Oryana staff

Oryana and Groundwork,
Mission Aligned

January 30, 2023 |

Above: A sampling of team Oryana. Bringing delicious and nutritious food and building community for 50 years. From left: Luise Bolleber, Steve Nance, Kirsten Harris, Libby Schnepf.

Oryana and Groundwork have worked on a multitude of food-centric community-building initiatives over the years and our missions remain marvelously aligned and intertwined. We asked Oryana General Manager Steve Nance to share thoughts on that partnership and to offer insight into what drives all the remarkable work at Oryana.

What’s your Groundwork story?
I go back to when Michigan Land Use Institute (Groundwork’s original name) was in Beulah, and my wife and I had moved back to Traverse City after a decade and a half moving around the country with General Motors. We returned to Traverse City with kids, and my wife Robin joined the Oryana Cooperative Board of Directors while I got involved in alternative transportation. (I did a 180° from the car business.) I met some of the Land Use team, and when we lived on Washington Street the Voss’s moved in across from us. We became friends. I was soon on the Oryana Board and we collaborated with Michigan Land Use Institute and other amazing organizations such as SEEDs, TART, On the Ground. I became the Oryana General Manager in 2010 and we expanded support and collaborations with MLUI, especially Food Resiliency work after the Grand Vision spearheaded by MLUI. I have been a part of the Foodshed Alliance, Food to Farm Network, Food Hub project, and more projects that came from the Grand Vision.

How does Groundwork align with what is important in your work?
Oryana, as a cooperative currently owned by 10,624 local owners, aligns with Groundwork as we view our model being an economic engine for good. Oryana is a quadruple bottom line business (people, planet, purpose, before profit) and when we do well as a business, the cooperative gives back to the community. The work Groundwork does helps Oryana leverage our resources in fulfilling our mission to provide high-quality food produced in ecologically sound ways at fair value to owners and the community. Oryana owners and staff are committed to enhancing their community through the practice of cooperative economics and education about the relationship of food to health. Groundwork’s programs and people help us to do that!

“Collaboration and support of Groundwork has given Oryana a collaborative partner to fulfill our core values.”—Steve Nance, Oryana General Manager

Why do you choose to support Groundwork?
Collaboration and support of Groundwork has given Oryana a collaborative partner to fulfill our core values, or what we call our ENDS policies, to make our world a better place by supporting our ENDS such as:  

  • Local—including a resilient local food system 
  • Education—especially about the relationship of food and health 
  • Economy—including a strong local economy 
  • Wellness—so solutions to wellness exist such as supporting fresh food available for all
  • Community—to assure access, inclusivity, respect for diversity and having a truly welcoming community     

Over the years we have had the opportunity to support, nurture, and collaborate on programs that were developed by Groundwork, such as Taste the Local Difference, the local introduction of Double Up Food Bucks, Ten Cents A Meal, Good Food Fund, and Food as Medicine, in addition to alternative energy, transportation, and more affordable housing, and more!

What is something you are currently excited about in your work and something on the horizon?
As Oryana has grown, so has our ability to support our local growers and producers; we helped launch more local businesses and programs. Growth, sometimes viewed negatively, is not necessarily a bad thing. As we intentionally grow, Oryana not only provides more organic, local, high-quality food and products, but supports the work of our collaborative partners like Groundwork. We are excited to grow the Co-op and fulfill our vision of a more cooperative future—what we call Oryana Imagined, 2030.

“Providing organic food, clean meat, and high-quality value-added products can now provide healthy alternatives for us all and support the hardworking growers and producers.”
— Steve Nance

What’s something that you love about your local and sustainable community?
It’s amazing! What Oryana has done for 50 years is now mainstream! Folks in our region search out local food and businesses that are truly local. Providing organic food, clean meat, and high-quality value-added products can now provide healthy alternatives for us all and support the hardworking growers and producers. Our food system resiliency has become so robust that Oryana was able to keep shelves pretty full even at the start of the pandemic.

What is your niche in the community and your market?
Local food cooperatives are first and fo