Focus & Forge Ahead! // NFCA News, July 2021

Your Neighboring Food Co-ops

Locally Owned by More Than

160,000 People Like You!

In this Month’s E-News, check out:

Focus & Forge Ahead: NFCA’s 6th Annual Startup Day

On Saturday, July 10th, co-op startup organizers came together for Neighboring Food Co-op Association’s Sixth Annual Northeast Startup Day with Food Co-op Initiative.

Community members from across the Northeast gathered remotely for the Neighboring Food Co-op Association’s (NFCA) Sixth Annual Startup Day. Organized with Food Co-op Initiative around the theme “Focus & Forge Ahead: An Organizing Tune-up for Success!” the training brought together 14 representatives from Neighboring Food Co-op startups and partner organizations.

Our Startup Day focused on supporting organizers across the region to take a pause and assess their organizing progress and then, through collaborative and supportive brainstorming, build up plans to address areas where work is needed. The “Focus & Forge Ahead” theme came from a new tool Food Co-op Initiative’s JQ Hannah created for startups.  The energy and commitment of NFCA’s member startups reflect how more people in our region–and across the whole country!–are rediscovering the important role of the co-op model in building more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive communities, especially as we work together to address social and economic impacts of the pandemic and create a people-centered alternative to the current extractive and exclusive economic system.

“The pandemic made it crystal clear to our communities the many ways our food co-ops are more than just grocery stores—they are trusted places the community comes together for information, resources, and connection. We saw the importance of peer learning and innovation in how our food co-ops served our communities, tapped into greater shared needs, and came up with collective solutions,” said Bonnie Hudspeth, who leads Co-operative Development for the NFCA. “And over the last year, our startups built on the strengths of their unique co-operative identities, expanding their role in mutual aid, revisiting their core values and governance structure, and building up their membership base for future success. Organizers starting food co-ops are building grocery stores, and also working to build equitable communities, where every community member has access to shared ownership and control of their local infrastructure. And we’re so excited to team up with Food Co-op Initiative to support them!”

When they open their doors, these startup food co-ops will join a cohort of successful startups in our region–the NFCA has been tracking the success of these recently opened food co-ops. Of note, the 10 food co-ops that have opened since 2008 demonstrated substantial growth in 2020 compared to above data for our total membership. For example:

  • Total Membership increased by 11% to over 37,800 co-op members, demonstrating continued community engagement and commitment;
  • Annual Revenue grew to over $82.5 million, up a strong 15%;
  • 577 local jobs were provided, an increase of 27%; and
  • Local product sales grew significantly, up 16% to over $22.8 million and representing 28% of total sales, relative to a national average for conventional grocery stores of roughly 2%.

Of these 10 recently opened co-ops, three have done substantial expansions, including one that opened a new second 23,000 sq. ft. location on July 1, with a set up to generate 100% of their annual electric needs with on-site solar. Another is nearly hitting their year six sales projections in just their second year of operations, while another issued its first patronage refund, distributing $409,000 to its members proportionate to their annual purchases. With the support of the NFCA, half of these co-ops have implemented Healthy Food Access needs-based discount programs supporting families with limited incomes to purchase nutritious food. In 2020, these “Food For All” programs served over 1,200 members and provided nearly $238,000 in discounts.

We appreciate Cooperative Development Foundation, Food Co-op Initiative and Organic Valley for partnering with us to support the next generation of food co-ops building community power and resilience in the Northeast. And cheers for all the startup food co-op organizers who are working hard to build more healthy, just, and equitable communities!

NEW! Co-op Jobs Board

Looking for a great job growing a more healthy, just & sustainable food system and a co-operative economy that works for everyone? Your Neighboring Food Co-ops are hiring!

Spread the word! Food co-ops across our region are hiring, and NFCA has launched a new resource: a FREE jobs board for member food co-ops.

Check out all the jobs at your Neighboring Food Co-ops at

Celebrating Co-ops Day 

On Saturday, July 3rd, co-operatives and credit unions around the world celebrated International Co-ops Day as we work to “Rebuild Better, Together.”

Co-ops Day 2021

This year’s theme, #RebuildBetterTogether, highlights the resilience of co-ops during the pandemic andthe role they are playing in helping our communities rebuild in a more inclusive and sustainable way.

“In the last year, we have witnessed how the co-operative model has been working towards the well-being of people and respect for the planet, underscoring what the co-operative movement stands for,” says Bruno Roelants, Director General of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). “We will indeed rebuild better together, and I’m confident that we will see many stories of how the co-operative movement can help communities become stronger in the post-pandemic world.”

International Co-ops Day has been celebrated annually since 1923, and the theme this year was chosen by the ICA and the United Nations to raise awareness of how co-ops have helped their communities weather the pandemic and are contributing to efforts to rebuild the economy.

