The Neighboring Food Co-op Association is proud to welcome the national food co-op community to this special part of New England that many of us like to call “Co-op Valley,” as we gather for CCMA 2016. In collaboration with our local member co-ops Brattleboro Food Co-op, Franklin Community Co-op, and River Valley Co-op, and our partners at the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops, we have put together a series of tours so you can enjoy the scenery while you get to know some of the co-op businesses and organizations that make this such a special place.
All Bus Tours will take place on Thursday, June 9, 1:00PM – 5:00PM, except for Tour 5: Organic Valley Farm Tour, which will leave at 12:00pm.
*This page will be updated with even more tour details as we get closer to the conference.
- First Stop: Collective Copies. This 33 year old worker collective provides printing services including book publishing for local authors.
- Next Stop: UMass 5 Credit Union. This credit union, founded in 1967 with 5 members contributing $5 each, now has over 20,000 members and is affiliated with many food co-ops in the Valley.
- Last Stop: River Valley Co-op. River Valley Co-op opened its doors as a start-up just 8 years ago and has grown to become an anchor of the regional food system with $25 million in annual sales. Tour the store and enjoy local cheese and Riojana wines from a co-operative in Argentina on the deck. River Valley has been a member of NFCA and NCG from its beginning.
First Stop: Greenfield Farmers’ Co-operative Exchange. This farmers supply co-op was founded in 1918 and has been an anchor our region’s producers ever since.
- Next Stop: Franklin Community Co-op: Established in 1977, NFCA and NCG member Franklin Community co-op operates two stores, Green Field’s Market in Greenfield, and McCusker’s Market in Shelburne Falls.
- Next Stop: PV Squared. This 14 year old worker co-op is a leader in solar power installation in the Valley.
- Next Stop: Real Pickles. This business recently converted from a sole proprietorship to a co-operative business, producing 100% organic pickles, saurkraut, kimchee and other naturally fermented products.
- Last Stop: Artisan Beverage Co-op. The result of a merger between two independent businesses, this worker co-op produces Katalyst Kombucha and Green River Ambrosia beverages including Ginger Libation.
First Stop: Brattleboro Food Co-op. Founded in 1975, this NFCA and NCG member food co-op has been a key contributor to the revitalization of downtown Brattleboro and recently completed an award-winnning expansion that includes green building features and affordable housing.
- Last Stop: Brattleboro Holistic Health Center. This worker co-op got its start when a group of alternative health providers got together to purchase a business from the previous owner. They also operate an apothecary.
First Stop: River Valley Co-op. River Valley Co-op opened its doors as a start-up just 8 years ago and has grown to become an anchor of the regional food system with $25 million in annual sales. Tour the store and enjoy local cheese and Riojana wines from a co-operative in Argentina on the deck. River Valley has been a member of NFCA and NCG from its beginning.
- Next Stop: African American History Tour. Western Massachusetts has a rich history of organizing for racial and economic justice. This tour will include visits to historic sites related to abolitionist leader Sojourner Truth and the Northampton Association for Education and Industry, an early model for multiracial, co-operative living.
- Last Stop: Valley Malt at Grow Food Northampton. This stop will feature selected local brews made using Valley Malt and snacks. See organic community gardens at the non-profit community farm operated by Grow Food Northampton. This organization purchased farmland with a mission of making organic farmland accessible for new community farmers as well as community gardeners. They have a vibrant education program and also feature a CSA. One of Grow Food Northampton’s farmer members operates Valley Malt. Valley Malt is reviving heritage grains and the regional tradition of producing malts from local grains for micro beer brewers.
NOTE: This tour will be leaving at noon.
The Franklin Farm is one of over 1,800 Organic Valley farms. CROPP Cooperative, with the brands Organic Valley and Organic Prairie, started in 1988 by a handful of farmers in the Midwest. On the tour, you’ll learn about the Franklin’s farming journey and the growth of CROPP Cooperative.
While visiting Franklin Farm in Guilford, Vermont, you will see the cows grazing on pasture while learning about the soil, you’ll learn about milk quality and get a better understanding of the milking process, visit the farm store and sugarhouse, and if you want to be in two states at once, we can arrange to have your picture taken of you straddling the Massachusetts/Vermont state lines right on the farm. This tour includes a box lunch from Franklin Community Co-op.
In the southeastern foothills of Vermont’s Green Mountain Range, the Franklins have lived and farmed since the late 1700s.
Since the early 1990s, when their three sons were very young, David and Mary Ellen Franklin have managed Franklin Farm first holistically, then organically. It was in the early 1990s when they stopped using chemicals. “We just couldn’t afford them anymore,” Mary Ellen says. “It didn’t take us long to figure out that by not using chemicals and rotationally grazing our cows, our pastures were better. Now we just grow grass.”
The Franklin’s herd of fifty Friesian/Normandy/Jersey crosses takes full advantage of that. They’re moved to fresh paddocks every twelve hours during the grazing season, and the herd’s genetics complement perfectly the land they traverse: strong legs, good feet, and a propensity to produce plenty of milk on their high forage diet.
Some of the farm’s 200 acres of woodland are managed as a “sugar bush.” The maple syrup made from the trees is sold in the Franklin’s farm store.
“Setting up the farm store really tied us into our community,” Mary Ellen says. “We were tight with everybody around here to begin with, but when you open your farm up to your neighbors, they become part of the farm, too. We’re working for them. We produce the best food we can and always have.”
These days, the Franklin boys, John, Paul and Neal, are in college. “They worked with us side-by-side since they were little boys,” Mary Ellen says. When oldest son, John, graduates from University of Vermont, he plans to return to the farm. “And if Paul and Neal want to come back to the farm at some point, they know it’ll be here,” Mary Ellen says.