Working Together for the Future We Want // NFCA News, January 2021

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In this Month’s E-News, check out:


Working Together for the Future We Want

The New Year has brought both challenges and glimpses of a brighter future. As we look back on 10 years of co-operation in 2021, we know that working together is the best way to build a better world for everyone.

Founding member-owners of Kingston Food Co-op (NY)

Many of us were looking forward to closing the door on 2020, the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the worst recession since the Great Depression and refocusing on rebuilding our communities and rebuilding them better — with democracy, justice, diversity, equity, inclusion, and sustainability at the heart of our efforts.

Then came a violent assault on our nation on January 6th, fueled by baseless lies and conspiracy theories designed to undermine faith in democracy, the peaceful transfer of power, our commitment to the common good — and even basic truth. The scenes were jarring, as rioters at the U.S. Capitol seemed to show an easy willingness to inflict pain on fellow human beings and even threaten the lives of elected officials. And the dramatic difference in the police response to these violent insurrectionists and those calling for justice over the past year was noticeable.

But our democracy held. And on Inauguration Day, we saw leaders from across the political spectrum, people from all walks of life, reaffirming our commitment to working together as we continue to build a more perfect union. While our challenges are far from over, we know that the fulfillment of the promise of our nation, of real democracy and justice, will not be realized at some specific point in time. Rather, it is an ongoing process, dialog, and at times a struggle. It will take commitment, compassion, solidarity, and vision to to overcome the racism and division that has become so visible as we work to rebuild.

Back in 2017, the NFCA published our “Statement on Diversity, Inclusion & Democracy” in the context of startling events that we deemed to be “fundamentally at odds with American Principles… as well as the Co-operative Values of equality, solidarity, and caring for others.” Four years later, our conclusion seems even more relevant as we look forward:

“…We reaffirm our commitment to being not just welcoming businesses, but empowering community enterprises. We seek to be positive resources and influences, presenting opportunities for constructive dialogs and collective actions for change. And we will explore ways that we can reach beyond our walls, advocating for policies that will contribute to democracy and equality, advance human rights, and support environmental sustainability.

As a federation of community-owned food co-ops, we seek to empower people to enjoy healthier lives, build stronger local communities, and provide good jobs. We advocate for a deeper sense of corporate social responsibility that includes democratic ownership, the full expression of human diversity and the needs of future generations. In taking this stand, we acknowledge that we can always do better and must challenge ourselves to live up to our Values and Principles. By working together, we believe that we can help build stronger communities, a more inclusive nation, and a better world for everyone.”

As leaders from co-ops and partner organizations across our region came together over 10 years ago to form what was to become the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, they began to sketch out their vision for a more healthy, just, and sustainable future, and who could carry that work forward. Their answer, that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” still guides our work and our commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Over the past year, our co-ops have been tested. Managers, staff, directors and members have worked hard to keep their communities safe, ensuring access to healthy food, and working to support local suppliers. We have increased our efforts to connect our co-ops for mutual support, to help them serve and build power and connection in their communities, and work with partners to increase our impact as we make the case for how the co-operative movement can contribute to a more inclusive economy.

We are thankful for the opportunity to work with a dedicated and caring NFCA board and so many inspiring staff and board members from our co-ops. We’re moving forward to make the future we want, together.


Growing Co-operative Enterprise

Did you miss this webinar on how co-ops can help us rebuild and the basics of starting a co-op? It’s available online!

Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) and current Chair of the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) was invited to present as part of the opening of the National Famers Union‘s virtual 119th Convention.

The webinar was part of series on the co-operative movement being offered by Crowell in collaboration with NFU. This session, now available online, explores what co-ops have to offer as we work to rebuild our communities in the midst of a pandemic, a devastated economy, and dramatic inequality.

  • How can co-ops help us build more resilient economies, sustain local businesses, and retain jobs?
  • What are some of the different types of co-operatives?
  • How can co-ops work together to build a stronger, more sustainable economy?
  • What are the basics of starting a co-operative or converting an existing business?
  • Where can I find help if I want to launch a co-op in my community?

These are some of the questions explored in this webinar.


Short Course in Co-op Governance & Management

Executive Education training addresses unique opportunities in leading and managing co-operatives while placing members at the core of business success.

Join your Neighboring Food Co-ops for an engaging online course on Excellence in Member-centric Governance and Management, offered by the International Centre for Co-operative Management at Saint Mary’s University. Designed for seasoned decision-makers and emerging leaders from any sector or type of co-operative, all will benefit from this knowledge-rich, two-day course.

