Celebrating Five Years of Co-operation: The NFCA'S 5th Annual Meeting
The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) held its Fifth Annual Meeting on March 5th 2016, at the Arts Block in downtown Greenfield, MA. The meeting brought together over 100 co-operators from more than 35 food co-ops, start-up initiatives, and partner organizations from across our region for networking, strategic dialog, and workshops. Attendees were also invited to reflect on our progress on the goals laid out in the Middlebury Manifesto, the founding document of the NFCA.
"It was a real pleasure celebrating NFCA's 5th anniversary with so many friends," said NFCA President Kari Bradley, General Manager at Hunger Mountain Co-op (VT). "From our keynote speaker to awarding Co-op Food Store's Terry Appleby with the annual Neighboring Co-operator Award, it was an inspiring day throughout. Thank you to everyone who participated and everyone who has contributed to the NFCA's success."
Judy Ziewacz, President and CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) set the tone as keynote speaker, reflecting on NCBA CLUSA's past 100 years and vision moving forward. "It was such a pleasure to speak at the NFCA's Annual Meeting," said Judy. "It was invigorating to be in a room full of people committed to their food co-ops, their communities and to sustainable markets."
"As we celebrate our fifth year, we want to take the opportunity to invite our member co-ops to look back at the goals that we laid out when we began this effort," said Erbin Crowell, NFCA Executive Director. "The Middlebury Manifesto represents the founding vision of our co-ops, what we hoped to accomplish by no longer working in isolation." To start the conversation, Crowell and Bonnie Hudspeth, Marketing & Outreach Manager, reported on activities of the past year, including peer-to-peer networking events to support business success, the re-launch of the NFCA's Northeast Grown frozen fruits and vegetables, increasing awareness of the impact of co-op across our regional food system and economy, and collaboration with partner organizations to achieve shared goals.
The NFCA includes more than 10 start-up initiatives, which were represented at a session on raising capital from member-owners lead by Ben Sandel from CDS Consulting Co-op. "After five years, it is exciting to see the results of peer connections among existing co-ops and start-ups that NFCA has fostered," said Bonnie Hudspeth, NFCA Membership & Outreach Manager. "Peer to peer collaboration is making our co-ops stronger, and I look forward to seeing how this shared learning and support will continue building and strengthening our co-op movement."
NFCA interns from UMASS Amherst also came to the meeting. George Felder and Colleen Dehais are pursuing completion of the Department of Economics Certificate in Applied Research on Co-operative Enterprises. The Certificate is the result of collaboration among the NFCA, the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops, and the Department of Economics at UMASS. The program also includes "Introduction to the Co-operative Movement," a course taught by NFCA Executive Director Erbin Crowell. In its third year, the course is remains one of the only undergraduate courses in the country focused entirely on the history, philosophy and practice of co-operative enterprise with registration at capacity with 150 students participating this year. "I could tell how powerful and promising an organization the NFCA is because of the members' focus on achieving a certain set of values and a particular form of community development through cooperation across co-ops rather than just isolated enterprises fulfilling their individual interests, " said Colleen Dehais.
Glenn Lower, NFCA Board Member and General Manager of Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op (VT), announced the results of the NFCA's Board of Directors elections, with David Durfee (General Manager, Wild Oats Market, MA) joining re-elected Board Members Kay Litten (Board Member, Co-op Food Stores / Hanover Consumer Co-op, NH & VT), Suzette Snow-Cobb (Marketing & Membership Manager, Franklin Community Co-op, MA), and Joanne S. Todd (Board Treasurer, Willimantic Food Co-op, CT). The group also offered special thanks to Ed King, General Manager at Littleton Food Co-op (NH), as he stepped down from the Board.
In a fitting conclusion to the day, Alex Gyori, former General Manager of Brattleboro Food Co-op and recipient of the 2015 Neighboring Co-operator award, announced the recipient of the award for 2016. He was joined by NFCA and Co-op Food Stores' Board Member Kay Litten in bestowing theaward for "special contributions to the advancement of our vision and of the wider co-operative movement in our region," to Terry Appleby, General Manager at Co-op Food Stores and a key organizer of the NFCA.
In honoring Terry with this award, the NFCA invites our member food co-ops, partner organizations and individuals in our community to join us in making a special donation to the Bowers Fund. Hosted by the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF), the Fund had been a vital resource for food co-ops, providing grants for the training and education of staff, managers, and board members. Please visit www.cdf.coop/nfca to make a contribution.
