E-News // Co-ops Connect Shoppers and Farmers // July 2015

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From the Center for Food Safety: http://s.coop/nodarkact2015

UPDATE: The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture passed H.R. 1599 out of committee on Tuesday, July 14, 2015. Within hours, it was announced that the bill will go straight to the House floor, as early as next week, with no vote in the Energy and Commerce Committee! Please contact your Representative today and urge them to oppose this anti-democratic bill!

The bill that would deny voters the right to pass state bills to label genetically engineered foods—and make mandatory labeling at the federal level impossible—has been reintroduced in Congress, despite hundreds of thousands of emails and phone calls from people like you opposing this corporate power-grab.

To make matters worse, Congressman Pompeo has released a dangerous new amendment to the DARK Act that would preempt any state or county laws regulating genetically engineered (GE) crops in any way.

Pompeo’s bill (H.R. 1599)—dubbed the “Denying Americans the Right-to-Know Act” (DARK Act)—would:

  • Prevent states from adopting their own GE labeling laws.
  • Prevent state or county laws regulating GE crops
  • Prevent the Food and Drug Administration from requiring companies to label GE ingredients and instead continue a failed 14-year “voluntary” labeling policy.

GE labeling is important to Americans, with over 90% consistently supporting transparency in the marketplace through mandatory GE labeling. In 2013 and 2014 there were over 70 GE labeling bills introduced across 30 states, with laws being passed in Maine, Connecticut, and Vermont.

The DARK Act would shut down these efforts and reverse these successfully passed bills, only to be replaced with an undemocratic, hollow “voluntary” labeling scheme. In the 14 years that FDA has allowed companies to voluntarily label GE foods, a total of zero companies have done so.

This is not the solution consumers have been demanding and it is high time for Congress to wise up.

Tell Congress to OPPOSE the DARK Act and SUPPORT mandatory GE food labeling:




At the end of June, Alex Gyori, a teacher turned general manager of the Brattleboro Food Co-op, retired after almost 33 years at the helm.

The Commons newspaper covered Alex’s career with co-ops in a recent article.

Erbin Crowell, executive director of Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), shared how Alex contributed to forming the NFCA.

“‘His support has been crucial to my ability to get things done,’ Crowell said.

He credits Gyori with transforming the Brattleboro Food Co-op from a small buying club into a thriving cooperative with a regional economic presence. Gyori worked to connect his local co-op with the wider global movement.

Crowell said, ‘He has the vision and tenacity to see what we could do if we put our minds to it.’

A leader of an organization like the Brattleboro Food Co-op must harness vision and create potential, he said — ‘but be modest enough to let the group lead.’”

Kari Bradley, general manager of Montpelier’s Hunger Mountain Co-op and Board President of Neighboring Food Co-op Association, considers Alex Gyori a valued mentor.

They met 11 years ago when Bradley was a “newbie” general manager, and Gyori has a “well-earned reputation as the go-to manager when newbies are dealing with tricky situations.”

Gyori taught Bradley: “ ‘If you take care of the (co-op) members, the members will take care of you.’”

Read the full article here: www.s.coop/alexgyoricoopjourney2015



This August, farms across Vermont are opening their doors to the public for Vermont’s first Open Farm Week.  A celebration of the “farm” in “farm to table,” the weeklong event will give people a behind-the-scenes look at Vermont’s vibrant working landscape. Farmers across Vermont will open their barn doors and garden gates to welcome the public, and Neighboring Food Co-ops across Vermont will serve as hubs to support farmers and promote the week to their members.

“The role of Vermont food co-ops in helping successfully launch Open Farm Week is just one of the many ways food co-ops support the local food system on an ongoing basis,” said Erin Buckwalter, Market Development and Community Food Security Manager of Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Vermont. “Connecting community members and shoppers to the farmers who stock their shelves, and educating shoppers about supporting their local farmers is vitally important work to transforming the food system.”

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association, as network of over 30 food co-ops across New England, teamed up to organize the event with partners from NOFA VT, Vermont Fresh Network, City Market/Onion River Co-op, Vermont Farm to Plate Network Agritourism Task Force, Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Dig In Vermont, Intervale Center, Vermont FEED, Shelburne Farms, Vermont Farm Tours, the Farm-Based Education Network, UVM Extension, and Vermont Farmers Market Association.