“Across our region, food co-ops have worked to keep their communities safe while ensuring access to healthy, local food,” said Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA). “And as we work to build back better, we know that our co-ops will be taking the lead in working together to ensure a more healthy, just, and sustainable future for everyone.”

The NFCA is a regional federation of more than 40 food co-ops and startups, locally owned by more than 163,000 members and employing over 2,340 people. During the pandemic, co-ops have been leaders in working to ensure that shoppers could access healthy food while remaining safe, including online ordering, curbside pick-up, and special shopping hours for at-risk consumers. At the same time, they remained committed to local producers, selling more than $100 million in local products annually – or over 25% of store sales, on average. Last year, more than 12,000 people joined their Neighboring Food Co-ops, reflecting growing interest in food security, community ownership, and economic inclusion.

As part of Co-ops Day celebrations, food co-ops across the Northeast are demonstrating their commitment to our communities and to building more inclusive economies as we work to rebuild in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Celebrated internationally on the first Saturday in July, Co-ops Day in the United States coincides with Independence Day, offering a unique opportunity to focus on the democratic values of the co-operative business model. Based on the principle of one member one vote, co-ops reflect American ideals of democracy, self-help, self-responsibility, and social responsibility. And because co-operatives are focused on meeting member needs rather than maximizing profit, they are focused on goals identified by their members, including social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

Sponsor Highlight: Cabot Creamery Co-op

Cabot Creamery Co-op of Vermont has been in operation since 1919. Owned by the 750 farm families of its parent co-op Agri-Mark, Cabot operates four creameries — two in Vermont, one in New York and one in Massachusetts.

As one of our region’s best known and most-awarded co-operative brands, Cabot has been honored an unprecedented three times at the World Championship Cheese Contests as makers of “The World’s Best Cheddar.” Today, this regional co-op offers a full line of dairy products including cheese, butter, sour cream, cottage cheese and yogurt. The co-op worked with the Cellars at Jasper Hill to create “Cabot Clothbound,” a natural-rind traditional cheddar that is aged a minimum of 10 months. This delicious cheese has been featured during Co-op Month as part of the NFCA’s Cave to Co-op program that offers regional artisan cheeses at an affordable price.

Underlying Cabot’s business success is its commitment to initiating marketing programs among different co-op sectors such as food co-ops, credit unions and energy co-ops. Community, democracy and local ownership are integral to the co-operative business model — service to, and for, the communities in which members live, work and shop.

“A co-op represents an investment of more than just money,” says Bill Beaton, President and CEO of Agri-Mark. “Hard work, passion and ownership by our farmer members are the true secrets underlying our success. These same values and benefits are universal to the co-operative structure and are fundamental to our mission.”

In this spirit, Cabot works with the NFCA and other partners in the region to grow the wider co-operative movement. For example, generous contributions from Cabot have enabled NFCA member co-op staff and board members to attend educational programs by the International Centre for Co-op Management (ICCM) at Saint Mary’s University.

Cabot believes in educating others, especially young people, about the value of co-operatives. “The biggest priority for co-ops has to be educating the next generation about the value of co-ops and the power generated by this most democratic form of business,” says Roberta MacDonald, Cabot’s Senior VP for Marketing.

To that end, Cabot co-sponsored the “Co-ops for Community” Girl Scout Patch booklet in partnership with the National Cooperative Business Association. The booklet’s activities help girls and young people become more business savvy, understand how co-ops contribute to the communities they serve, and develop business leadership by learning how to form their own co-ops. And this year to bring attention to the importance of pollinators and practical ways kids can help protect and preserve pollinator populations Cabot has created the Pollinator Patch.

As a Co-op, Cabot Creamery is proud to be owned by the farmer members who provide the fresh milk for our award-winning cheeses and dairy products. You can visit the local family farms and meet the cows behind The World’s Best Cheddar. Many of our farms are now open to the public and are excited to welcome visitors to enjoy a taste of the farm.

Visit the Farm Trail website to search by location, season, or activity to start planning your trip on the Farm Trail today.

As part of our effort to build greater awareness, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association partners with organizations like Cabot Creamery Co-op to educate consumers, policymakers, and activists about how co-operatives contribute to stronger communities and a more just, inclusive and sustainable economy. For more information and resources, visit

Farm to Freezer: Great Combo? Grains & Corn

Keep cooking to a minimum on warm days with summer salad combinations.  Your local co-op has the ingredients you can use in creating easy summer salads.

It’s most nutritious to eat vegetables right after harvest, however freezing close to harvest retains the nutrients and studies show little or no loss of vitamins, minerals and antioxidant activity.* And using frozen vegetables cuts down on cooking when preparing too!

Salads that combine grains and vegetables make for hearty side dishes or lunches that can be prepared ahead. Want to learn more about some unique grains available at your co-op? Check out this brief “Co-op Kitchen” video and learn about great grains to combine with veggies to create tasty summer salads. In July we have an abundance of kale whether from our own gardens,  farm share or co-op produce department. Combine that kale with quinoa and frozen corn to create a tasty nutritional powerhouse. Here’s an easy recipe from National Co-op Grocers.

