Celebrate Co-op Month!

This October, your Neighboring Food Co-ops are joining over 65,000 co-operatives and credit unions across the United States in celebrating Co-op Month, observed nationally since 1964. This year’s theme, “Owning Our Identity,” was chosen by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) as an opportunity to engage co-op members, customers, employees, and the general public about the co-operative difference.

“In 1995, the International Cooperative Alliance approved the Statement on the Cooperative Identity,” said Erbin Crowell, executive director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) and a member of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) Cooperative Identity Advisory Group.  “Co-op Month is a unique opportunity for co-ops to communicate their values and the principles that make them real in how we conduct business.”

The Statement defines a co-operative as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.”  This means that co-ops are governed by their members, the everyday people who use the business, as opposed to investors or shareholders.   These members may be consumers, workers, producers, or independent business owners who govern the co-op on a democratic basis.  This unique relationship is recognized in international law as well as by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which affirms that co-ops are “user-owned businesses that are controlled by — and operate for the benefit of — their members, rather than outside investors.”

Next, the Statement notes that co-ops “are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity.”  These values set the co-operative movement apart from other business models in that their purpose is not simply to generate profit, but to enable people to work together to build a better future for everyone.  Further, co-ops and their members “believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.”  Co-ops and their members set a high standard for themselves and are working constantly to live up to their ideals.

Finally, the Co-operative Identity includes a list of principles, or “guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.”  These are the operational characteristics of co-operative enterprises – or what makes a co-op a co-op – and include Voluntary and Open Membership (all are welcome and no one is forced to join), Democratic Member Control (co-ops are controlled by the people who use the business for shared benefit), Member Economic Participation (members participate in the business and contribute capital to support growth and success), Autonomy and Independence (co-ops are controlled by their members, rather than outside organizations, governments, or investors), Education, Training, and Information (co-ops educate and empower their members, policymakers, and the public), Cooperation among Cooperatives (by working together, co-ops are more successful can have more impact), and Concern for Community (co-ops are member-focused — but also work for a more democratic, sustainable, and inclusive economy for everyone).

Across the Northeast, people have used food co-ops to improve access to healthy, local, affordable food, and build stronger, more inclusive communities.  For example, a survey by the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) found that grocery co-ops across New England and New York play a key role on supporting our regional economy, selling more than $112 million in local products annually — or an amazing 25% of total sales.  Taken together, these co-ops are locally owned by 173,000 members and provide employment for over 2,465 people, more than 60% of whom are also members, sharing in the ownership of their local grocery store.

From farmer co-ops to worker co-ops, credit unions to mutual insurance, and housing co-ops to energy co-ops, co-operative businesses thrive across the U.S. economy, where 1 in three people are co-op members.  Around the world, around 1 billion people are members of about 3 million co-operatives, and 10% of the world’s population, or around 280 million people, are employed by co-ops.  And because they are member-owned, co-operatives are rooted in their communities and governed by the people who use them to meet their needs.

Stop in at your local food co-op during Co-op Month to learn more about what makes co-operatives different.  And while you’re there, look for the “Go Co-op” signs on the shelves that identify co-op made products. You may be surprised by what you find, including dairy products from Cabot Creamery Co-op and Organic Valley, fresh produce from Deep Root Organic Co-op, fairly traded coffee, tea, and chocolate from Equal Exchange, beverages from Katalyst Kombucha and La Riojana wines, seeds and bulbs from FEDCO, naturally fermented vegetables from Real Pickles — and many others.

More Co-op Month activities below!

Food Co-ops: Join the Celebration!

Here are some ideas on how your food co-op can celebrate Co-op Month and promote the difference that your co-op makes in your community every day.  By working together with other co-operatives and credit unions, we can also communicate the impact of our member-driven business model across the food system and economy.  However you decide to celebrate, let us know so we can spread the word!


  • Use the Theme.  Every year, NCBA CLUSA chooses a theme to unite co-ops and credit unions in celebrating Co-op Month.  Use the theme “Owning Our Identity”  in your promotions and social media communications to help spread the word.
  • Tell Your Story.  Download our customizable Co-op Month Press Release / Newsletter/ ENews Story  for use in your food co-op’s newsletter, website or blog post, or as a press release promoting the shared impact of our food co-ops in the Northeast.  Check out these past examples from Member Co-op newsletters:
  • Tell Our Story.  Share the story of our collective impact and power through our co-op federation, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association.  Check out this example from Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op.
  • Co-op Month Images. Include the 2023 Co-op Month Logo in your co-op’s advertising, newsletters, flyers and other materials during October.
  • Organize a Co-op Month Ad in Your Community. Invite other co-ops and credit unions in your community to pitch in on a shared ad in your local newspaper.  For examples from the Valley Co-operative Business Association, click HERE.
  • Share this video from Co-operative Network — “Co-ops are Everywhere!” — in your food co-op newsletter or on your website!
  • Social Media. Help spread the word about Co-op Month this October by using the hashtag #CoopMonth.


