E-News // Celebrate Co-op Day! // June 2015

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




On Saturday, July 4th, co-ops in our community and around the world will be celebrating International Co-op Day, joining the United Nations and the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) in a tribute that began in 1923.  This year’s theme, “Choose Co-operative, Choose Equality,” highlights the contribution of co-operative businesses to more fair, equitable, and participatory communities.

“It is very timely that Co-op Day is focused on equality,” said Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), a federation of 35 food co-ops and start-up initiatives across New England that are locally owned by over 90,000 people. “It is also an opportunity for our food co-ops to share the work they do every day to make our economy more fair for everyone.”

In announcing Co-op Day celebrations, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) noted a recent Credit Suisse report estimating that the top 1 percent of the globe’s population possesses nearly half of the world’s wealth, while the bottom half of world’s population holds less than 1 percent of its riches. This trend results in broken economies, declining infrastructure, social instability, and reduced political democracy.

Celebrated on the first Saturday in July, Co-op Day joins Independence Day in offering a unique opportunity to celebrate our democratic values. Based on the principle of one member one vote, co-operative enterprises reflect American ideals of democracy, self-help, self-responsibility and social responsibility. And because they are focused on meeting member needs rather than maximizing profit, co-ops focus on goals identified by their members.

While anyone is welcome to shop in our region’s food co-ops, member ownership usually costs less than $200, giving people with limited resources access to participation in community owned businesses that provide them with healthy, affordable food, support local producers, and offer good, sustainable jobs. A study commissioned by the NFCA in 2008 found that the average wage in food co-ops in our region was 18% higher than in food and beverage businesses in the same states, and more than 60% of workers were employed full-time, as opposed to just over 40% in supermarkets. At the same time, the average ratio of wages for top co-op managers to lowest paid workers was just 3 to 1 in an economy where corporate executives can make hundreds of times that of their employees. More recently, the NFCA’s “Healthy Food Access” project has been working to help member co-ops make healthy food and co-operative ownership more accessible to everyone in their communities.

The United Nations formally recognized International Co-op Day in 1992, joining the ICA in a celebration first established in 1923. In recognition of International Co-op Day, the NFCA is inviting people to learn more about how their local food co-ops are joining with other co-operatives and credit unions in building a better world, together.

For more information and a map of food co-ops across our region, please visit www.nfca.coop.



In June, food co-ops from across New England joined almost 400 fellow co-operators in Boise, ID for the 59th Annual Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) conference, hosted by the Boise Co-op and the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA.  The day before the event, Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) staff joined other co-op support organizations at the Food Co-op Development Summit 2015, hosted by Food Co-op Initiative, to strategize together on the future of food co-op development.

NFCA Executive Director Erbin Crowell served as emcee for this year’s conference, which focused on strengthening our food co-ops in an increasingly competitive marketplace. “I would like acknowledge that this is the first CCMA since Ann Hoyt stepped down after 25 years of stewardship of this conference, and I want to credit her extraordinary contribution to this event over the years, as well as the contributions of so many both in this room and not with us today,” said Crowell. “CCMA is a crucial resource for the food co-op community, and I want to thank our planning committee and the staff of NCBA CLUSA for taking on the challenge of keeping this work moving forward this year as we enter a new era.”

The conference opened with a panel of speakers representing a variety of co-op sectors, including farmer co-ops, credit unions, purchasing and utility co-ops on how co-operative can communicate the co-op advantage to members and customers. The themes of prioritizing the co-op identity and cross sector collaboration continued during the conference.

The NFCA’s Erbin Crowell and Bonnie Hudspeth joined Betsy Black of the Cooperative Fund of New England (CFNE) for a lunchtime panel on “Regional Collaboration to Advance Healthy Food Access.” The workshop shared how regional collaboration among Neighboring Food Co-ops and community partners in New England is increasing access to healthy food and co-op ownership for people on limited incomes.

