E-News // Co-ops Support Our “Right to Know” // February 2015

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The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) has joined 120 food businesses and advocacy organizations in supporting passage of the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act of 2015. The bill, introduced this month in the U.S. House and Senate, would require mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods and ingredients and prohibits the labeling of any foods containing GMO ingredients as “natural.”

“Since the founding of the first successful food co-ops over 170 years ago, our movement has been concerned with the integrity of the food we eat,” said NFCA Executive Director Erbin Crowell. “This is a basic issue of the consumer’s right to know and to be able to choose the kind of food system they want to support with their purchases.”

Surveys have shown that the vast majority of consumers support GMO labeling. Crowell also noted that family farmer organizations such as the National Farmers Union and the New England Farmers Union (NEFU) have also endorsed this national legislation. The NFCA and NEFU have worked together to advocate for state-based GMO labeling legislation in our region, including successful efforts in Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont.

“The NFCA is proud to join in this effort alongside the Farmers Union, in addition to partner organizations including Equal Exchange, National Co+op Grocers, the Northeast Organic Farming Association, and Organic Valley,” said Crowell.

The federal bill, submitted in the House by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and in the Senate by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), has been introduced in advance of legislation that is expected to be introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) that would reinforce voluntary GMO labeling and nullify laws approved in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine.

The NFCA is encouraging food co-ops and their members who are concerned about GMOs to contact their elected officials and voice their support for The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act as well as state-based legislation.  In the meantime, consumers wishing to avoid GMOs and should look for the USDA Certified Organic label on the products they purchase.


NATIONAL CO-OP DIRECTORY: 2015 Edition Features NFCA & Member Co-ops

The National Co-op Directory is the only print resource featuring contact information from food co-ops across the United States, as well as supplier co-operatives, and co-op support organizations. The 2015 edition also includes “Year in Review” updates from food co-ops, including many of your Neighboring Food Co-ops, and an article by Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) Executive Director Erbin Crowell on “Building a Co-operative Future, Together.”

“An inspiring dialog has been taking place across the co-operative community over the last few years,” the article begins. “Building on the United Nation’s International Year of Co-ops in 2012, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) developed its Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, an ambitious document that envisions co-operative enterprise as the acknowledged leader in sustainability, the business model preferred by people across the globe, and the fastest growing form of enterprise in the world by 2020… So, what would it take for us to achieve this vision?”

Pick up a copy of the National Co-op Directory at your local food co-op, or, for more information, visit:




Over the past few years, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) has been sponsoring Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Conferences as an opportunity to raise the profile of our member food co-ops as partners in building a healthy, just and sustainable regional food system.

At the NOFA MASS Winter Conference in January in Worcester, MA we partnered with the Cooperative Fund of New England to present a workshop on “How Co-ops Make Healthy, Local Food More Accessible,” covering how the co-op model can support food security, and how Neighboring Food Co-ops are working to leverage community ownership and make local, nutritious food more accessible to families with limited budgets. NFCA staff member Bonnie Hudspeth presented with Suzette Snow-Cobb (Franklin Community Co-op) and Micha Josephy (Cooperative Fund of New England). While Bonnie and Micha provided background on the co-op model, our organizations, and NFCA’s Food Co-ops & Healthy Food Access project, Suzette provided a case study, giving details of Franklin Community Co-op’s history of food security and new work to make healthy food and co-op ownership more accessible to all. The workshop was well attended and included lively discussion at the end.

Check out photos from the NOFA MA Winter Conference: http://s.coop/nfcanofama2015

Later in January, at the NOFA NH Winter Conference in Concord, NH, Bonnie Hudspeth (NFCA) and Tony White (The Co-op Food Stores) offered a workshop on “Selling to Your Local Food Co-op,” exploring what farmers and producers need to know to offer your products to local food co-ops. The PowerPoint we used was similar to the one presented at the 2014 NOFA Summer Conference:


In conjunction with this presentation, and in response to requests from both farmers and food co-ops, the NFCA developed a new resource and website page with information for farmers and producers interested in selling their products to food co-ops.

Check it out and let us know if you have feedback: https://nfca.coop/localvendors

Also, view some photos from the NOFA NH Winter Conference: http://s.coop/nfcanofanh2015

At the NOFA VT Winter Conference, (February 14-16) in Burlington, VT, the NFCA worked to organize a workshop, Growing for Wholesale: The Options, Opportunities & Conditions, and Pat Burns, General Manager of City Market/Onion River Food Co-op was one of the panelists, along with Abbie Nelson (NOFA VT and VT FEED), Annie Rowell (VT Food Venture Center), and Abbey Willard (VAAFM).  This workshop focused on how diversifying production and growing for wholesale markets provides an opportunity for bulk sales, efficiencies, and long term markets to local farmers and producers, and opportunities for producers to access wholesale markets including food co-ops, processors, institutions, and independent grocery stores.

