Letter from the Executive Director: New Year, New Start

January 13th 2021

New Year, New Start

While many of our members continue to face business challenges as we roll into 2021, there is still a wide-spread feeling of hope for the ability to work together for change. 

For Provender Alliance, 2020 was a year where we went from considering folding the organization to a recommitment to affirming our unique role in the natural products trade. We are grassroots by nature, and the beauty of Provender and its community lies in its authenticity. You can’t buy “community” on Amazon. 

In gratitude for the collective efforts to make it through the year, I want to give a big shout out to all our dedicated member organizations renewing, dynamic new members joining, vibrant conference presenters, and engaged participants. Plus, a special thanks to our sponsors who pivoted with us as we switched to an online format when the pandemic unexpectedly arrived in our midst.

This year we can look forward to connecting with long-time Provender friends and making new ones in our industry. We are planning new, upcoming community online events throughout 2021. In January, we presented the 3-session workshop series, “Rewards of a Burnout-Free Workplace,” free for members.

This workshop reminded me of how good it is to see familiar faces and find fresh connections after we’ve been so isolated. The workshop leaders pointed out that people with high ideals like ourselves are more susceptible to burnout – especially during this time of COVID stresses. We all got into the natural foods trade not just to make a living but to make a difference and make the world a better place.


New Ideas, New Wind Beneath our Wings

With the addition of Provender’s two most recent board members* (out of seven members total), we now have a board majority of people in their 30’s. Although chronologically young, all of them have been working in the natural foods trade for awhile. They each bring a fresh perspective to our organization. I’m excited to start building momentum with this new board energy during Provender’s first board meeting of the year on January 25th. It’ll be a full-day virtual retreat where the group will set the year’s board focus into motion. (Provender members are welcome to attend board meetings; please email me for details and a link to join us.) 

This new year also ushers in the official launch of the Provender Stewardship Fund. From Gavin McComas’ decades of experience and leadership in the natural foods trade, he was inspired to establish the Fund as a way to “pay it forward” to the upcoming generation of active community members. He is committed to sharing the benefits from Provender’s 45+ year legacy of upholding the natural foods movement’s values and the meaningful educational opportunities that Provender provides.  

Gavin has committed his store, Sundance Natural Foods, to contribute $33- per day, or $1,000 per month, for 50 months totaling $50,000 over the next five years. He is asking businesses and individuals to contribute to the Fund in whatever pledge amount and time commitment works for your business. Your contribution provides the means for Provender’s solid footing into the future as we strengthen our foundation. Please consider exploring this and contacting me here.

As we breathe into this new year, I fully appreciate how we are moving forward together, with our values and vision intact. 


Abigail Harris
Executive Director, Provender Alliance


*Our two newest board members are Stephen Ohl from Community Food Co-op in Bozeman, MT, and Jackson Bagley-Bonner from Hummingbird Wholesale in Eugene, OR. Read more about them here.