“Co-ops as community-owned grocers have a ripe opportunity to integrate economic justice with business success,” said NFCA’s Bonnie Hudspeth.  “We were excited to see more focus on this issue at the national co-op conference, and hear from co-ops across the country about momentum on healthy food access, and we are eager to continue building on the success of our coordinated work in New England.  We will continue to explore how we can work together to make food co-ops a more relevant cornerstone of community food security in our region and across the country, while also strengthening business success in a competitive environment.”

Bonnie also presented at the Food Co-op Initiative’s “Committed Relationships with Younger Co-ops” workshop, sharing examples of how existing co-ops can best support start-up organizers, and the role of regional co-op organizations in coordinated support.  Food Co-op Initiative’s new staff member, Jacqueline Hannah, shared ideas about how established co-ops can support start-ups such as become member-owners of neighboring start-ups, sharing consultant visits, and giving supportive pressure to a nearby start-up to meet their organizing goals.

Erbin and Suzette Snow-Cobb, NFCA Board Member and Marketing and Membership Manager at Franklin Community Co-op, presented along with other graduates of the Saint Mary’s University Co-operative Management Education (CME) program in a panel entitled, “Co-operative Management Practices to Elevate Competitiveness.” The workshop shared some of the core lessons from CME that supported co-operative business success.

Other highlights included the presentation of the Howard Bowers Fund Award for Co-operative Service to Terry Appleby, General Manager of Co-op Food Stores/Hanover Consumer Co-op and an early organizer of the NFCA. Alex Gyori, General Manager of Brattleboro Food Co-op and another NFCA visionary, also received recognition from the Howard Bowers Fund for his service on their Board of Trustees.

The conference concluded with the exciting news that CCMA 2016 will take place in New England for the first time in over a decade, hosted by the Neighboring Food Co-op Association.

“National Co-operative Business Assocation CLUSA is eager to start the planning for CCMA 2016 in Western Massachusetts, hosted by the Neighboring Food Cooperative Association on behalf of its 35 member co-ops,” said Pat Sterner, COO of NCBA CLUSA.  “We look forward to working with the planning committee, which includes local member co-ops River Valley Market and Franklin Community Co-ops.  A huge thanks to NFCA and its members for becoming CCMA 2016 hosts!”

Check out some photos from the 2015 CCMA Conference: http://s.coop/nfcaccma2015



What’s happening with the food co-op movement in Canada? Our northerly neighbors at Local Organic Food Co-ops Network have some inspiring stories of new co-ops to share in their recent article in Briarpatch Magazine.

“As democratic enterprises, co-­operatives offer their members opportunities to engage in the decision-making processes that govern their operations, wresting power from corporate players and relocating control within their communities. Co-ops are putting power back into the hands of the people who grow the food and helping to turn otherwise alienated food consumers into food citizens.

In this wave of their development, Canadian co-ops are also empowering those who process, distribute, sell, and prepare food. In a society where fewer and fewer people are farming, this co-operative translation of food sovereignty principles provides a powerful social tool for repairing and rebuilding our food systems…”

Read the full article here: http://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/the-new-wave-of-food-co-ops



Have you noticed the “Cave to Co-op” signs in the cheese section of your neighboring food co-op? June’s “Cave to Co-op” special artisan cheese is “Ascutney Mountain” from Cobb Hill Farm in Hartland Four Corners, VT.

Cobb Hill is an intentionally planned community founded by Donella Meadows in Hartland Four Corners, VT.  In 1997, two local dairy farms were purchased and merged into a 260-acre co-operative community and farm.  Cobb Hill cheese is made from the raw milk of their grass-fed Jersey cows. Ascutney Mountain is a sweet and nutty natural rind tomme, modeled after Gruyère.  This Alpine-style cheese is firm and creamy with a clear flavor of milk and the pasture.  Find more info and seasonal early summer recipes that feature Ascutney Mountain with asparagus and herbs on NFCA’s website: https://nfca.coop/CaveToCo-opJune2015

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.



When New England Farmers Union gets a chance to showcase the connection between farmers and eaters, we take it. In October 2014, Farmers Union partnered with The Chef’s Plate on the production of “A Taste of New England’s Farm Fresh Challenge,” which featured nine members of Farmers Union. The show was nominated for a New England Emmy® Award for best “Lifestyle Program Special” last month.

