Co-ops: Earth Day is Every Day // April 2019

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ACTION: Co-op Statute Gains Momentum in CT

Earlier this month, proposed amendments to Connecticut’s Co-op Statute reached a major milestone, receiving unanimous support from the Joint Committee on Judiciary.

The first major update to the state’s co-operative law in forty years will soon move on to the General Assembly. Now we need your help in encouraging CT legislators to co-sponsor and vote “yes” on SB 138.

In March, representatives from the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) and member co-ops Willimantic Food Co-op, Fiddleheads Food Co-op, and Mad River Co-op Market testified before Connecticut’s Joint Committee on Judiciary regarding Substitute Bill No. 138: “An Act Modernizing the State’s Cooperative Association Statutes.” The bill, introduced by State Senator Catherine Osten, addresses outdated provisions that effectively discourage the formation of co-operative enterprises.

The origin of these amendments goes back to 2015, when the NFCA worked with our partners at the New England Farmers Union to obtain a grant to support food co-op development in Connecticut, including NFCA Member Willimantic Food Co-op. A central piece of this project was an analysis of the state’s co-operative statutes and the obstacles they presented to existing co-ops and start-ups. What we discovered was outdated provisions that unnecessarily discouraged people from forming co-operatives, sometimes incorporating under other statutes or in other states.

As a solution, NFCA Executive Director Erbin Crowell worked with attorney David Swanson of Dorsey & Whitney, LLP, to draft proposed amendments to Connecticut General Statutes, Chapter 595, Cooperative Associations. Board Members and Staff at Willimantic Food Co-op quickly began a dialog with leadership at Fiddleheads Food Co-op in New London on how best to go about advocating for these changes, and reached out to local legislators.

This work quickly paid off, and in January of 2019, Senator Osten introduced SB 138. We were pleased to see all of our recommendations included in the bill, which was passed to the Joint Committee on Judiciary for their consideration. Recognizing that public hearings would be announced on short notice, the NFCA drafted talking points on the legislation. Joanne Todd, Willimantic Food Co-op Board Member and CEO of Northeast Family Credit Union, coordinated people to provide testimony on the importance of the bill, and Lexa Juhre, General Manager at Fiddleheads Natural Foods Co-op, posted a webpage of materials to help people get involved. The National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) provided written testimony in support of the legislation.

On the day of Committee hearings, representatives from the NFCA, Willimantic Food Co-op, Fiddleheads Food Co-op, and start-up Mad River Market arrived in the morning to register so they could offer testimony in support of the bill. When it came time to testify later in the afternoon, co-op representatives addressed technical questions on the unique nature of the co-operative business model, the impact of existing food co-ops, and the lost opportunity represented by outdated statutes.

Stealing the show was 10-year-old Christian Tompkins (pictured above with his mother, Bonnie Tompkins), who waited patiently for the opportunity to speak:

I am from Groton, CT, and I am here to support Proposed Bill 138.

I am a member of Fiddleheads Food Co-op in downtown New London. I have been a member since I was a kid. I go to Fiddleheads almost every day. I have volunteered there before and there are a lot of things I like about Fiddleheads.

I like that we support local businesses. When we support local, small businesses, it helps them to make their business or farm bigger and sell more items. I like that we sell food that I can’t get other places. I have been allergic to dairy and gluten my whole life and they have food that is safe for me. I like that when I go into Fiddleheads, they know my name and ask how my day has been. Everyone is very friendly and helpful. 

It would be good for you to pass this bill so that more people will want to start a co-op for their area and don’t have to drive far to find a co-op. Thank you, again, for listening to me.

“There will certainly be people here today who will or have spoken on the particulars of this bill,” added Christian’s mother, Bonnie. “I hope to simply share with you our reasons for wanting to see more co-ops in the State of CT.”

“Our children have learned the value in co-operative associations, taking great pride in the fact that they are members who own Fiddleheads,” she continued. “This sense of being connected to our community has proven to be a gift. I leave you with one question: If we, the State of Connecticut, would like to strengthen our communities, isn’t it through connection and support, the type of connection and support that co-operatives, like Fiddleheads, naturally foster?”