The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) has joined with other organizations including National Co+op Grocers, the New England Farmers Union, the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) and state-based organizations such as MA Right to Know GMOs in supporting efforts to protect the right of consumers, producers, and retailers to make their own choices for themselves, their families, and their customers. Key to this right is the labeling of products made with genetically engineered (GE) ingredients or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Legislation recently reintroduced in the Senate - and which may be considered as soon as this week - would preempt GE labeling laws already approved by citizens in our region, including Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut, and pending legislation in 17 other states, only to replace them with weak "voluntary" labeling. The "DARK" Act (S. 2609) would also make it virtually impossible to ever require mandatory labeling nationwide.
We are encouraging concerned consumers to learn more and get involved. Check out these resources:
Register for CCMA - The National Food Co-op Conference!
Registration is now open for the 60th Annual Consumer Cooperatives Management Association Conference, June 9 - 11 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst! This national food co-op conference is a unique opportunity to dialogue, collaborate, and plan with other general managers, board members, and staff of food co-ops nationwide. This year's conference is co-hosted by the member co-ops of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, with Franklin Community Co-op and River Valley Co-op as primary local hosts.
Register on or before April 15 to lock in the $790 early-bird rate for NCBA CLUSA members. The Early-Bird Full Registration Package includes conference materials and admission to all sessions, networking events and meals. Single-day and team registration packages are also available.
Not an NCBA CLUSA member yet? Join today and benefit from the member discount on conference registration. Email NCBA CLUSA Director of Member Relations Thomas Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
The 2016 CCMA Conference will challenge and inspire food sector leadership to address diversity and inclusion and make the case for a radical shift in thinking for food co-ops to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive natural foods marketplace. Session tracks include:
Strategies for Outdistancing the Competition
Succession Planning and Leadership Development
2020 and Beyond: New Approaches to Co-operation
Participatory Governance for Success
Financing the Co-op Future
Social, Economic and Racial Diversity
The town of Amherst, our conference site for 2016, is nestled in the heart of "Co-op Valley" in Western Massachusetts. The region is home to our local host food co-ops, NFCA members Franklin Community Co-op and River Valley Co-op, as well as a diverse community of co-operatives and credit unions that reaches across sectors, many of which are working together to grow the co-operative economy. The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is also home to a system of student-run co-operative businesses and the Department of Economics offers an undergraduate Certificate in Applied Research in Co-operative Enterprises, in collaboration with local co-op associations. The Campus Center is named for Murray Lincoln, UMASS alum, founder of Nationwide Insurance (a mutual enterprise), and member of the Co-operative Hall of Fame; and the campus library is named for W.E.B. DuBois, African American Scholar, co-founder of the NAACP and promoter of co-operative enterprise as a tool for economic empowerment.
We look forward to seeing you in Western Massachusetts!
City Market/Onion River Co-op "Shares the Love" with Neighboring Co-ops
In their newsletter last month, City Market/Onion River Co-op focused on how they "share the love" with neighboring food co-ops.
General Manager John Tashiro gives a couple examples of how City Market/Onion River Co-op is sharing the love and putting Principle Six (Cooperation Among Cooperatives) into action:
"You may have heard the recent news around our efforts to support the Underhill Country Store while they make the transition to cooperative ownership. Once the current owners indicated they would be closing the store this winter, the Underhill community quickly rallied to form the Mansfield Cooperative and gather Member pledges. We're excited to assist in their efforts into mid-February with staffing, writing up procedures, conducting a market study and working together to figure out what a future collaboration could look like."
"One of the seven cooperative principles, Cooperation Among Cooperatives, leads us to support all sorts of Co-ops, fledgling and long-standing. We've not forgotten our own roots as a buying club in the last 1960s and early 1970s. Were it not for the incredible commitment and drive from Members, staff, the City and the broader community in conjunction with our cooperative network, we would not be where we are today. It is an honor and opportunity to give back and pay that support forward to other co-ops whenever we have the chance; we want the cooperative economy to grow and thrive."
Hankering for Northeast blueberries in the middle of the Northeast winter? The Farm to Freezer program from the Neighboring Food Co-op Association makes fruits and vegetables grown and processed in the Northeast available throughout the winter. All Farm to Freezer products are grown and processed in the Northeast, and are available exclusively at food co-ops that are members of NFCA. Farm to Freezer vegetables and berries are in our freezer section, in a clear package so you can see what's inside. Products include blueberries, organic broccoli, organic edamame, organic green beans, and non-GMO sweet corn.
The NFCA's Northeast Grown Frozen Fruits and Vegetables are available at member food co-ops across our region. To find one near you, visit www.nfca.coop/members
Have you noticed the "Cave to Co-op" signs in the cheese section of your local food co-op? The project is a partnership between Provisions International and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) to support artisanal cheese producers in our region and make their products more easily available to co-op shoppers. Each month, a delicious local cheese is featured at a great price.
March's "Cave to Co-op" special artisan cheese is "Original Plymouth" from Plymouth Artisan Cheese, Plymouth, VT. Original Plymouth is a full-bodied mature cheese with well-developed flavor notes of butter, fruit and nuts.