Learn more and register now for upcoming sessions:

  • FEB 17 & 18, 2021 // 10:00am- 3:30pm EST

As part of December’s training, Cornelius Blanding, executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives was interviewed by Erbin Crowell, executive director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, on the role of co-ops in the struggle for Civil Rights in the South and the importance of co-operative associations working together to advance racial and economic justice today.

Food co-ops from the Northeast participating in past sessions of the training have included Belfast Food Co-op (ME), Buffalo Mountain Co-op (VT) Fiddleheads Food Co-op (CT), Honest Weight Food Co-op (NY), Hunger Mountain Co-op (VT), National Co+op Grocers, and Portland Food Co-op (ME).

“The Saint Mary’s Two Day Executive Course on Member-Centric Management was such an enlightening experience,” said Tim Wingate, CFO & Finance Manager at Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier, VT, who participated in a training in October. “From the pre-course readings and case studies to several models, this session really helped to broaden my perspective of what it truly means to member-focused.”

Join us for this educational experience including presentations and discussions led by co-operative educators including:

  • Karen Miner, Managing Director, and Sonja Novkovic, Academic Director of the International Centre for Co-operative Management (ICCM), Saint Mary’s University
  • Key presentations by Fred Freundlich (LANKI, University of Mondragón, Spain) and Erbin Crowell (Neighboring Food Co-op Association and NCBA-CLUSA Board Chair, USA)
  • Featured speakers providing case studies and examples.

“Members are at the heart of the co-operative difference and our competitive advantage,” said Erbin Crowell, executive director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association and a presenter for the course. “These sessions offer a unique opportunity for co-op leaders to explore how a member-centric approach is essential to business success.”

Get more info and register:

https://www.smu.ca/academics/sobey/member-centric-governance-management.html


Farm to Freezer: Love Your Farmer, Love Your Veggies

Seed companies report record demand for vegetable seeds this year as more people plan gardens for the upcoming growing season.

Farmers too are busy planning as we all anticipate the warmer weather and abundance of local fruits and vegetables available from the Northeast. But growing what we need isn’t easy. Farmers work hard, a labor of love, to grow what feeds us. While we wait we can still enjoy regionally grown and frozen sweet corn, green peas and blueberries for nourishing, healthy meals for our families.

Your food co-ops work hard too to support our local farmers and love that they grow a variety of fruits and vegetables to offer shoppers. And we love that we can be working together with other food co-ops across our region to be make regionally grown produce available all year ‘round. Your local food co-op not only has the ingredients you need for making soups, stir-fries, and special meals including our frozen vegetables, but loves to support our farmers and farm families by recognizing the importance of purchasing from them all year long. Last year NFCA co-ops sold over 93 million in local goods! Try the recipe of Corn Chowder using regionally produced products and love that you are contributing to a sustainable food system and enjoy a tasty meal.

Eat healthy and help show the love for family farmers all year long with delicious produce from our region. Our “Northeast Grown” Frozen Fruits and Vegetables are easy to find in your food co-op’s freezer section — they’re packed with a simple black and white label and a clear package so you can see what’s inside.

Steve’s New England Corn Chowder

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 cups onions, diced
  • 3 cups celery, diced
  • 4 cups potatoes, diced
  • 10 oz (one bag NFCA frozen) corn
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup half ‘n half (Organic Valley Grassmilk my fave!)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot, saute the onion and celery in butter on medium heat until they start to become tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes with salt, pepper and bay leaf, and enough water to not quite cover them. Bring to boil, turn down to low heat and simmer until potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add corn and cook another 5 minutes. To finish, add milk & cream, adjust seasoning to taste with more salt and/or pepper, and some dill if you like.

January’s Cave to Co-op Special

Mt. Alice, von Trapp Farmstead, Waitsfield, VT

Mt. Alice is a bloomy rind Camembert-style cheese and is elegantly smooth. This milky delight is made from the farm’s organic pasteurized cows’ milk and aged for three to five weeks. The von Trapp Farmstead  has been in operation since 1959, when Werner and Erika von Trapp purchased the von Trapp Farm. The farm has transitioned (over the course of three generations) to a certified organic dairy and in 2009 added cheese making to the value-added operations. Striving for high-quality standards, the von Trapp Farm produces some of the sweetest organic milk for premium cheese production and has some of the happiest cows in Vermont.

