Our 12th Annual Meeting was a Great Success! // NFCA News April 2023

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In this edition:

Annual Meeting Report
Attendees at NFCA’s 12th Annual Meeting reconnecting during their lunch break. March 18th, 2023, Greenfield Community College, Greenfield, MA.
On March 18, 2023, co-operators from across the Northeast gathered for the Neighboring Food Co-op Association’s 12th Annual Meeting.

Organized around the theme of “Rebuilding Connections, Celebrating Co-operation,” the event at Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, MA, brought together representatives from more than 30 food co-ops from across the Northeast.  In her welcome, the NFCA’s Suzette Snow-Cobb noted that this was the first in-person Annual Meeting since the start of the pandemic three years ago.  Executive Director Erbin Crowell also welcomed the many partner organizations that were present for the day of networking and dialog, including CoBank, the Association of Vermont Credit Unions, Cabot Creamery Co-op, Cooperative Fund of the Northeast, Food Co-op Initiative, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives / Land Assistance Fund, NCG, New England Farmers Union, and NCB (National Cooperative Bank).

“Over the past few years of the pandemic, we’ve seen how valuable our co-ops are to our communities,” said Sue Miller, Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) President and Co-General Manager of Upper Valley Food Co-op.  “And we’ve seen the importance of our relationships as we have sustained good jobs, markets for local producers, and opportunities for our communities to create solutions through co-operation.”

Sue introduced keynote speaker, Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts.  A longtime advocate for justice, food security, and an economy that works for everyone, Representative McGovern represents the 2nd District of Massachusetts and is a member of NCBA CLUSA’s Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus.

“Food co-ops are engines for economic opportunity, they are engines for mobility and revival in our communities.  I am so thrilled to be from a part of the country where we value co-ops and embrace their mission and their vision,” said McGovern.  “A major part of food security is making sure that nutritious healthy food is available to people where they are, and co-ops are instrumental in making that real.”  “Food is political,” he continued, “and the choices we make have an impact on whether we have a food system built on dignity for everyone involved, or not.”

Over the past year, NFCA member co-ops have worked hard to keep employees and shoppers safe during the pandemic, while ensuring access to healthy food and supporting local producers. The association’s annual impact survey showed that in 2022, its over 40 member food co-ops and start-ups generated shared revenue of $425 million, over $112 million of which was sales of local products. More than 12,600 people joined their local food co-ops last year, bringing total membership to over 173,000. In addition to maintaining 2,465 jobs and community infrastructure, co-ops increased their support of local communities, donating over $1.2 million to community organizations and returning $8 million to members and employees in the form of discounts and patronage refunds.

In addition to time for member discussions on topics including Policy Advocacy, Climate Change & Climate Justice, Building Community among Directors, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, the results of this year’s elections were announced, with Katherine Arnold (Buffalo Mountain Co-op, VT), John Crane (Portland Food Co-op, ME) and Lucy Georgeff (High Falls Food Co-op, NY) elected to three-year terms. Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives / Land Assistance Fund, was honored with the “Neighboring Co-operator” award in recognition of his commitment to the co-operative movement and our shared efforts build equitable trade relationships between Black-led co-ops in the U.S. South and food co-ops in the Northeast, expand access to co-op education and training, and advocate for policies that support co-op development and efforts for social and economic justice.

The meeting was closed by John Crane, NFCA Vice President and General Manager of Portland Food Co-op (ME), who thanked President Sue Miller’s for her service as she steps down from the Board of Directors, and NFCA Director Kathleen Krider who shared an appreciation of Willimantic Food Co-op General Manager Alice Rubin, who will be stepping down from her role this summer.

The NFCA is a federation of more than 40 food co-ops and start-ups across the Northeast, jointly owned by over 173,000 members and employing more than 2,465 people. For more information, please visit https://nfca.coop.

Thank You!
John Crane, Portland Food Co-op General Manager and NFCA Vice President thanks Sue Miller, out-going NFCA Board President, for her service.  Custom co-op plate by Steve Earp
As we celebrate 12 years of co-operation, we want to offer our profound thanks to a few people who are moving on from the NFCA that have contributed so much to our success over the years.

Sue Miller has been Co-General Manager of the Upper Valley Food Co-op, White River Junction, VT since 2004, and has been an invaluable member of the Board of Directors since 2015, including two years serving as President. Her unflagging commitment to the NFCA, our original vision, and our Member Co-ops has made all the difference, especially in the last few years of the uncertainty and instability brought on by the pandemic. We wish her all the best in her retirement and look forward to finding new ways to work together.  Bonnie Hudspeth originally joined the NFCA as a contractor in 2011, leveraging her experience as Project Manager for the successful launch of Monadnock Food Co-op to support the next wave of start-ups in our region. So much of the NFCA’s growth and evolution was supported by Bonnie’s energy, creativity, and innovation, and we offer our great appreciation of all her contributions as we look forward to her continued impact and success.  Alexis Alexander had already been active with the NFCA in her previous role at GreenStar Food Co-op when she joined us in 2021 to help us expand our activities in peer networking and collaboration. We are so thankful for her contributions to our ability to serve and connect our member co-ops at such a critical time.