Since it's founding in 1902, the National Farmers Union (NFU) has supported co-operative development and the education of future generations of co-operators. In late February, the nation's second largest general farm organization hosted more than 110 students from 15 colleges and universities in Minneapolis, MN, at the 2016 NFU College Conference on Co-operatives (CCOC), providing a three-day interactive learning experience designed to help shape the next generation of agriculture.
The New England Farmers Union (NEFU), a regional chapter of NFU, sent five members to the event, including representatives from Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) member food co-ops:
Mikaela Allen, staff member at Littleton Food Co-op (NH);
Tyler (Riv) Gallagher from Greenfield Community College (MA);
Avery Gratton staff member at Willimantic Food Co-op (CT);
Paula Scharpf staff member at Willimantic Food Co-op (CT); and
Marcus Smith, a student at the University of Massachusetts who is pursuing the Certificate in Economic Applied Research on Co-operative Enterprises through the Department of Economics at UMASS Amherst.
"Co-operatives organized by farmers and ranchers play an important role in strengthening rural and urban economies across the country," said NFU President Roger Johnson. "CCOC engages tomorrow's leaders through a unique platform that teaches them about co-operative business principles and the opportunities available through the co-operative model."
Representatives from agricultural co-operatives, housing and worker-owned co-ops, and food co-ops offered participants insights on co-operative development across the economy. Students also heard about the challenges facing the industry from current co-operative leaders, farmers and members, and visited several area co-operatives, including the nation's largest agricultural co-operative, CHS Inc., and the Mill City Museum, built on the site of what was once the world's largest flour mill.
This year's conference was made possible by the generous support of the CHS Foundation, CHS Inc., CoBank, Farmers Union Industries Foundation, NFU Foundation, Minnesota Cooperative Education Foundation, and Organic Valley Co-op. New England participants' attendance was supported in part by grants from USDA Rural Development and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.
By becoming a member of New England Farmers Union, you can support co-operative educational programs such as the CCOC. Individual members of NFCA member food co-ops get a discount on membership ($25). Please consider joining: www.newenglandfarmersunion.org
The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is an affiliate member of the New England Farmers Union (NEFU), representing our commitment to collaboration among consumers and our region's family farmers and fishermen to influence food system policy and build a more vibrant, resilient and co-operative food system in New England. NFCA Executive Director Erbin Crowell serves as Vice President of NEFU, and many of our Neighboring Food Co-ops are organizational members. For more info on our partnership & how you can become a member, visit: www.newenglandfarmersunion.org/co-operation
The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is an affiliate member of the New England Farmers Union (NEFU), representing our commitment to collaboration among consumers and our region's family farmers and fishermen to influence food system policy and build a more vibrant, resilient and co-operative food system in New England. NFCA Executive Director Erbin Crowell serves as Vice President of NEFU, and many of our Neighboring Food Co-ops are organizational members. For more info on our partnership & how you can become a member, visit: www.newenglandfarmersunion.org/co-operation.
Register today for Slow Living Summit 2016 Food & Ag Entrepreneurship: How to succeed in business by slowing down taking place in Brattleboro, Vermont, April 28-30, 2016.
The 2016 Summit taking place April 28-30 will provide forums for unique explorations of key topics in food and agriculture entrepreneurship, such as business planning, funding sources, refining and pitching ideas, ownership structures, social impact, collaboration, and food and agriculture business case studies.
If you are a member of a Neighboring Food Co-op use this code when you register to get 20% off: SlowlySlowly2016.
Co-operative Management Practices to Strengthen Identity, Loyalty and Overall Business Performance. This is an interactive professional development opportunity focused on leading thinking in co-operative management coupled with tangible examples of how to translate knowledge into action. http://www.smu.ca/academics/sobey/cme-executive-education.html
Hosted by the Neighboring Food Co-op Association in Amherst, MA, the 2016 CCMA Conference will challenge and inspire food sector leadership to address diversity and inclusion and make the case for a radical shift in thinking for food co-ops to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive natural foods marketplace.
Celebrated on the first Saturday in July since 1923, this year's theme is "Co-operatives: The Power to Act for a Sustainable Future," a nod of support to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. On the 2016 Day let us speak out loud, on the value of co-operatives' unique approach to sustainable economic, social and environmental development.
Cultivating The Organic Grassroots Movement. The Northeast Organic Farming Association's Summer Conference is the community learning hub of the NOFA universe. We learn, we play, and we enjoy a weekend of skill building, inspiration and entertainment. It is our opportunity to get together and inspire one another during a family friendly weekend with people living the same lifestyle, holding the same vision and working respectively in many ways toward the same goals.