E-News // Growing the Co-op Movement // May 2015

Stay in the loop on the latest innovations in New England’s co-op movement: www.nfca.coop/signup




This year marks an eventful time in Brattleboro Food Co-op’s history.  As the co-op celebrates its 40th birthday, General Manager Alex Gyori will be retiring at the end of June after 33 years at the helm.  The Co-op’s Board of Directors announced that Sabine Rhyne—currently the manager of Shareholder and Community Relations for the Co-op—will be replacing Alex Gyori on July 1.

During his time as General Manager for the Brattleboro Food Co-op, Alex was also instrumental in founding the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), a regional federation of 35 food co-ops and start-up initiatives across western New England. Gyori played a key role in early organizing, was among the incorporators of the Association, and served two terms on the Board of Directors.  The NFCA concluded its Fourth Annual Member Meeting this spring by honoring Alex with the first annual “Neighboring Co-operator” award.  While he was not able to attend the meeting, he sends a follow-up note to his fellow co-operators:

Alex Gyori sporting his "Alex Gyori Mustache"To Everyone of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association,

I truly appreciated the payback moment you organized at the recent NFCA Annual Meeting!  Payback for the interminable, unrelenting stream of facetious comments that you endured from me over the many years.  It was ironic that this last meeting was the one meeting I missed being at, but I am sure the jocularity was as full if not fuller because of it. It is so gratifying to me to see the gathering strength of co-operation in our region as a result of the growing impact of the NFCA. The importance of the peer learning, support and mutual assistance are incalculable in helping to ensure the ongoing viability of our co-ops. Thank you all for your clearly heartfelt send-off.  I already miss the activity and spirit of NFCA.  My best wishes to you all.

~ Alex Gyori (pictured right, sporting his “Alex Gyori Mustache”)

The Brattleboro Reformer recently published an article about the leadership transition at Brattleboro Food Co-op and Alex’s legacy.  During his leadership as General Manager, the Co-op grew “from sales of $600,000 a year to over $19 million, contributing countless dollars and jobs to the local community through its support of local producers, farmers, staff, and other organizations.”

The Co-op has also received word from Gossens Bachman, the Vermont architects who designed the new building, that their design for the Canal Street plaza space outside the store has won a Community Connections award from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is the second award related to the design of Brattleboro Food Co-op’s new location!

A celebration of the Co-op’s 40th birthday, as well as a send-off for Alex, will take place on Saturday, June 27.

Read the full Brattleboro Reformer article for more info:




Co-ops “build and sustain” the middle class and “spur economic growth” in a nation where “too many businesses are driven by short-term profit instead of long-term investment in communities,” Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) said during a breakfast presentation on May 5 in the U.S. Capitol during the National Co-operative Business Association’s (NCBA CLUSA) first advocacy conference. Senator Franken was one of several Congress members who expressed strong support for co-ops at NCBA CLUSA’s Annual Co-operatives Conference in Washington, D.C., from May 4 – 6.

During his remarks, Franken focused on income inequality and how co-ops can help working families achieve financial stability—a situation he called a “dream for too many Americans.”

Mike Beall, president and CEO of NCBA CLUSA, and Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, also unveiled the first public opinion survey on co-operatives in more than a decade. Presented at the NCBA CLUSA Annual Meeting on May 6, the survey results indicate that even among co-op membership, awareness of the co-op business model is not always apparent. However, despite their general lack of awareness of the philosophy governing the co-operative business model, a majority of Americans surveyed believe co-ops are beneficial to consumers. In fact, over 75% of respondents stated that knowing that a business was a member-owned co-operative made it more likely that they would use or purchase products or services from that business.

“This new data represents a clear opportunity for our co-ops to reach new customers and members in a powerful way,” said Erbin Crowell, NFCA executive director and a member of the NCBA CLUSA board of directors. “More than ever, we need to promote our co-operative identity as a key differentiator in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”

Co-op Week also saw that annual Co-op Hall of Fame celebrations at the National Press Club. Among the inductees this year was Ann Hoyt, who for 25 years has coordinated the annual Consumer Co-op Management Association conference, which has played a central role in the growth and development of the food co-op movement. To watch the video from Ann’s induction and to learn more about the other Co-op Heroes of 2015, visit http://heroes.coop.

For more information on the Annual Co-operatives Conference, visit https://www.ncba.coop.



As the spring semester came to a close at colleges and universities across the country, something unusual was happening at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst: over 130 undergraduates were turning in their final papers for “Introduction to the Co-operative Movement,” a course being offered by the Economics Department and presented by adjunct lecturer Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA).

A central message of the course is that the co-operative movement deserves more attention from academic institutions because of its scale (more than a billion people are members of co-ops worldwide); its relevance to contemporary issues such as the global recession, sustainability, and equality; its flexibility (co-ops operate in nearly all sectors of the of the economy); and its unique history, philosophy and structure as a member-owned, democratically governed enterprise. For all of these reasons, students should be able to learn about co-ops as part of a deeper understanding of the world as it is and as it could be in the future.

In their final papers, students focused on the basic question of the relevance of the co-operative business model to challenges and opportunities in our economy and society, with titles such as:

  • Co-operatives & Sustainability
  • Incorporating New Co-operative Ideals into an Existing Co-operative
  • Co-operation in the United States Agricultural Sector: New Opportunities
  • Virtues & Morals: The Success of Co-operatives in the Modern World
  • Education: The Core Challenge
  • One student wrote on the impact of one Neighboring Food Co-op, asserting that “in order to understand how City Market/Onion River Co-op benefits its community, one must first understand what a co-operative is.”

