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In this edition:
Annual Meeting Save the Date
On March 16, leaders from food co-ops and partner organizations will gather in Greenfield, MA, for the 13th Annual Meeting of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association.
Providing a space for collaboration, innovation, and mutual support for Food Co-op leaders is central to the work of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), a co-operative of retail grocery co-ops across the Northeast. Our Annual Meeting typically takes place on the third Saturday of March and brings together representatives from Member Co-ops, partners, and guests for a day of networking, presentations, and workshops.
Organized under the theme, “Co-operation: Our Foundation,” the NFCA’s 13th Annual Meeting and Member Gathering will take place Saturday, 16 March 2024, at Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, MA. With the declaration of 2025 as the second International Year of Co-operatives, the day will be an opportunity to begin to lay the foundation for the coming year and consider the unique role of co-ops in advancing the UN’s “Agenda for Sustainable Development,” which concludes in 2030. A plan of action for “people, planet and prosperity,” the agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), many of which are directly relevant to our co-ops, including economy inclusion, addressing climate change, and contributing to food security.
Member co-ops are invited to send 3-4 representatives from among their management and board of directors for a day celebration, peer dialogs, and workshops. In addition to an exploration of the next International Year of Co-ops, we will engage in a range of peer dialogs, celebrate our Neighboring Co-operator, and announce newly elected directors. Workshops will focus on several relevant topics including democracy and policy advocacy, a collaborative project with the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership, and supporting the success of our small and rural food co-ops. Registration information will be sent directly to our Member Co-ops. We look forward to seeing our members there!
For resources from past NFCA Annual Meetings, please visit https://nfca.coop/membergatherings.
Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership
A new USDA grant will help the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership work to strengthen our region’s dairy farms, and your Neighboring Food Co-ops are part of the effort.
The project, titled “Northeast Organic Dairy Market Development: Strengthening Consumer and Institutional Demand for Local Organic Dairy Products,” will support the NOFFP’s efforts to address the economic challenges faced by small and mid-sized family farms in the region. As part of the initiative, food co-ops will work together to share best practices in educating consumers about our region’s organic dairy farmers and increasing demand for their products.
The Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership (NOFFP) was established in response to the 2021 contract terminations that left over 150 dairy farms in New York, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont in distress. Led by Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Co-Founder, and fiscally managed by the Maine Organic Farming and Gardening Association, the NOFFP brings together consumers, processors, retailers, and institutions in a unique partnership to increase awareness and demand for products created with Northeast-produced organic milk.
In 2022, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) became the first retailer organization to join the NOFFP, reflecting our shared commitment to building a more healthy, just, and sustainable regional food system. Since then, more than 20 of our member food co-ops have joined in the effort, paving the way for participation by other retailers.
Early in 2023, the NOFFP announced that it has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a groundbreaking initiative aimed at revitalizing the Northeast organic dairy sector. Sub-awardees in the project include the NFCA, CROPP/Organic Valley, Stonyfield Farm, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont. Matching funds from these and other sponsoring organizations will support three key goals over a three-year period: Developing a marketing campaign, facilitating product innovation for bulk organic dairy, and increasing the impact of grocery retail partners, including the establishment of a Food Co-op peer group for sharing best practices.
“We know that our food co-ops and their members and shoppers are passionate about supporting family farms,” says Suzette Snow-Cobb, NFCA Director. “This project will help co-op staff to share resources, ideas and strategies for increasing our impact for our region’s organic dairy farmers.”
Dairy farmers in our region have been experiencing ongoing challenges. For example, Vermont witnessed the closure of 62 organic dairies between January 2020 and August 2023. Economic pressures, including inflation, wars affecting the world’s organic feed supply, trade disputes in India, increased transportation costs, labor shortages, and extreme weather events like the 2022 drought and 2023 flooding, have pushed the cost of producing Northeast organic milk to a breaking point. Losing additional farms poses severe economic repercussions for rural communities, potential loss of vital ecosystem services, and increased reliance on products from distant farms, leading to longer and more complex supply chains.