The amendments offered in SB 138 address basic issues with Connecticut’s Co-operative Statutes, allow existing co-ops to operate more effectively, and open the way for the development of new co-ops in the state. Now that this bill has cleared the Committee on Judiciary, legislators need to hear from citizens of the state, encouraging them to co-sponsor SB 138 and to vote “yes” when it comes up for a vote.

For more information and resources that you can share with people you know in Connecticut, please visit: http://fiddleheadsfood.weebly.com/prop138.html 


Thanks to CoBank for their support of our Neighboring Food Co-ops


Neighboring Co-operator 2019 Award

Neighboring Co-operator Award at the Eighth Annual Meeting & Gathering of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA).

At NFCA’s 8th Annual Meeting in 2019, the NFCA honored Patrice Lockert Anthony (pictured at left with NFCA President Faye Mack), President of GreenStar Co-op Markets in Ithaca, NY, with the “Neighboring Co-operator” award, acknowledging her leadership and collaboration in helping our co-ops confront and address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“The Beloved Community exists within a permanent state of justice, not ‘Just Us’. For members of co-ops, acts of social justice are in our co-operative DNA,” said Lockert Anthony. “They are both why and how we exist. Beloved Community is a co-operative’s promise, and it doesn’t marginalize, diminish, or exclude. It rises and uplifts. NFCA is way ahead in doing this work. NFCA is the model for Beloved Community in the co-op industry.”

Individuals and organizations are invited to make a tax-deductible contribution in honor of Patrice to the Bowers Fund of the Cooperative Development Foundation, which supports training and education for food co-op staff, managers, and board members.

To learn more and make a donation, visit www.cdf.coop/nfca.


Your Local Food Co-ops: Making Earth Day Every Day

Across the Northeast, your Neighboring Food Co-ops are celebrating Earth Month and working to support environmental sustainability all year ’round.

Food Co-ops have long been advocates for ecological sustainability, champions for environmental education, and innovators in the development of more environmentally friendly shopping practices, pioneering support of organic agriculture, bulk buying, and energy conservation. Celebrating Earth Month comes naturally to food co-ops and offers an opportunity to encourage consumers to consider their shopping practices as a way help build a better future for everyone.

This Earth Week, your Neighboring Food Co-ops have been sharing examples to inspire, celebrate, and demonstrate support for our planet:

  • Brattleboro Food Co-op in Brattleboro, VT, held  Earth Month Sales on bulk items and Earth Day activities for kids.
  • Co-op Food Stores in Hanover & Lebanon, NH, and White River Junction, VT, sponsored the 2019 Refill NOT Landfill campaign, including prizes awarded each week during April to those pledging to take personal steps to refill and reduce waste.
  • Flatbush Food Co-op in Brooklyn, NY, encouraged shoppers to stock up on staples and move toward a more sustainable, zero-waste lifestyle with 15% off bulk products!
  • Franklin Community Co-op in Greenfield & Shelburne Falls, MA, collaborated with a community group to offer free upcycling workshops and week-long social media “Green Your Routine Giveaway” with multiple opportunities to win earth-friendly products.
  • GreenStar Co-op in Ithaca, NY, hosted an Annual GIAC Earth Day Art Show including works of art created by Urban Art Students from repurposed materials.
  • Hunger Mountain in Montpelier, VT worked with local organizations to hold workshop and presentation series on solar use, gleaning, dinner and discussions about local food, composting, and recycling.
  • Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene, NH hosted the Monadnock Region Earth Festival, an opportunity to connect directly with local organizations, farmers, and artisans.
  • Springfield Food Co-op in VT organized an Earth Day film showing and discussion of The Economics of Happiness.
  • Willimantic Food Co-op in CT held an afternoon Earth Day Celebration at the store with music, kids activities, and info tables.

The Seventh Co-operative Principle, Concern for Community, calls on co-ops and the members around the world to “work for the sustainable development of their communities.” As democratically organized, community-based businesses, co-ops are designed to meet member needs and goals rather than maximizing profit or short-term growth and are able to focus on social and environmental priorities through their purchasing priorities, operational practices. Through its “Co-ops for 2030” campaign, the International Co-operative Alliance has committed the movement to supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seek to build shared peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.