Mt. Alice is named after a distinct mountain peak southeast of the farm. Mt. Alice is perfect on a cheese plate and makes a great easy lunch, thickly smeared on a crusty baguette. If you are feeling more adventurous however, there are a couple of recipes that highlight its mushroomy and milky flavor on our website.

Each month our Cave to Co-op partnership between Provisions International and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) offers a delicious regional cheese featured at a great price. Strengthening our local and regional farmers and producers by supporting artisanal cheesemakers is a key goal of the Cave to Co-op program.

For over 10 years our NFCA Member Co-ops have participated in the Cave to Co-op program featuring a delicious artisan cheese every month, through the years that’s nearly 50 different cheese producers from our region! The von Trapp Farmstead has produced award-winning cheeses that we have been pleased to feature multiple times through out the years. You can see the past month’s featured cheeses on our website as well as recipes and more information about the program on the January Cave to Co-op page.


Farmers Union: Debt Relief for Farmers

Recent action by the USDA, supported by calls from the Farmers Union, will help keep family farmers in business and strengthen rural communities.

Last Spring, the National Farmers Union (NFU) called on Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take action to help prevent family farmers from going out of business due to the multitude of challenges in the farm economy compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the letters called for debt relief and the suspension of current and pending foreclosure actions.

“There will be many difficulties in the farm economy in 2020,” stated NFU. “But farm foreclosures must not be among them.”

This January, with a new administration in place, the USDA took action, announcing actions designed to ease mounting financial pressures on farmers and temporarily suspending past-due debt collections and foreclosures for farmers borrowing under the Farm Storage Facility Loan and the Direct Farm Loan programs while also offering flexibilities under the Guaranteed Loan Program. Additionally, the agency plans to halt foreclosures and evictions that are already underway. Approximately 12,000 farmers, representing 10 percent of Farm Service Agency borrowers, will be eligible for this assistance.

The announcement comes as a relief to NFU, which has been pushing legislators and administration officials to provide family farmers and ranchers with the support they need to withstand the added challenges caused by the pandemic. In a statement, NFU President Rob Larew lauded the action, saying that it will be particularly beneficial to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers:

“With so many factors beyond their control, farmers know to be prepared for a bad year here and there. But it hasn’t just been just one bad year because of the pandemic – it’s been five bad years because of trade wars, climate change, and stubbornly low prices. Even the most established farmers may not have the reserves to cope with this kind of enduring financial strain – and beginning and historically underserved farmers almost certainly do not.”

For many family farmers, the pandemic, economic recession, and limited government support has been an existential threat. This new action by the USDA will be crucial to rural communities and our food system.

“As a country, we really can’t afford to lose these farmers,” said Larew. “The agriculture industry has already experienced rapid consolidation over the last several decades, to the detriment of rural communities and national food security. The pandemic could have accelerated this trend – but fortunately, the USDA’s ongoing support will likely prevent the worst-case outcome. By suspending debt collections and foreclosures, the agency will help struggling farmers stay on their land and continue growing food for their fellow Americans.”

“We greatly appreciate President Larew and the staff of National Farmers Union elevating our many concerns with the ongoing pandemic relief efforts,” said Roger Noonan, President of New England Farmers Union. “This is a great example of what we can accomplish with a strong Farmers Union.”

Successful advocacy for policies like these depends on farmers and their supporters having a strong voice in DC. Whether you are a farmer, fisher, or a consumer, you can help strengthen that voice by joining the New England Farmers Union.

Our Local Farmers & Fishermen Need You!

Do you care about where your food comes from and want to support the people who produce it? Join the NEFU as a Friend of the Farmer for just $15. Your membership will help ensure that our region’s producers and consumers are heard by policy makers here at home and in Washington, DC. For more information, please visit www.newenglandfarmersunion.org.


Co-op Calendar

~ A Virtual Event ~

Saturday & Sunday, February 13 – 14, 2021

Cultivating Stewardship: Health, Harmony, and Resilience

https://www.nofanh.org/winterconference

 

For More Co-op Events, Visit http://nfca.coop/calendar


The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is a co-operative federation of 40 food co-ops and startup initiatives across New England, working together toward a shared vision of a thriving co-operative economy, rooted in a healthy, just, and sustainable food system and a vibrant community of  co-operative enterprise.