the day, but as you can guess, cooking is a hobby. And I involve both children in it as much as I can. And they still have all their fingers! My daughter’s specialty is to make baking powder biscuits—she likes to use a heart-shaped cutter—and my son helps me make egg pasta using “00” flour. He’s very handy with the pasta machine. My MA in English has an outlet in reading and writing fiction. To burn off steam, I like to lap swim and bike—I used to ride to and from work on any decent day in Des Moines, a 16 mile round trip. Before kids, I had more time for yoga practice but I usually can still find time to sit for meditation, the Soto Zen-style.
Tell us about an interesting life experience, one that caused you to learn something new, or chuckle and shake your head.
My first trip to Italy was the result of a wine class I took in Los Angeles. I had so much fun learning about Italian wines, I wanted to go there and experience it myself. So, I took some Italian language classes in Santa Monica, booked a flight and started my journey in Rome, planning to take trains north and depart from Milan.
On my first dinner at a trattoria, I ordered pasta with red wine, and I proudly managed to say it all in Italian. I was pleased with myself until the waiter gave me a look and shook his head and said, “No, no. Vino bianco!” Instead of red wine he brought me a white wine, Frascati, made from the grapes grown in the hills around Rome. It was local, fresh and it paired better with my pasta. While I was holding onto a rigid expectation (out of fear), for the rest of the trip I learned to just go with the flow. The Frascati was a great compliment to a memorable meal, and from then on I would ask for what food and wine was produced locally.