When you shop at your local food co-op, you are helping to build a stronger, more sustainable community. And when you become a member, you are joining more than one billion co-operators around the world as we work to build a better world for everyone.

Find a food co-op near you: http://nfca.coop/members.


Co-ops Testify before Small Business Administration

NCBA CLUSA Highlights Co-op Resilience at SBA Listening Sessions

Kate LaTour, Government Relations Manager, NCBA CLUSA

This past March, the Small Business Administration (SBA) hosted two listening sessions to engage with co-operative stakeholders on the implementation of the Main Street Employee Ownership Act (P.L.115-232).  The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) joined the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) and other organizations in participating in these sessions, submitting spoken and written testimony on improving access to SBA lending services.

The bipartisan Main Street Employee Ownership Act, approved last fall, expanded SBA loan programs to encourage broad-based ownership structures including co-operatives.  Importantly, this bill requires SBA to consider alternatives to a lending requirement called a personal guarantee.  SBA requires personal guarantees as collateral in case the business owner is unable to repay the loan.  Sole proprietor business owners often use their homes to satisfy this requirement.  However, such guarantees are generally unfeasible for co-operatives, which are therefore unable to take advantage of SBA services.

Dozens of stakeholders including the NFCA, U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, and Project Equity joined on the virtual conference call in late March.   These and other groups explained the value that co-operatives bring to their communities and demonstrated the strength of the co-operative community.

NCBA CLUSA’s comments were centered on the resiliency of co-operatives, the needs that co-ops meet in their local economies, and the successful lending to co-operatives without personal guarantees in U.S. and abroad.  Testimony by NFCA Executive Director Erbin Crowell, who contributed to the final language of the Act, focused on the recent growth of food co-ops and start-ups across the Northeast.

“The lost opportunity is that about half of our member co-ops have undergone expansions in the past couple of years, are in the middle of an expansion, or are planning to launch an expansion in the next year or two,” said Crowell.  “This growth will mean more jobs, expanded markets for local producers, and increased community and employee ownership, and will require new construction, purchase of equipment, and refinancing of debt.  However, none of these projects are currently able to take advantage of SBA lending.”

Now that SBA has fulfilled its obligation to engage with co-operative stakeholders, NCBA CLUSA looks forward to SBA’s report and will continue to work with SBA and Members of Congress on the importance of implementing the Main Street Employee Ownership Act so that co-ops can gain greater access to SBA’s lending and technical assistance programs.

This article was adapted from NCBA CLUSA’s Advocacy Blog, April 2, 2019. The NFCA is a proud member of NCBA CLUSA as part of our commitment to the success of the wider co-operative movement. 


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Thanks to Associated Buyers for their support of our Neighboring Food Co-ops


Farm to Freezer: Creamy Kale & Pea Soup

Soup’s On!

Our farmers have been working hard to bring us fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the season. While we wait for the next season of fresh produce, we can choose Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) frozen Blueberries, Organic Edamame, Organic Green Beans, non-GMO Sweet Corn and Green Peas, supporting family farmers all year long! All are all grown and packaged right here in the Northeast, and available only at your food co-op.

April in the Northeast is often cool and wet. What better time to include hearty soups for meals each week? Eat healthy and support family farmers all year long with delicious produce from our region. Try this Creamy Kale and Pea Soup adapted from a Co+op Stronger Together recipe.

Creamy Kale and Pea Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound kale, stems chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Organic Valley Ghee (or oil)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups (1 10 oz. NFCA pkg.) frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 cups milk or Almond Milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Preparation

  1. Wash and stem the kale and chop the stems in small pieces. Reserve.
  2. Melt ghee in a large pot, then add the kale stems, onion and potato slices.
  3. Sauté over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until the stems and potato slices are soft when pierced with a knife, and the onions are translucent.
  4. Add the garlic and the kale leaves and stir. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low, and let the kale steam for about 5 minutes. Uncover and stir.
  5. Put the peas and the kale mixture into a blender and puree until very smooth, adding milk as needed for a smooth puree.
  6. Add the parsley and blend again until smooth.
  7. Return the puree to the soup pot, heat through over medium heat, and season with salt and pepper.