During the workshop, Pat Burns shared with farmers and producers from across Vermont why co-ops “are great places to get into.”  For example, “Co-ops don’t charge slotting fees, and are more willing to work with small vendors, either individually, or from a Deep Root Organic Co-op type of producer co-op distributor.”

“By our nature and mission, are very committed to all things local,” shared Burns. “We seek out farmers in the spring to listen to what they are planting, and often can pre-buy products to eliminate some of the concern about ‘how all I going to sell all this?’  We also suggest crops that can fill gaps in the store.”

As he points out, food co-op staff can be a valuable resource for by helping provide feedback to interested farmers and producers on customer demand and product viability. “I told them if they are thinking value added products, we have enough salsa…” shared Burns.



Have you noticed the “Cave to Co-op” signs in the cheese section of your neighboring food co-op? February’s “Cave to Co-op” special artisan cheese is “Oh My Heart” from Lazy Lady Farm.

Oh My Heart is a small, soft, fatty, buttery disk made from cow milk and cow cream. A double cream bloomy rind that is luscious and addictive, Oh My Heart is the perfect cheese with which to lure the affections of your one true love.  Find out more about this cheese and Lazy Lady Farm: https://nfca.coop/CaveToCo-opFebruary2015

Cave to Co-op is a partnership between Provisions International and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) to support local, artisanal cheese producers in our region and make their products more easily available to co-op shoppers. For more information on the program, please visit www.nfca.coop/CaveToCo-op.



Using New England Farmers Union’s Growing a Food System for the Future: A Manual for Co-operative Enterprise Development, Ned Porter, professional consultant, provided a brief overview of co-operatives and how they work and benefit producers at the Maine Agriculture Trades Show.

Steve Getz, New England East Region Pool Manager for Organic Valley, and Dean Churchill, Business-Cooperative Programs Director for USDA’s Rural Development in Maine, joined Porter on the panel. Getz provided insights based on his hands-on experience with both food and farmer co-ops. Churchill talked about the USDA grant and financing programs available to farmer co-ops.

“The audience was engaged. We had some good give and take,” Porter said. “I am looking forward to some follow up with a few of them who were keen to learn more.”

NEFU will hold a similar discussion on farmer co-ops at Harvest New England in February. See our event listing here. And thanks to the Broad Reach Fund for funding this work on producer co-operatives.


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 information on our partnership and how you can become a member, please visit: www.newenglandfarmersunion.org/co-operation.



March 7, 2015: CDS Co-op Café, Keene, NH

“Competition and Co-ops: Thriving in the New Competitive Landscape”

For more information, visit http://www.cdsconsulting.coop.

March 21, 2015: The Neighboring Food Co-op Association’s 4th Annual Meeting, Putney, VT

The NFCA’s Annual Meeting is open to member food co-ops, start-ups and invited guests. For more information, e-mail us: info@nfca.coop.

May 4-6, 2015: NCBA CLUSA Annual Meeting & Co-op Hall of Fame, Washington, DC

For more information, visit http://www.ncba.coop/acc-2015-schedule-of-events.

June 3-5, 2015: Slow Living Summit, Brattleboro, VT

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is sponsoring the Fifth Annual Slow Living Summit, June 3 – 5, 2015 in Brattleboro, Vermont.

This year’s summit will be a mindful exploration of the journey of food, from farming and food entrepreneurship to food systems to nourishment to food justice and policy, including how co-operatives support resilient food systems.

The Summit Will Explore:

  • Food Entrepreneurship: How can locally oriented farmers and food producers flourish in the face of a globalized food industry?
  • Food Systems: How do we develop food systems holistically — serving the entire community, using the entirety of available food resources?
  • Nourishment and Wellness: How do we strengthen connections between food, body, mind, spirit, and community?
  • Food Justice and Access: Is good food just for those who can afford it and easily access it? Why are there food deserts?
  • Food Policies: What policies can maximize the value of our food systems? An exploration of local, state, national farm/food policies and trends.

Discounted early-bird rates are now in effect, so you can explore the Summit site, and register now.

Thanks to generous support from sponsors and donors, sliding scale registration options are available.

Register for the 2015 Slow Living Summit: www.slowlivingsummit.org/2015-summit-registration/


Neighboring Food Co-op Association
PO Box 93, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370

email: info@nfca.coop
website: www.nfca.coop
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/neighboring