In 2012, we celebrated the International Year of Co-ops, recognizing the contribution of co-operative business to social and economic development, poverty reduction, employment, and food security. And from food co-ops to farmer co-ops, worker co-ops to credit unions, and housing co-ops to energy co-ops, co-operative enterprises build a better world!
Co-ops are member-owned and democratically governed enterprises that put people before profit. As an individual, you can also GO CO-OP, joining with others to build a better world by:
- Joining your local co-ops,
- Purchasing co-op products and services,
- Investing in co-operation, and
- Learning more about how co-operative enterprises build a better world.
The Neighboring Food Co-op Association is a network of more than 25 co-ops in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire with a combined membership of 90,000 people. Together, we are building our vision of a thriving regional economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable food system. We invite you to join your local food co-ops (you can join more than one!). For a map of food co-ops in our region, please visit www.nfca.coop/members.
Find a Local Credit Union
Credit unions are co-operatively organized, non-profit financial institutions with a proud history of helping people help themselves and each other, building more resilient local communities. Members of credit unions pool their resources that are then used to provide loans and other financial services to one other. Many food co-ops have relationships with local credit unions. For example, members of River Valley Market in Northampton, MA, are eligible for membership in the UMASSFive College Credit Union, while Willimantic Food Co-op in Connecticut has a similar relationship with Northeast Family Credit Union. And Brattleboro Food Co-op (VT) hosts a customer service counter for River Valley Credit Union.
To find a credit union near you, visit the Credit Union National Association’s credit union finder.
We also invite you to look for co-op products when you shop at your local food co-op. “GO CO-OP” signs on our shelves identify items that have been supplied by co-ops. You may be surprised by some of the examples that you might find from our region, including:
Organic Valley is owned by its more than 1,600 farmer members. Look for their organic dairy products including milk — sourced from their 175 New England members — cheese, and butter, as well as soy milk and orange juice. http://www.organicvalley.coop
|Cabot Creamery is owned by a co-operative of 1,200 family farmers in New England and New York. Look for their award-winning cheese, butter and other dairy products. http://www.cabotcheese.coop|
|Deep Root Organic Co-op includes 14 family farm members in Vermont and nearby Québec offering fresh organic produce and fermented vegetables. http://www.deeprootorganic.com|
|Equal Exchange, a worker co-op and pioneer in Fair Trade, offers fairly traded coffee, tea, chocolate, snacks, olive oil and bananas, sourced from small farmer co-ops. http://www.equalexchange.coop|
For a larger list of co-op products and services, visit www.nfca.coop/co-opproducts.
You can also put your money to work by investing in or donating to co-operative funds that help co-ops grow and serve their communities. Examples include:
- The Cooperative Fund of New England (CFNE) is a community development financial institution (CDFI) that serves as a bridge between socially responsible investors and co-operatives, community oriented non-profits, and worker-owned businesses in New England. Over its 35 year history, CFNE has made more than 550 loans, creating or retaining scores of jobs and housing units. For more information, visit their website at www.coopfund.coop.
- Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund (NCDF) is a co-operatively owned community development financial institution (CDFI) committed to fostering economic democracy by investing in co-operative enterprises. NCDF currently serves more than 170 co-op members in 30 states, including natural food, consumer, producer, housing and worker-owned cooperatives, creating opportunities for co-ops and social investors to invest in the national co-operative movement. For more information, visit their website at www.ncdf.coop.
Want to know more about co-ops?
Visit www.GO.coop to learn more about the variety of co-ops in the United States.
Start a Study Group in your community using a book on co-ops:
- Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital, by John Restakis, is an excellent overview of the history and relevance of the co-operative movement to contemporary challenges.
- The Cooperative Solution, by E.G. Nadeau, is a short, readable book on how co-ops offer a solution to our current economic, social and environmental crises.
- The Co-operative Revolution: A Graphic Novel, published by the New Internationalist co-operative, this book "illustrates the history and enduring appeal of this robust business model."
- EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want, by Frances Moore Lappé, challenges the way we see the world and includes co-ops as a solution.
- Local Dollars, Local Sense, by Michael Schuman, includes a chapter on the "Hidden Power of Co-operatives."
Take a Course on co-ops. Opportunities in our region include:
- Introduction to the Co-operative Movement, an online course at the University of Connecticut, includes and overvies of the international co-operative movement and its relevance to contemporary issues and opportunities in the economy.
- Master of Management: Co-operatives & Credit Unions, is an comprehensive online degree program at St Mary's University. The program includes a two-year certificiate as well as a three-year degree.
- Creating a Cooperative Food Economy (AGR 114), at Greenfield Community College (GCC) in Greenfield, MA, explores co-operatives in the local food economy. The course is part of the "Farm and Food Systems" program at GCC.
- The Economics of Co-operative Enterprises, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is part of a wider effort by the UMASS Co-operative Enterprise Collaborative (UMACEC), to create a certificate program in co-operative enterprise. The NFCA is a member of the UMACEC.