  • Participate in our Co-op Month Social Media Photo Competition with awesome co-op swag from some of your favorite co-ops! 
  • Display the NFCA’s “Go Co-op” Rack Cards. Use the NFCA’s “Go Co-op” rack cards to promote Co-op Month to members and shoppers in your food co-op and at special events.  NFCA member co-ops receive a bundle of cards in September in preparation for Co-op Month, or you can request a bundle by e-mailing info@nfca.coop.
  • Use “Go Co-op” Shelf Tags to Promote Co-op Products. Use the NFCA’s “Go Co-op” Shelf Talkers (photo above) to promote co-op suppliers in your food co-op.  Every September NFCA member co-ops receive printed copies to update their shelves. You can also download templates here to print on pre-perforated channel tag paper: Bulk, Grocery, Refrigerated & Wellness items, and Cheese & Dairy items.
  • Co-op Month Buttons for Staff, Board Members and Volunteers doing outreach. We will be mailing a set of buttons to member co-ops in time for Co-op Month. Let us know if you want to request a specific number.
  • Co-op Month Sales. Set up an end cap or special Co-op Month Specials on products from co-op suppliers.  Visit www.nfca.coop/co-opproducts for a list of co-op suppliers.
    • Demo Co-op Products. Spread the word about co-ops by sharing their products with shoppers at your food co-op.  Some co-ops in our region that you may want to reach out to include:
      • Equal Exchange. Inquire with your sales rep.
  • Invite Other Co-ops to Table at Your Food Co-op or Event. Invite local farmer co-ops, worker co-ops, energy co-ops, credit unions, etc., to share information at a busy shopping day at your food co-op or at a special Co-op Month event. For a map of co-ops in our region, visit www.nfca.coop/co-opeconomy.
  • Fundraise for Co-op Development during Co-op Month. Set aside a day, week or the whole month to invite shoppers to round up at the register to raise funds for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives / Land Assistance Fund supporting land retention and co-operative development for Black farmers and their communities in the South, the Cooperative Development Foundation which provides resources for co-operative education, development, and emergency relief, and the Food Co-op Initiative supporting the next wave of food co-ops in our communities!


  • Co-op Month Talking Points. Your staff and members are your best ambassadors for your food co-op. Provide them with talking points on Co-op Month and how your food co-ops builds community every day. It could be as simple as:

“Did you know that October is National Co-op Month? We’re celebrating the Values and Principles that make co-ops unique, including [share any special events or promotions that your co-op has planned].”

Or more detailed:

“We’re excited to celebrate how our food co-op is to the Co-operative Identity – the Values and Principles that make co-ops special. Did you know that we’re locally owned by over ____ members, provide good jobs to ____ people, and purchase more than $____ from local producers every year?”

“And we’re not alone! The Neighboring Food Co-op Association includes 40 food co-ops and startups that are locally owned by more than 173,000 people across the Northeast, providing good jobs to 2,465 people, and selling more than $112 million in local products every year or 25% of total sales!”

  • Co-op Month Membership Drive. Co-op Month is a great time to build your food co-op or startup membership! Use this opportunity to help potential members understand what makes your co-op different and why they should join. Utilize our 2023 Co-op Month Giveaway! NFCA Member Co-ops can automatically have their newly joining members entered to win. (email suzette@nfca.coop if you need more info) Want to enter the give-away on your own? Info and Entry Form here.
  • Help Your Members Share Your Co-op:
    • “Bring a Friend to Your Co-op Day.” Offer some incentive for every member who brings in a friend who has never shopped in their Co-op or who brings in a friend to join, or…
    • “Bring Your Co-op to Work Day.”  Create basic materials for how members can share about their Co-op at work (in staff meetings, bulletin board) or in community groups (book club, sports, etc.).


  • Co-op Month Proclamation.  Submitting a local Co-op Month proclamation is a great way to raise awareness of the difference that co-ops make in our communities every day!  Download our template “Co-op Month Proclamation” to adapt and submit to your city or town.  In 2022, the NFCA secured proclamations by  Massachusetts and Vermont  Governors, and on the national level The U.S. House of Representatives introduced a Co-op Month resolution.
  • Organize a Co-op Month Event. Work with other co-ops and credit unions in the community to organize a Co-op Month Cookout with information tables, or a Film Showing and discussion forum with a video that includes information on co-ops such as:
    • Building a Better Economy (2023) by Tom Webb While this 40 min film has primarily Canadian co-op examples, it is very relevant to the U.S. and is aimed at stimulating thought among co-operative members, leaders and managers and the general public about the economic and environmental challenges ahead and what role co-operatives can play.
    • The Visionaries PBS program (2016) celebrates NCBA CLUSA’s 100th anniversary  called “In the Spirit of Cooperation,” features different types of co-ops in five locations spanning the U.S., Africa and Southeast Asia.  See the trailer here.
    • Food for Change (2014) is an 82-minute documentary film focusing on food co-ops as a force for dynamic social and economic change in American culture. To arrange a screening or see the study guide here.
    • Shift Changefeatures Spain’s Mondragón co-ops and worker co-ops here in the US.
  • Use the Airwaves. Contact your public access TV station or local radio station for an interview or panel discussion on co-operatives. Example from WHMP’s The Bill Newman Show past 9 years of annual hour-long show during co-op month. List and links HERE.
  • Reach Out to Your Local School or Community Organization. Use the New England Farmers Union curriculum, “Co-operatives: The Business of Teamwork” in education & outreach programs at your co-op, or share it with local schools and community organizations that do educational programs.  This resource includes content for grades 1 to adult.  Download a copy HERE or e-mail info@nfca.coop for more information on printed copies.
  • Start a Co-op Month Book Group for members at your food co-op with titles focused on co-operatives:


  • Roll out a Co-op Education Plan for employees. The more co-op staff know about co-op history, co-op structure and other types of co-ops the better they will be able to understand how co-ops contribute to building an empowering economy and why their co-op is having a positive impact in their community.  NFCA has developed a five video series with accompanying questions for reflection for you to use for co-op education.

This video series was developed to help co-operatives engage their members, employees, board of directors, and community members in the co-operative difference. Co-op Education Webinar Series here.

Don’t forget to tell us what your co-op is doing to celebrate Co-op Month.  Send your ideas and copies of your co-op’s ads, press releases, promotions, and newsletter articles to info@nfca.coop so we can share them with other co-ops in our community.