When you shop from the bulk department packaging is kept to a minimum and when you choose NFCA’s Northeast Grown Frozen Fruits and Vegetables, you are helping to keep local farmers thriving. A good decision for yourself and family, our farmers, and our environment!

By working together, food co-ops across our region are making regionally grown produce available to our shoppers year ‘round. Eat healthy and contribute to community building! Look for our Northeast Grown Frozen Fruits and Vegetables in the freezer section. They’re easy to find because they’re packed in a clear package so you can see what’s inside.

For more Farm to Freezer information and recipes — including warm weather recipes great for summer meals using frozen corn, peas, or blueberries — visit:


July’s Cave to Co-op Special 

Mixed Signals, Grafton Village Cheese, VT and Crown Finish Caves, NY

Mixed Signals is a blend of raw Jersey cow milk and raw sheep milk. The cheese is made by Grafton Village Cheese Company and then sent to Crown Finish Caves to be aged in their facility located 30 feet below street level in the former lagering tunnels of Nassau Brewery in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY.

Mixed Signal (and its sister cheese, Smoke Signals) was created at the beginning of October 2019, when two Vermont dairy farms unexpectedly found themselves without a buyer for their milk. Wayward Goose Farm and Indian River Farm both produce high quality, protein rich milk that is specialized for cheese making and is becoming increasingly rare. Grafton Village Cheese heard the call, and production began shortly thereafter. Mixed Signal uses the milk from Wayward Goose and Indian River, as well as sheep milk from an Amish community in New York.

Crown Finish first opened with the intention of helping small farms keep up with their milk production by purchasing “green” cheese from them, which they would then age and distribute and market as a cheese made by both Crown Finish and the cheese farm. Crown Finish Caves markets all of their cheeses that way, working with a wide variety of creameries of all sizes and styles.

The aging of Mixed Signals in Crown Finish’s unique caves transforms a hint of smokiness at the rind into an umami meatiness that permeates the paste, reminiscent of your favorite aged salami. You can read more about Grafton Village Cheese and Crown Finish Caves collaboration and find recipes using Mixed Signals as well as past month’s featured cheeses on the July Cave to Co-op page.

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. 

Farmers Union: Food Hubs & Food Safety

With nearly every industry enduring crushing levels of corporate power, President Joe Biden’s executive order aimed at promoting competition and fairness throughout the economy is a monumental step towards a fairer economy.
“The Farmers Union sprang out of the gilded era of robber baron’s and monopolies and now, over one hundred years later, our agriculture and food economy seems more consolidated than other time in our history,” said Roger Noonan, President of the New England Farmers Union. “The President’s executive orders are a big step in the right direction.”
The order, issued on July 9, includes 72 directives that will be carried out by 12 federal agencies, many of which target the agricultural sector. For instance, it advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to offer livestock farmers greater recourse against corporations when they are treated unfairly, restructure the inequitable system that determines poultry growers’ wages, and prevent corporations from retaliating against farmers who speak out about discriminatory conduct. It would also give farmers the right to repair their equipment – which many companies currently restrict – limit “Product of USA” labels strictly to meat raised domestically, and support the development of local and regional food systems.
Since it was founded in 1902, National Farmers Union (NFU) has been dedicated to protecting farmers from corporate abuse, an endeavor that has only intensified in recent decades in response to a wave of mergers and acquisitions. In a statement, Rob Larew, the organization’s president, lauded the administration for taking this monumental step towards protecting farmers from anticompetitive practices.
“Over the last 50 years, we’ve seen dramatic consolidation in the agriculture industry, with just a handful of corporations seizing control over each link in the food supply chain. It’s no coincidence that this has coincided with a slew of problems for farmers: low prices, little bargaining power, few choices, misleading labels, and the inability to repair their own equipment, among other headaches. If that weren’t enough, extreme concentration has also made our food system extremely vulnerable to disruptions and bottlenecks, as has become abundantly clear recently in the wake of extreme weather events, the pandemic, and cyberattacks.”
Farmers and rural residents would benefit from several other provisions that would make rail shipping rates more competitive, stem consolidation among rural hospitals, and encourage more choices in banking and credit in rural communities.
“After suffering corporate abuse for so many years, it is reassuring that farmers may finally get a level playing field,” said Larew. “This executive order will offer them more autonomy in their relationships with corporations, protections from mistreatment, fairer and more accurate labeling, the right to repair their machinery, and more robust local markets – which, taken together, will go a long way towards building the resilient, equitable food system that farmers and consumers deserve. We urge the administration to swiftly implement these changes and follow up with strong antitrust enforcement.”

Our Local Farmers & Fishermen Need You!

Do you care about where your food comes from and want to support the people who produce it? Join the 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

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The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is a co-operative federation of over 40 food co-ops and startup 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.