The vision of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association is of a thriving co-operative economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable food system and a vibrant community of co-operative enterprise. Bringing Northeast grown fruits and vegetables to you by your co-op is a part of this sustainable food system, supporting family farmers all year long.

For more Farm to Freezer information and recipes visitwww.nfca.coop/farmtofreezer.


Thanks to Cooperative Development Foundation for their support of our Neighboring Food Co-ops


Training: Enhancing Co-op Business Performance

Ready for growth? Ready to move up into a new leadership position at your Co-op or Credit Union? 

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association is hosting a second Annual training with Professor Daniel Côté of Saint Mary’s University, October 24 – 25, 2019 in Greenfield, MA.

Enhancing Co-operative Business Performance: How to Strengthen Identity, Loyalty and Participation will be an interactive intensive professional development opportunity focused on learning new practices leading thinking in co-operative management coupled with tangible examples of how to translate knowledge into action.

“The Executive Education course gave me a chance to step outside the everyday routine of running a food co-op and learn with other co-operators, including those from other co-op sectors,” said Patty Smith, Operations Manager at the Willimantic Food Co-op (CT). “The focus on renewing our individual co-operative identities to stay relevant in today’s marketplace gave me many ah-ha! moments, and I came back to work with an enhanced view of the big co-op picture, as well as lots of new tactical ideas to improve my co-op’s operations.”

Who should come? Co-op General Managers/CEOs, Senior Managers, Board Members and Staff.

More info: http://nfca.coop/events/


NFCA Named NOFA-NH’s Community Partner of the Year!
At the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire’s (NOFA-NH) Winter Conference in March, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association was proud to the be the recipient of the “Community Partner of the Year” award!

April’s Cave to Co-op Special

April’s Cave to Co-op Cheese Special: Mad River Blue, von Trapp Farmstead, Waitsfield, VT

Mad River Blue is a natural rinded blue aged for approximately three months. Cheesemaker Sebastian von Trapp uses the farm’s certified organic unpasteurized cow milk creating a very approachable, mild blue cheese.

From 1959, when Werner and Erika von Trapp purchased the von Trapp Farm, it has been a working dairy. Over the course of three generations, the farm has transitioned to a certified organic dairy and in 2009 added cheese making to the value-added operations. Striving for high-quality standards, the von Trapp Farm produces some of the sweetest organic milk for its premium cheese production. The family is committed to making the highest quality cheese with the best milk possible, using traditional methods of small-scale production and continually striving to improve. Their mission is to be one example of how to make a small family farm in the center of Vermont economically viable by producing delicious organic small batch cheeses.

For blue cheese lovers, Mad River Blue offers an interestingly complex flavor. For those new to blue cheeses, and perhaps more wary of strong cheeses, Mad River Blue’s unique creamy texture and mildness are winning attributes for something different.

Try Mad River Blue with fresh slices of pears or one of these recipes:

http://nfca.coop/cave-to-co-op-april-2019/

Cave to Co-op is a partnership between Provisions International and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) to support artisanal cheese producers in our region and make their products more easily available to co-op shoppers. Each month, a delicious local cheese is featured at a great price.

For more information on Cave to Co-op, visit: www.nfca.coop/CaveToCo-op


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Thanks to Cooperative Fund of New England for their support of our Neighboring Food Co-ops


Farmers Union: Agriculture is an Essential Part of the Climate Solution

On the 49th annual celebration of Earth Day, National Farmers Union (NFU) is highlighting the existential threat that climate change poses to American agriculture as well as the critical role of farmers and ranchers in mitigation and adaptation efforts.

“Climate change is the single greatest challenge facing family farmers, rural communities, and global food security,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “We should all be striving, every day, to be better conservationists, but Earth Day is an important reminder that this is the only planet we have, and we must work together to preserve it.”

Though warmer average temperatures, greater weather extremes, and rising sea levels affect every sector in one capacity or another, the consequences for agriculture are direct and immediate. “Family farmers and ranchers rely on reliable weather patterns for nearly every part of their livelihoods, from planting to harvest,” noted Johnson. “In the best of times, there’s always some uncertainty in what the temperature or precipitation might look like on any given day. But climate change has thrown these natural systems out of whack, adding even greater unpredictability into an already risky profession.”