Co-ops in the News
Has your co-op been in the news recently? Send your item to info@nfca.coop

Join fellow co-operators for an interactive short course to take a deep dive on Principle 6 from diverse perspectives — from the role of associations and federations to business partnerships and supply chains, to the development of new co-ops. NFCA member co-ops receive a discount on registration. For more information, visit https://www.smu.ca/iccm/.

Screenshot of Belfast Community Co-op’s webpage detailing their Food Access Programs
Growing Food Security
Belfast Community Co-op Welcomes WIC Recipients

Belfast, Maine, March 8th – The Belfast Community Co-op is the first food co-op in the State of Maine to accept WIC (Women Infants and Children) participants. After several months of dedicated work with the State, the WIC program, and internal buyers, the Co-op is ready to welcome WIC participants to the store.

“We exist to serve our community. Participating in WIC allows us to reach even more community members and provides them the opportunity to purchase healthy, nutritious food from a cooperatively owned business. We want everyone to know that they are welcome to shop in our store, member-owners or not, and that they now can broaden their options on what to feed their family while supporting their community directly.” Michael Walter, Store Operations Manager.

The Belfast Community Co-op participates in several programs that aim to address food insecurity in our community. Adding WIC to the slate of programs continues to support the work of the EBT/Food Stamps program, the Farm Fresh Reward program facilitated by Good Shepard Food Bank, and our own C.O.R.E. (Cooperative Ownership Reaching Everyone) Program which is designed to make local food more affordable to qualifying members of our community.

“When we began looking at what it meant to truly meet the needs of our community, it became clear that WIC participation was something that we needed to pursue. Belfast is far from immune to food insecurity and we have a role to play in making sure everyone in Waldo County is fed. Though our original intent was to better serve our local community, by going through this process and working with the folks at Maine WIC, we have provided a doorway for other food co-ops and independent natural foods stores to more easily offer the program. By petitioning to have more of our inventory added to the approved products list, WIC shoppers in the state will have access to more local, natural, and organic products and hopefully, they will have more options for which stores they chose to support to choose from. We may be the first food co-op in the state to offer WIC, but I am confident that more will follow suit in the years ahead.” Doug Johnson, General Manager

Located in the heart of downtown, the Belfast Community Co-op is a full service market that has been serving the region since 1976. Everyone is welcome to shop at the Co-op: it is our mission and our pleasure to bring locally-sourced, reasonably priced, organic and natural products to all. Open daily 8am-8pm!

For more information on the NFCA’s food security efforts, visit our Healthy Food Access page at https://nfca.coop/HealthyFoodAccess.

We aim to unite and empower co-operatives online – our mission, our singular goal that drives everything we do.

Since 2001, DotCooperation has united the co-operative community through a shared online identity where co-operative organizations can participate, inform, educate, and pioneer a path for others to join and support the co-operative network. 

We empower cooperatives to participate and thrive in the digital economy with identity tools and resources. Identity tools include .coop and .creditunion sector domain names, plus the Cooperative Marque. Resources include the .coop Global Directory and the Digital Empowerment Learning Hub.

Every co-operative that uses a .coop domain name as the primary address for their website elevates their co-operative identity, principles, and purpose. It unites the co-operative movement online with a shared identity. It transforms an organization’s value from a lone contributor to an active participant of a global online community of co-operatives. 

DotCooperation is jointly owned by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) and NCBA CLUSA (National Cooperative Business Association-CLUSA International), two non-profit organizations with a mission to develop the global co-operative movement.

Why not see what fantastic names are still available? Unlike other domains, .coop has a wealth of valuable options still available only to co-operative business.

We have partnered with both Neighboring Food Co-op Association and domains.coop to bring you a promotional offer. Simply use the below promotion code at checkout through the domains.coop link and get started on 1 year for free on your new .coop domain name!

Use NFCA23 at www.domains.coop

Terms and Conditions apply, offer open until November 1, 2023. Please email tom@identity.coop for any comments, queries or feedback. Thank you for supporting the online home of co-operatives.

For more information on DotCooperation, please visit https://identity.coop.  

April Cave-to-Co-op Special

This month’s special cheese is Mixed Drum from Twig Farm, West Cornwall, VT.