“This USDA grant to strengthen consumer and institutional demand for local organic dairy products will have a big impact on the entire Northeast region as we work to create new markets and opportunities for organic dairy farms,” says Olga Moriarty, NOFFP Executive Director. “Organic dairy is a critical part of the Northeast farming economy, and we hope to build on our success by partnering with more colleges, schools, and retail locations to source local organic milk.”
To learn more about the NOFFP, please visit: https://www.saveorganicfamilyfarms.org.
Welcome New General Managers!
Please join us in welcoming Patty and Anthony in their new roles and look forward to meeting them at future NFCA gatherings!
In January, Patty Smith moved into her new role at the Willimantic Food Co-op, CT. She is officially hired by the Board to follow retiring Alice Rubin as General Manager. Patty has worked for the co-op for 15 years, initially hired to implement the Co-op’s first computerized point-of-sale (POS) system in 2007. Since then, she has held different positions in the co-op expanding her knowledge and passion of her co-op and for the co-operative economy.
“Last year, I completed my Master of Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions at the International Centre for Co-operative Management, Saint Mary’s University, Nova Scotia – a unique and fantastic program with a broad, cross-sector focus on the co-operative movement worldwide,” said Patty in Willimantic Co-op’s newsletter announcement. “I am thrilled to be able to bring that perspective, along with the rest of my experience, to the General Manager role, and to all that this new job has to teach me.”
Patty grew up in Eastern Connecticut and attended the Boston Conservatory, graduating with a BFA in classical dance in 1996. Family and work, including running small food businesses brought her to the area and to the co-op.
As of January 22nd, Anthony Santorelli, who has served as the Brattleboro Food Co-op’s Chief Financial Officer for the past nine months, is the new General Manager.
“The Board of Directors expresses confidence that Anthony Santorelli is well-positioned to continue the positive trajectory of the Co-op,” said the Brattleboro Food Co-op in an announcement. “His proven track record and commitment to clear and thoughtful communication make him an ideal leader for the organization.”
Anthony’s background includes over 25 years of experience in the grocery industry, predominantly in the wholesale sector. His expertise spans areas such as finance, accounting, budgeting, financial planning and analysis, end-to-end supply chain, and mergers and acquisitions.
Anthony has lived in Vermont for 30 years and currently resides in Westminster with his partner, Delsa. Outside of work, he enjoys outdoor activities, including year-round hiking and winter skiing. He is also a dedicated fan of live music.
Co-ops in the News
The Fabulous 413
The Co-op Spirit
The Co-op Spirit
North Country This Week
Has your co-op been in the news recently? Send your item to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simply Voting Inc. is a specialized provider of secure, hosted online elections.
Since 2003, Simply Voting has supported thousands of organizations in running millions of voting events across several industries and sectors – from universities to labor unions, to professional membership associations, to corporations, to municipalities, and co-operatives across the spectrum. We have been a proud partner of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association and its member co-operatives for several years, providing an online platform to assist in democratic endeavors.
Whether an organization is voting on revised by-laws or electing a governing board or a slate of officers, or anything in between, e-democracy and elections are often some of the most important activities an organization undertakes internally. Online voting helps organizations maintain up-to-date electronic contact information for their membership, increase member engagement and enfranchisement by allowing members to participate on their own terms, and reduces operating costs associated with election administration, without compromising security or auditability.
Successful co-operative elections typically incorporate four fundamentals of electoral legitimacy: inclusivity, transparency, accountability, and competitiveness. Ensuring that all stakeholders are involved in the process goes a long way towards building trust among all parties – whether that is a voter participating in an election, a candidate running in an election, or the staff administering an election. By incorporating these fundamentals, elections can withstand any tests to electoral legitimacy.
More than ever, agile co-operatives that adapt rather than run from an ever-increasing digital world, achieve their goal of providing value and serving their members in meaningful ways. And at Simply Voting, we are always ready to be an essential partner in helping cooperatives accomplish their missions.