As a result, farmers are facing more serious pest pressures, heat stress on livestock, and greater crop loss to drought, wildfire, and flooding — all of which mean lower yields and lower incomes. As the climate continues to change, one can expect these difficulties will only intensify.

Despite these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, farmers across the country are stepping up to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Many are doing so by implementing conservation practices that build soil health and increase soil carbon sequestration, thus offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions that have fueled this crisis. According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, cover crops were planted on 50 percent more acres in 2017 than in 2012, indicating a greater trend towards climate awareness.

The environmental benefits of such practices should not be underestimated; according to researchers at UC Berkeley, U.S. soils have the potential to sequester nearly 300 million metric tons of carbon annually, which could offset more than four percent of the total national emissions. Farmers not only have the ability to sequester carbon in agricultural soils, but they have the opportunity to decrease emissions from their operations. One way to achieve this is on-farm energy production from solar panels, wind turbines, or methane digesters.

Given the substantial advantages of on-farm energy production, more and more farmers are incorporating it into their conservation plans. As per the 2017 Ag Census, the number of farms and ranches using renewable energy producing systems more than doubled since 2012.

As consumers learn more about climate change and conservation practices, they are looking for more environmentally sustainable food products. And this is where food co-ops can play a key role, education shoppers and supporting family farmers and their co-operatives through their purchasing practices.

“The Neighboring Food Co-op Association and its members have been key partners for family farmers and fishermen in the Northeast, providing local markets that not only value healthy food but want to support producers engaged in practices that mitigate the impacts of climate change and conserve our natural resources ,” said Roger Noonan, an organic farmer in New Boston, NH, and President of the New England Farmers Union. “There is strength in numbers and we are especially appreciative of food co-ops that have given us a boost by joining as business members and are also helping us recruit local producers so we can be heard in DC and in State Houses across our region.”

One of the best ways to ensure that environmental policies truly help family farmers and ranchers address climate change is to include them in the development of government programs and policies. Farmers have a lot at stake in these discussions and excluding them will likely only generate resentment towards the resulting policy decisions. By joining the New England Farmers Union, you can help strengthen the voices of our region’s producers and help build a more sustainable future for everyone.

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The New England Farmers Union Needs You!

If you care about where your food comes from and want to support the people who produce it, consider joining NEFU as a Friend of the Farmer for just $15. Your membership will help ensure that our region’s producers and consumers are heard by policy makers here at home and in Washington, DC. For more information, please visit www.newenglandfarmersunion.org.

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 the Northeast.


Our Neighborhood Co-op Calendar

For More Co-op & Food System Related Events visit:

http://nfca.coop/calendar

 

MAY 2019

May 8, 2019

Co-op Hall of Fame, National Press Club, Washington, DC

Join us in celebrating the induction of Terry Appleby, retired General Manager of Co-op Food Stores, Hanover Consumer Co-op, and a founding visionary of the NFCA!

https://www.heroes.coop

 

May 18, 2019

NFCA 4th Annual Start-Up Food Co-op Gathering, Keene, NH

 

JUNE 2019

June 6-8, 2019

CCMA National Food Co-op Conference, Durham, NC

www.ccma.coop

 

AUGUST 2019

Aug 10-12

NOFA Summer Conference, Amherst, MA

Sponsored by the NFCA

https://nofasummerconference.org

 

Aug 16-18, 2019

Federation of Southern Co-operatives 52nd Annual Meeting

www.federation.coop

 

OCTOBER 2019

OCTOBER IS CO-OP MONTH!

www.nfca.coop/Co-opMonth

 

Oct 2-4

NCBA CLUSA Co-op Impact Conference

https://www.impactconference.coop

 

Oct 19

CDS Co-op Cafe, Keene, NH

Co-Hosted by the NFCA

 

Oct 25-25

Saint Mary’s University Co-op Management Training, Greenfield, MA

Enhancing Business Performance through Co-operative Management Practices

Hosted by the NFCA


The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is a co-operative federation of 35 food co-ops and start-up initiatives across New England, working together toward a shared vision of a thriving co-operative economy, rooted in a healthy, just, and sustainable food system and a vibrant community of  co-operative enterprise.