“I just wanted to say thank you for this semester’s course,” wrote another student. “I knew a bare amount of co-operatives and only slightly of their capabilities, but you’ve exposed that to me and my classmates and you did a magnificent job in executing co-operatives as a potential solution to the equity problem around the world.”

Theresa Mannah-Blankson, teaching assistant and PhD candidate in the UMASS Amherst Graduate Program in Economics, also reflected on the value of the course: “Being part of this class has been an eye-opener,” she said. “For me as a person, it has steered me off from my previous career path as I believe that more than ever education is critical for the growth of this movement.” Before coming to UMASS, Mannah-Blankson worked for five years in the Financial Stability Department of the Central Bank of Ghana. After completing her dissertation on “Microfinance, Household Indebtedness and Gender Inequality,” she plans to return to Ghana to apply her learning to policies affecting poor households and their communities: “I believe that the co-operative business model is best suited to the economies of developing countries given our history of strong community, the fabric of which has been destroyed by the quest for more profits.”

“This is just the second year that we’ve offered this course,” said Crowell. “And we are excited by the response we’ve received from students and the potential to expand opportunities for them to learn more about the co-operative movement.”  The course at UMASS is part of the NFCA’s wider effort to expand educational opportunities on co-operative business, working in collaboration with partners such as the UMASS Economics Department and the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops. Through the UMASS Co-operative Enterprise Collaborative, students can participate in a Certificate in Applied Research in Co-operative Enterprise, which includes internship opportunities with nearby co-ops.

To view slides from the first week of the course, please visit https://nfca.coop/coopdifference.



Have you noticed the “Cave to Co-op” signs in the cheese section of your neighboring food co-op? May’s “Cave to Co-op” special artisan cheese is “Champlain Valley Organic Triple Cream” from Champlain Valley Creamery in Middlebury, VT.

The texture of his Organic Triple Cream is velvety, the flavor is full of milky sweetness, and it melts like butter in the mouth. It is a great cheese for spring, when fresh vegetables and herbs start to appear.  This rich Triple Cream is an easy and distinctive way to end or begin a meal: add it to omelets or frittatas, place a dollop on grilled chicken or beef and watch it slowly melt, or with a bit more effort, you can transform it into a sophisticated addition to any menu. Here are some other ideas of how to use the cheese: https://nfca.coop/CaveToCo-opMay2015

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.



New England Farmers Union (NEFU) supports mandatory labeling of all food that contains ingredients from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We recognize that consumers continuously voice a strong demand for the information they need to make informed food choices, and polls show that over 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of GMO food.

The issue of GMOs in our food system is complicated, and New England Farmers Union recognizes that farmers come down on both sides of the argument on whether there’s a need to label GMO products and whether there is even a need for GMO crops at all. GMOs have created ethical, environmental, food safety, and structural issues that impact the entire food chain. However, we believe that farmers deserve access to proven farming technologies without being stigmatized. And consumers have the right to know how their food is grown and processed. A label accomplishes these very objectives — it provides consumers with the information they are seeking, but it does not restrict the ability of farmers to use GMO technology if they so choose. Labeling provides critical protections for farmers, and ensures transparency for consumers as they navigate their local supermarket, farmers market, or co-op.

Unfortunately, legislation introduced in the House by Reps Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) (HR 1599) not only fails to provide consumers with the basic right to identify genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their food, but it goes even further by blocking future labeling efforts at the state or federal level. And state laws matter, because even with an ultimate goal of a national labeling policy, it will be these state laws that inform and shape the future of a national GMO labeling policy. As the bill quickly makes its way through Congress, it’s important that farmers and consumers take a stand against this anti-labeling legislation. You can contact your legislators today using the links below to let them know you oppose HR 1599. Please take a moment and join New England Farmers Union. The more members we have, the stronger the voice of the family farmer in the region. We are united for Family Agriculture.


  • Read more about this campaign: www.newenglandfarmersunion.org/new-england-farmers-union-take-action-on-gmo-labeling/
  • Find your representative here: www.house.gov/representatives/find/
  • And find your senator here: www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
  • Join the New England Farmers Union to support this work: 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.


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

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is a sponsor of the Fifth Annual Slow Living Summit, June 3 – 5, 2015 in Brattleboro, Vermont. The theme this year “Food, Mindfully,” an exploration of the journey of food, from farming and food entrepreneurship to food systems to nourishment to food justice and policy.

Through our partnership, NFCA members receive a 20% discount off registration for the Slow Living Summit.  NFCA members use the following discount code when they register online: NFCASLOW2015

June 11-13, 2015: CCMA 2015: “Breaking Through,” Boise, Idaho

CCMA 2015 provides an unprecedented opportunity for managers and board members of food co-ops (big and small) and their support communities to “Innovate, Grow and Lead” collaboratively.  The conference theme, Breaking Through, is a call to action for food co-ops to lead the industry through innovation and collaboration.  Come to CCMA 2015 and be part of a game-changing national conversation that will reshape the future of the food co-op sector!

Neighboring Food Co-op Association staff will be there, and will be presenting with partners about our co-ops’ collective work to make healthy food and co-op ownership more accessible to all. Add your voice to the conversation: Register and attend CCMA 2015! https://www.ncba.coop/ccma-2015

July 9-12, 2015: Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy Conference, Worcester, MA

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association will be presenting on our cross sector collaboration to grow the Co-operative Economy: http://east.usworker.coop/2015-conference

July 12-15, 2015: Association of Co-operative Educators Conference at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association is a cosponsor and will be presenting at the annual Association of Co-operative Educators (ACE) Institute conference: http://www.ace.coop

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.

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