“This weeklong event is a great way for food co-ops to further promote local farmers and strengthen the connections within the local food system,” says Sarah Bhimani, Outreach & Education Manager at City Market. “There is a strong desire among our customers to know where their food is coming from, and the events planned for Open Farm Week will help those customers get to know Vermont farms and farmers better.  We’re happy to help facilitate these connections between our local farmers and customers!”

For an up-to-date listing of participating farms, their offerings, and their Open Farm Week hours, visit: www.diginvt.com/blog/openfarmweek

Vermont Open Farm Week is made possible by the generous support of Premiere Sponsor City Market/Onion River Co-op as well as the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, Localvore Today and Woodchuck Hard Cider.

Participants are encouraged to join the conversation on social media by using #VTOpenFarm.



At a special awards celebration on July 14, international co-operative educators thanked the UMass Co-operative Enterprise Collaborative (UMassCEC) for being an important partner of the 2015 Association of Cooperative Educators (ACE) Institute, held for the first time at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The UMassCEC is a collaborative effort among faculty and students at the Department of Economics at UMass Amherst, the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives, and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association to develop curriculum on the cooperative movement, including an undergraduate Certificate in Applied Research on Co-operative Enterprise.

Accepting the Outstanding Contribution to ACE Award on behalf of UMassCEC was Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the NFCA and an adjunct lecturer on the co-operative movement at UMass Amherst, and Adam Trott, Staff Developer for VAWC. “It’s such an honor for us to be hosting ACE here in what we like to call ‘Co-op Valley,’” said Crowell. “In an atmosphere of growing inequality, the Institute is an important opportunity for educators, activists and cooperators to get together and share ideas on how we can better empower people in their own lives and communities.”

Members of the UMassCEC, including Crowell and Trott, UMass Professor Emeritus of Economics Nancy Folbre and Olivia Geiger, Ph.D. student at in the UMass Department of Economics, presented a workshop on the Collaborative’s work and plans for the future.

Each year, ACE choses a city in which to meet, notes ACE Executive Director Sarah Pike. While in that location, Institute participants learn local stories and see first-hand how co-ops are employed to address issues. “In 2015 we are fortunate to be in the Connecticut River Valley, home to an abundance of worker, producer, and consumer co-ops,” she says. “There are many examples of co-ops coming together, learning from one another, sharing their experience, and pushing the cooperative economy forward.”

Pike explained that for this reason and others, the theme of the Institute is peer-to-peer learning. In keeping with this theme, Crowell and Trott also presented a workshop on how the NFCA and VAWC use peer networking to support the shared success of their member co-operatives.

Attendees of the Institute also had the chance to visit many of the co-ops in the Valley on tours that included NFCA member food co-ops Franklin Community Co-op (Green Fields Co-op Market and McCusker’s Co-op Market) and River Valley Market, as well as worker co-ops in the area such as Artisan Beverage Co-operative, Collective Copies, Pioneer Valley PhotoVoltaics, Real Pickles, and Simple Diaper & Linen. Other co-ops on the tour included UMASS Five College Federal Credit Union and Greenfield Farmers Co-operative Exchange.

For more information on ACE, please visit www.ace.coop.



Have you noticed the “Cave to Co-op” signs in the cheese section of your neighboring food co-op? July’s “Cave to Co-op” special artisan cheese is “Bijou” from Vermont Creamery in Websterville, VT.

Bijou is French for jewel, and this cheese epitomizes all that is special about goats and goats’ milk, and the making and caring for a small cheese.

Bijou is made from pasteurized milk.  As it ages, the interior becomes soft and the flavor more robust.  When in France, you cannot read a menu that does not include a “Chèvre Chaud” salad. Simply cut Bijou in half and place rind side up on a slice of baguette. Toast under the broiler for five minutes and serve with a salad. This bistro-style entrée is perfect for a gathering with friend.  If you have a summer gathering coming up, grab some Bijou from your local food co-op and try out these recipes from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery: www.nfca.coop/CaveToCo-opJuly2015

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.



Does agriculture policy really affect you? Yes, of course it does. The farmers in your neighborhood, the farmers who sell to your food co-op, and your community as a whole could be stronger if federal farm policy favored small and mid-size producers instead of “big ag.”

Take FSMA as an example. The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed in 2010, and was meant to increase the government’s ability to respond to outbreaks of food-borne illness. However, the proposed regulations would have made compliance cumbersome and expensive for small operators — to the point of likely putting out of business many of the small to mid-size farms in New England.