To view the 29-minute video, visit the homepage of New England Farmers Union website: www.newenglandfarmersunion.org.

Producer/host Helen Ryba visited three local farms and talked to farmers about why they love to grow food. There, she filled a mystery basket with ingredients and then brought the basket to three award-winning New England chefs, who all have a passion for using locally sourced food. Each chef prepared a dish using ingredients from the three farms, plus three other New England farms. All business participants in the show are members of New England Farmers Union, which works to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life of family farmers, fishermen, and consumers in all six New England states.

The program visited the following Farmers Union member farms: Trombly Gardens, Milford, NH; Eastleigh Farm, Framingham, MA; Diemand Farm, Millers Falls, MA.

Ingredients from these Farmers Union member farms were included in the basket: Farmer’s Cow, Lebanon, CT; Four Star Farms, Northfield, MA; Real Pickles, Greenfield, MA.

The following Farmers Union member chefs cooked meals with the ingredients from the farms: Brent Menke, The Farm Table, Beranardston, MA; Brendan Vesey, Joinery, Newmarket, NH; David Levi, Vinland, Portland, ME.

To learn more about the Farm Fresh Chef Challenge, visit www.newenglandfarmfresh.com or email New England Farmers Union: info@newenglandfarmersunion.org. For more information on New England Farmers Union’s policy and program initiatives, 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 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.



July 9-12, 2015: Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy Conference, Worcester, MA

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association will be presenting on our cross sector collaboration to grow the Co-operative Economy: http://east.usworker.coop/2015-conference


July 12-15, 2015: Association of Co-operative Educators (ACE) Institute at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association is a cosponsor and will be presenting at the annual Association of Co-operative Educators (ACE) Institute conference: http://www.ace.coop

August 14-16 2015: “Co-operatives Track at 2015 NOFA Summer Conference, at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.

It’s easier to “Go Co-op” at the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s 2015 summer conference!  Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is sponsoring a special “Co-operatives Track” at the 2015 NOFA Summer Conference, August 14-16, at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA.

The workshops, which will take place in Campus Center 903 on Friday, August 14 and Saturday, August 15, 2015, address a variety of ways in which co-operative enterprises are improving the food system domestically and internationally, practical steps for farmers interested in marketing to food co-ops, and strategies for applying this unique economic model to growing more economically and environmentally sustainable food systems:

  • Northeast Dairy Challenges & Co-operative, Organic Solutions with Regina and Brent Beidler (Farmer-owners, Beidler Family Farm & VT Rep, Organic Valley Co-operative). Fri, August 14, 2 – 3:30PM.
  • How to Start a Food Co-op in Your Community with Bonnie Hudspeth (Membership & Outreach Manager, Neighboring Food Co-op Association) and Michael Faber (General Manager of Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene, NH). Fri, August 14, 4 – 5:30PM.
  • Co-op Conversion for Business Success with Adam Trott (Staff, Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops; Worker/Member, Collective Copies) and Erbin Crowell (Executive Director, Neighboring Food Co – op Association). Sat, August 15, 10 – 11:30AM.
  • Farmer Co-ops For Efficient Production & Marketing with Roger Noonan (President, New England Farmers Union) and Erbin Crowell (Executive Director, Neighboring Food Co-op Association). Sat, August 15, 1 – 2:30PM.

The NOFA Summer Conference features nearly 150 workshops on farming, gardening, land care, nutrition, & food politics; full and half day pre-conferences; and 100+ exhibitors. This is a family-friendly event with activities for children and teens, country fair, and organic meals. Budget conscious accommodations are available, including camping and dorms.

Find more info on the workshops and Register here: www.nofasummerconference.org.

*** Register by July 17, 2015 and get a $20 discount

October is National Co-op Month!

Visit www.nfca.coop/go for resources.

October 24, 2015: Neighboring Food Co-op Association Fall Member Gathering

Member co-ops of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA): Save the date for our annual Fall Gathering, including workshops, presentations and peer to peer networking opportunities.

November 6-8, 2015: New England Farmers Union Annual Meeting, Concord, NH



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