As part of our partnership, NFCA Member Co-ops can receive a special discount on Simply Voting’s services. Numerous of our member co-ops are using Simply Voting to meet their election needs. For more information, contact Suzette Snow-Cobb at email@example.com.
February Cave-to-Co-op Special
This month’s special cheese is MT ALICE from Von Trapp Farmstead, Waitsfield, VT
The Sound of Music has made “von Trapp” a household name across generations. The family didn’t traverse the Alps on foot with all their instruments, but they did leave Austria to tour around Europe and the United States, eventually settling in Stowe in the 1940s.
Werner and Erika von Trapp started the von Trapp Family Farm in Waitsfield, Vermont in 1959. Erika (lovingly called Oma, like the cheese made in her honor) had studied agriculture in Austria and was a main force behind establishing and growing the farm.
Now over 60 years later, von Trapp Farmstead produces sustainably raised meat and dairy; live-culture yogurt, and award-winning artisan cheese from their own milk. Until his recent passing, Martin, one of Werner and Erika’s six children, and his wife Kelly operated the organic dairy. Now Martin and Kelly’s eldest son Sebastian and his wife Molly run both the farm and the cheesemaking side.
Mt. Alice is named after a distinct mountain peak southeast of the farm. This bloomy rind Camembert-style cheese is an elegantly smooth, milky delight made from the farm’s organic pasteurized cows’ milk and aged for three to five weeks. Mt. Alice is perfect on a cheese plate and makes a great easy lunch, thickly smeared on a crusty baguette. If you are feeling more adventurous however, here is a recipe that highlight its milky flavor.
Blackberry, Blueberry, Raspberry Thyme Baked Mt. Alice
Blackberry, Blueberry, Raspberry Thyme Baked Mt. Alice
Serves 2 to 4
- 1 Mt. Alice cheese
- 2 Cup fresh mixed berries
- 1 Cup water
- 1 Cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tsp sea salt
- baguette for serving
Pre-heat oven to 400º F
- Combine berries, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan.
- Bring to a boil on high heat and then simmer and cook for 12-15 minutes until thickened. Cool slightly.
- Cut the top rind off the cheese and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cut rind up. Sprinkle the cheese with the thyme and sea salt.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes until cheese is melted and soft. Remove from the oven and top with the berry mixture.
- Serve with baguette.
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.
NOFA Mass Winter Conference
Your Neighboring Food Co-ops partnered with the New England Farmers Union and the Local Food Safety Collaborative to spread the word at the NOFA Mass Winter Conference in January.
The 2024 NOFA/Mass Winter Conference brought together over 400 farmers, gardeners, educators, and organizations on January 13 at Worcester State University. Organized under the theme, “Growing Connections & Collaborations,” this one-day event offered a place to learn, gather, and kindle relationships in community with farmers, local food enthusiasts, land care professionals, advocates, elders, young leaders, and everyone in between. The Neighboring Food Co-op Association was there with our partners the New England Farmers Union. Suzette Snow-Cobb, NFCA Staff and NEFU’s Local Food Safety promoter talked with attendees about NEFU’s activities and food safety educational opportunities and resources.
The winner of the locally grown food giveaway, Rachael (pictured above), expressed thanks and enthusiasm at having the opportunity to learn more about co-operatives and resources for our region’s family farmers.
Find out more about Produce Safety trainings, rules and resources: https://newenglandfarmersunion.org/fsma-resources
New England Farmers Union: Annual Meeting
Join us online, February 14th from 12pm to 2pm EST, to learn what New England Farmers Union is up to and mingle with other members! The annual meeting will take place virtually, and you can register for the Zoom meeting at this link.
Join the Farmers Union! The 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.
NOFA-NH’s 22nd Annual Winter Conference
Join us for this one-day event, co-sponsored by your Neighboring Food Co-ops, which will explore the ecosystem of food and invite participants to build skills that cultivate abundant businesses, communities, homes, and systems. For more information, visit https://www.nofanh.org.