E-News // A Sustainable, Co-operative Future // January 2015

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




“Imagine what our world could look like if business was driven by our ideals,” writes Neighboring Food Association executive director Erbin Crowell in the Winter 2014 issue of Green Living Journal. “What if economic success was measured not by market value or much profit generated for investors, but by our ability to provide ourselves with the goods and services we need to live meaningful lives in our communities? What if people around the world saw themselves as the answer to our shared social and economic challenges?”

The article goes on to outline the priorities laid out by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) “Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade,” including elevating member participation, positioning co-ops as builders of sustainability, strengthening the Co-operative Identity, ensuring legal frameworks to support growth, and developing sources of capital that reinforce member control. Co-ops in our region have been focusing on these priorities and the article lays out some examples of progress.

“As we consider some of the key challenges of our time, including climate change, economic inequality, and feeding a rapidly expanding global population, co-operative enterprise will continue to a powerful tool for people to meet their own needs and aspirations,” Crowell concludes. “The question becomes how co-ops and their members can best use our shared resources to build a better world for future generations.”

Read the full article: http://s.coop/nfcafuture2014

Feel free to re-print this article in your co-op newsletter, and let us know when you do! info@nfca.coop



The Dorchester Community Food Co-op, a start-up associate member of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), was featured in YES! Magazine’s recent article, “Land, Co-ops, Compost: A Local Food Economy Emerges in Boston’s Poorest Neighborhoods.”

The article highlights innovative projects that keep wealth in the community.  “From a community land trust that preserves land for growing, to kitchens and retailers who buy and sell locally grown food, to a new waste management co-op that will return compost to the land, a crop of new businesses and nonprofits are building an integrated food economy. It’s about local people keeping the wealth of their land and labor in the community…”

One of these innovative, community-wealth building projects is the Dorchester Community Food Co-op, an initiative to build an urban market that will provide economic opportunity and healthy, affordable food, and will be a dynamic center that celebrates the rich diversity of Dorchester. The NFCA provided technical assistance to the co-op’s incorporation as a multistakeholder or “solidarity” co-op.

“The Dorchester Community Food Co-op is developing its own member- and worker-owned grocery store, which will bring affordable access to locally grown produce. So far, they have several hundred members (paying $100 each), run a winter farmers market, and hold a ‘Fresh Fridays’ summer festival on the site that they are planning for the co-op. Their store will also be a space for community education and cultural activities.”

Read the full article: www.yesmagazine.org/commonomics/boston-s-emerging-food-economy



“Why study the Co-operative Movement? What is a co-op and how is it different from other business models? What were the historical conditions that gave rise to the Co-operative Movement and how do they compare with our own times? What relevance does co-operative enterprise have to contemporary economic challenges such as globalization, social inequality and climate change?”

These are some of the questions posed in “Introduction to the Co-operative Movement,” a course being offered this Spring by the Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and presented by adjunct lecturer Erbin Crowell, who also serves as Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA).

“This is just the second year that we’ve offered the course,” said Crowell. “And we are excited that we have the maximum of 150 students enrolled again this year.” The course is part of efforts to develop curricula on the co-operative movement by the UMASS Co-operative Enterprise Collaborative, which includes faculty and students from the UMASS Economics Department, the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops and the NFCA.

The course focuses on the degree to which co-operation as both a business model and social movement offers a viable economic alternative and tool for social justice, economic democracy and ecological sustainability. Students learn about the historical context and philosophical ideas that gave rise to the co-operative movement, the evolution of co-operative enterprise, comparative models and practice, the relevance of the co-ops to contemporary economic and social issues such as globalization, climate change and the global financial crisis, and case studies in co-operative enterprise.

Theresa Mannah-Blankson, PhD candidate in the UMASS Amherst Graduate Program in Economics, will be teaching assistant for the course. “I am excited about the course,” she says, “because it offers me an opportunity to learn how co-operatives may be a useful strategy from the perspective of developing countries.” Before coming to UMASS, Mannah-Blankson worked for five years in the Financial Stability Department of the Central Bank of Ghana. She is currently completing her dissertation, entitled “Microfinance, Household Indebtedness and Gender Inequality.” After completing her studies, Mannah-Blankson plans to return to her job at the Central Bank where she will be able to apply her learning to policies affecting poor households and their communities.

“We are very excited about this course and are continuing to expand our program in co-operative enterprise,” said J. Kevin Crocker, Undergraduate Program Director for the Economics Department at UMASS Amherst. Crocker also noted that the program has recently established ties with the Economics Department at the University of Bologna in northern Italy in order to provide students with the opportunity for further study in a region famous for its co-operative economy.

To view 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? January’s “Cave to Co-op” special artisan cheese is Butternut from Willow Hill Farm.  Willow Hill Farm cheese is unique in that each one is created from an original farmhouse recipe and ripened in small underground caves, so that each wheel carries with it flavors indicative of the native flora and fauna.

“When you eat things made close to you, they always taste better,” says Willow. Butternut is an Alpine style raw cow milk cheese that is aged for three months on wooden planks. It has a distinct and buttery flavor with hints of hazelnut and grass. Some say it reminds them of buttered popcorn.

Look for the “Cave to Co-op” sign in the cheese section at your Neighboring Food Co-op. And, for more information on Butternut and some recipes to beat the cold chill of January, please visit: www.nfca.coop/CaveToCo-opJanuary2015

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.



During New England Farmers Union (NEFU)’s recent annual convention in Portland, Maine, we were proud to feature the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) Executive Director Erbin Crowell, who spoke about the work the two organizations are doing together to build a stronger food system.

Crowell, who serves as vice president of NEFU’s board, touched on a program called Food Co-ops & Healthy Food Access, which food co-ops can adopt to make their products more affordable to low-income members. The program, which has been adopted at 35 food co-ops throughout New England, reaching roughly 300 economically disadvantaged members, also benefits farmers, who see the market for their food grow as a result of this increased demand.

Crowell also highlighted the relationship Farmers Union has had with co-ops for more than 100 years. From it’s beginnings in Point, Texas, to current annual events such as the College Conference on Co-operatives, Farmers Union continues to promote rural co-operatives as a way to drive economic activity that’s democratic and locally-owned and that brings a fair price for farm goods.

We appreciate all that the NFCA does to promote food co-ops and farmers in our region. Did you know that members of NFCA-member-co-ops get a discount on NEFU membership? It’s true! Visit our website today to learn more, and for only $25, you can join us as we build a stronger food system in New England! See 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 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.



The 13th Annual NOFA-NH Winter Conference is coming up at the end of the month, Saturday, January 31, 2015 at Rundlett Middle School in Concord, NH.

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is sponsoring the conference again this year, as part of our commitment to a healthy, just and sustainable regional food system. We are also partnering with Neighboring Food Co-ops in New Hampshire to raise the profile of food co-ops at the conference.

Bonnie Hudspeth (Neighboring Food Co-op Association) and Tony White (Co-op Food Stores of NH & VT) are offering a workshop, Selling to Your Local Food Co-op, exploring what you need to know as farmer or producer to offer your products to local food co-ops, the impact of Neighboring Food Co-ops on our regional food system and economy, and how to best report local economic impact.

The day’s lineup includes Janisse Ray as the keynote presenter, and workshops will include content on organic certification, co-operatives in the food system, keeping bees, balancing farming and family, wild edibles, nutrient dense foods, school gardens, ‘greening your machines’, gleaning, launching your value-added product, and more.

Learn more & register: www.nofanh.org/events/winter-conference/


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