New England Farmers Union exists to make sure federal agriculture policies and regulations encourage — rather than inhibit — the success of our region’s family farmers. We bring together the thousands of farmers in New England, and the tens of thousands who support them, and amplify those voices.

We need to increase our membership to make that voice clearer and louder. We need you to join New England Farmers Union.

We must ensure that FSMA education and training is fully funded.

We must work for federal programs that benefit local and regional agriculture, that foster innovation, promote scaling up, and increase access to markets.

We must make sure policy makers recognize that farms improve public health, create jobs in rural communities — and increasingly in urban cores — preserve open space, and serve the hungry. Your membership makes that case.

Simply put, we need more members that are more engaged in more states in New England.

We recently conducted a member survey and got a tremendous response from our membership. We learned that what 78 percent of respondents value most about Farmers Union is our work to be the voice of family farmers. We were also glad to hear that members supported our four core policy initiatives for 2015:

  • Food safety training funding
  • Protecting mandatory conservation funding
  • Food hubs supplying institutions
  • Bringing farmers to the table

Our policy priorities are set by our membership. If you are not a member, would you consider joining us? The Neighboring Food Co-op Association and the New England Farmers Union have a strong partnership whose goal is to strengthen the food system in the Northeast. We need you to step up and join now. Become a member of New England Farmers Union today: www.newenglandfarmersunion.org/membership/join/

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.


August 3 – 9 2015: Vermont Open Farm Week

Do you love local food and farms? Want to get to know your farmer better — and to get a behind-the-scenes look into Vermont’s vibrant working agricultural landscape?  Mark your calendar for Vermont Open Farm Week, August 3-9, taking place at farms across Vermont.  Many of Vermont’s neighboring food co-ops will be participating in Open Farm Week with in-store demos and events on the farm.

During Vermont Open Farm Week, you can meet the farmers, plants, and animals that bring your favorite high-quality Vermont products to your plate.

What’s the greatest part about Open Farm Week? Every farm is unique.  Milk a cow and harvest a carrot at one farm, sit on a tractor and take in the smell of freshly cut hay at another. Find up-to-date lists of participating farms and search by location or product at DigInVT.com, your portal to Vermont’s agriculture and culinary experiences.

August 14-16 2015: “Co-operatives Track at 2015 NOFA Summer Conference, at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.

It’s easier to “Go Co-op” at the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s 2015 summer conference!  Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is sponsoring a special “Co-operatives Track” at the 2015 NOFA Summer Conference, August 14-16, at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA.

The workshops, which will take place in Campus Center 903 on Friday, August 14 and Saturday, August 15, 2015, address a variety of ways in which co-operative enterprises are improving the food system domestically and internationally, practical steps for farmers interested in marketing to food co-ops, and strategies for applying this unique economic model to growing more economically and environmentally sustainable food systems:

  • Northeast Dairy Challenges & Co-operative, Organic Solutions with Regina and Brent Beidler (Farmer-owners, Beidler Family Farm & VT Rep, Organic Valley Co-operative). Fri, August 14, 2 – 3:30PM.
  • How to Start a Food Co-op in Your Community with Bonnie Hudspeth (Membership & Outreach Manager, Neighboring Food Co-op Association) and Michael Faber (General Manager of Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene, NH). Fri, August 14, 4 – 5:30PM.
  • Co-op Conversion for Business Success with Adam Trott (Staff, Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops; Worker/Member, Collective Copies) and Erbin Crowell (Executive Director, Neighboring Food Co – op Association). Sat, August 15, 10 – 11:30AM.
  • Farmer Co-ops For Efficient Production & Marketing with Roger Noonan (President, New England Farmers Union) and Erbin Crowell (Executive Director, Neighboring Food Co-op Association). Sat, August 15, 1 – 2:30PM.

The NOFA Summer Conference features nearly 150 workshops on farming, gardening, land care, nutrition, & food politics; full and half day pre-conferences; and 100+ exhibitors. This is a family-friendly event with activities for children and teens, country fair, and organic meals. Budget conscious accommodations are available, including camping and dorms.

Register by the end of the day TODAY, Friday July 17, 2015 to get a $20 discount & find more info on the workshops here: www.nofasummerconference.org.

October is National Co-op Month!

Visit www.nfca.coop/go for resources.

October 24, 2015: Neighboring Food Co-op Association Fall Member Gathering

Member co-ops of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA): Save the date for our annual Fall Gathering, including workshops, presentations and peer to peer networking opportunities.


November 6-8, 2015: New England Farmers Union Annual Meeting, Concord, NH


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