Twig Farm is a small goat farm in West Cornwall, Vermont that has been in operation since 2005. Cheesemaker Michael Lee uses traditional equipment and techniques to make his cheeses, forming them by hand and aging in his cheese cellar. The twenty-acre farm is located in West Cornwall, Vermont, about 10 miles south of Middlebury. While Michael sold the goats a few years ago to Ice House Farm, he still visits the goats and buys milk from this herd to make cheese.

Michael makes all Twig Farm cheese by hand, using traditional techniques and equipment for small-scale artisan cheese production. The cheeses age in a cellar with a temperature and humidity controlled environment. Prior to making Twig Farm cheese, Michael worked as an apprentice at Peaked Mountain Farm in Townsend, Vermont, and before that was a cheese manager at South End Formaggio in Boston, Massachusetts.

One of the most striking features on all of Twig Farm’s cheeses are the natural rinds they wear. Occasionally likened to a Jackson Pollock painting, the rind has different color patches and the occasional spot of fuzz. These are all a result of minimal handing during the cheese’s time in the cellar, the natural flora in the cave.

Mixed Drum is made in the fall when the goat milk production slows down and cow milk from neighboring Mose Dairy Farm is blended in. Don’t be fooled by its rustic exterior! Aged a minimum of 90 days, this semi-firm raw-milk cheese is delicately flavored with notes of roasted almond and lemon peel. Incredibly versatile for pairing: Loire Valley Chenin, off-dry cider, a mid-weight stout or a light red wine would make excellent partners for a little wedge of this goodness! Recipes featuring Mixed Drum are available on our website here.

Each month our Cave to Co-op partnership between Provisions International and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) offers a delicious regional cheese featured at a great price. Strengthening our local and regional farmers and producers by supporting artisanal cheesemakers is a key goal of the Cave to Co-op program.

Look for the “Cave to Co-opsign in the cheese section at your local food co-op. To find one near you, visit www.nfca.coop/members.

New England Farmers Union

Rebecca White and Mary Castonguay representing NEFU.

Rebecca White of Hanover Co-op Food Stores Joined Roger Noonan, New England Farmers Union President, and Mary Castonguay, Vice President, for the National Farmers Union’s 121st Anniversary Convention in San Francisco last month.

On March 7, the National Farmers Union (NFU) concluded their 121st Anniversary Convention held in San Francisco, California. With an agenda that was focused on the ability of NFU and Farmers Union members to create change, delegates and attendees heard from United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, keynote speaker Dr. Glenda Humiston, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, as well as representatives from the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and the Department of Justice.

“Farmers Union members are united and energized. With our grassroots policy set and the 2023 Farm Bill proceeding in earnest, NFU is going to hit the ground running,” said NFU President Rob Larew. “Our agenda this year focused on the ability of our members to make change and we do that best together. The last few days are a testament to the strength of National Farmers Union.” 

Following a full program of speakers and sessions, delegates took part in the democratic policy debate that is fundamental to the structure of Farmers Union. This grassroots policy process informs the work of NFU and sets a basis for the advocacy that Farmers Union does throughout the year.  Mary Castonguay, NEFU Vice President, served as chairperson for the Convention Rules Committee.

 “Attending the National Farmers Union Convention afforded me the opportunity to meet with farmers from across the United States to build partnerships and understanding on the issues that our farms and communities face,” said Rebecca White, NEFU Delegate and Public & Government Affairs Associate for Hanover Co-op Food Stores. “I am especially grateful for folks sharing their stories and challenges with lack of adequate and high-quality childcare options for rural communities in all corners of the states. In New England, we have a huge need for increased infrastructure and support for early childhood education and childcare for our farmers and rural residents. As a result of discussions in policy sessions, I now have collaborators on this issue in other chapters. We are working together to develop a unified voice to advocate for rural childcare and early childhood education infrastructure and resources under the Rural Development title of the Farm Bill.”

During the policy process, delegates approved three special orders of business:

Looking ahead, NFU will hold their 122nd Anniversary Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona.

How Can You Help?

Join the Farmers UnionThe National Farmers Union advocates on behalf of nearly 200,000 American farm families and their communities. We envision a world in which farm families and their communities are respected, valued, and enjoy economic prosperity and social justice.  The Neighboring Food Co-op Association is an affiliate member of the New England Farmers Union chapter – and invites farmers, food co-ops, and consumers to join us!  For more information, please visit www.newenglandfarmersunion.org.

Join Us for the Co-op 5K

A Virtual Road Race for Co-op Development, April 22 – 28, 2023!

Join the Neighboring Co-operators team for the Co-op 5k — a fun, family-friendly event and fundraiser for the Cooperative Development Foundation.  Walk, run, roll or stroll with co-op members, staff, and directors from across the Northeast as we defend our title of “Most Co-op Spirit”!  The deadline to sign up is March 31.

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