E-News // Food Co-ops Gather to Disrupt the Future! // June 2016

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Food Co-ops Gather to Disrupt the Future!

       CCMA Keynote Shirley Sherrod

In June, 420 leaders from over 100 food co-ops across the U.S. gathered at UMASS Amherst for the 60th Annual CCMA, Consumer Co-operative Management Association, conference. The conference was hosted by the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), a federation of 35 food co-ops across our region, and local hosts Franklin Community Co-op and River Valley Co-op. It was the first time that CCMA had been held in New England in over 15 years.

Organized around the theme, “Disrupting the Future: Co-operative Food & the Next Generation,” the conference offered an opportunity for food co-op board members, staff, and organizational partners to share ideas, explore issues of diversity and inclusion, and develop strategies for operational excellence.

“We were so proud to host CCMA with our member co-ops this year,” said Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the NFCA. “It was a great opportunity for us to share some of the work our co-ops are doing in our region, and to connect with food co-ops across the country as we work to increase our impact and support our shared success.”

Keynote for the conference was Shirley Sherrod, Executive Director of the  Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education, Inc., and as vice president of Development for New Communities, Inc., an organization she and her husband established in the 1960s. Sherrod went on to work for the Federation of Southern Co-operatives to help black farmers keep their land and served as Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sherrod focused on opportunities within the food co-op industry to address diversity in a positive and effective way:

“We all bring something to the table, and we lose something when we do not bring other people to the table,” said Sherrod. “You have to be intentional about diversity, and once you have made the decision to look outside of your co-op and address the situation in your community, you cannot give up.”

Nick Buettner, Community and Corporate Program Director for Blue Zones, which studies communities in which people live longer, happier lives, challenged food co-ops to be leaders in this effort, serving as hubs for healthy lifestyles and human connection in their communities.

The UMASS campus was an appropriate setting for the conference. The Campus Center where events took place is named for UMASS alumnus Murray Lincoln, Co-op Hall of Fame inductee and founder of Nationwide Insurance.  The University is also home to one of the country’s oldest systems of student-run co-operative businesses, and the campus library is named for W.E.B. DuBois, African American Scholar, co-founder of the NAACP and promoter of co-operative enterprise as a tool for community empowerment. More recently, the NFCA has worked with the Department of Economics and the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops developed an undergraduate Certificate in Applied Research in Co-operative Enterprises at UMASS.

“It was particularly exciting to hold this conference in New England,” said Patricia Sterner, Senior Development Director, Domestic Programs at the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International, lead organizer of the conference. “This region has such a rich co-operative history and continues to be a hub for co-op development and collaboration that is a model for the country.”

Events kicked off with tours of co-ops and other attractions in the area including Collective Copies and UMASS Five College Federal Credit Union in Amherst, River Valley Co-op and Valley Malt at Grow Food Northampton, and an African American History Tour in Florence; Artisan Beverage Co-op, Green Fields Co-op Market, Greenfield Farmers Co-operative Exchange, Pioneer Valley PhotoVoltaics, and Real Pickles in Greenfield; Brattleboro Food Co-op and Brattleboro Holistic Health in Brattleboro, VT; and Franklin Farm, a diversified dairy farm and Organic Valley co-op member in Guilford, VT.

Presentations from NFCA & Partner Organizationshttps://nfca.coop/ccma2016presentations

Check out Conference Photoshttp://s.coop/ccma2016nfcaphotos

About the NFCA: The Neighboring Food Co-op Association includes over 35 food co-ops and start-ups, locally owned by 107,000 people across New England. Together, our food co-ops employ more than 1,800 people, generate revenues of $260 million and purchase over $50 million in local products. For more information on CCMA and the NFCA, please visit https://nfca.coop.


Sustainability: Theme of International Day of Co-ops

On Saturday, July 2nd, co-ops in our community and around the world will be celebrating International Day of Co-operatives, joining the United Nations (UN) and the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) in a commemoration that began in 1923.  This year’s theme, “Co-operatives: The Power to Act for a Sustainable Future,” highlights the contribution of co-operative enterprise to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

“The International Day of Co-ops is an opportunity for us to look at our impact on global issues,” said Bonnie Hudspeth, Member Programs Manager of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), a federation of 35 food co-ops and start-up initiatives, locally owned by over 100,000 people across New England. “It is also an opportunity for our food co-ops to share the work they do every day to make our food system and economy more fair, equitable, and sustainable.”

During the UN General Assembly in September 2015, world leaders committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, outlining an ambitious plan to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change over the next fifteen years. The co-operative movement is recognized as having a unique role to play in these efforts, representing a business model based on ethical values and principles, with sustainable development at its core. Locally rooted and people driven, co-ops contribute to sustainable economic growth, social development, and environmental responsibility.

Here in New England, food co-ops have been at the forefront of movements for sustainability, from organic agriculture to Fair Trade, energy conservation to alternative energy, and local foods to food security.

Celebrated internationally on the first Saturday in July, Co-op Day in the United States often 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.

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


“White Diamond” from Boston Post Dairy


Have you noticed the “Cave to Co-op” signs in the cheese section of your local food co-op? The project 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.

June’s “Cave to Co-op” special artisan cheese is “White Diamond” from Boston Post Dairy in Enosburg Falls, VT.  Made with 100% farmstead pasteurized goat milk, this traditional Camembert style cheese has the soft, gooey center and is absolutely delicious when drizzled with local raw honey and baked.

Find out more and get some recipes: https://nfca.coop/CaveToCo-opJune2016

For more information on the program, visit: www.nfca.coop/CaveToCo-op


Shaping the Next Generation of Co-operators

By Marcus Smith

In February, I had the opportunity to participate in the 2016 National Farmers Union (NFU) College Conference on Co-operatives (CCOC) in Minneapolis, MN. This annual event is designed to help shape the next generation of co-operative leaders, and my exposure to the co-ops, speakers, and other participants was a learning experience I will never forget! I’m particularly thankful to the New England Farmers Union (NEFU, a regional chapter National Farmers Union), for enabling me to attend the conference along with three other people from our region:

  • Mikaela Allen, and employee from the Littleton Food Co-op in New Hampshire;
  • Tyler (Riv) Gallagher, a student at Greenfield Community College in Massachusetts; and
  • Avery Gratton and Paula Scharpf, staff at the Willimantic Food Co-op in Connecticut.

As a student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, I have been focused on the connections between co-operative enterprise and sustainable food systems. I was appreciative of this unique opportunity to learn about the diversity of co-ops and their role in the economy. The insights offered by employees and members of Peace Coffee, Seward Community Co-op and the senior housing co-op with whom we spoke were invaluable to my understand of the impact and potential of this business model. I wish that more young people had the opportunity to visit these enterprises, from small community co-ops to CHS, the nation’s largest agricultural co-operative and a Fortune 100 business.

It was also a pleasure to travel with fellow New Englanders – students and representatives from our region’s food co-ops – as we heard from teachers, co-opreneurs, and established co-op leaders alike. We met students of co-operative development from all around to country, had great conversations, and made great connections. We also visited the Mill City Museum, built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill on the only waterfall in the Mississippi – a stark reminder of how important, and risky, the agricultural industry is in America. I hope this program not only continues but expands to the Northeast if possible!

This conference is made possible by the generous support of the CHS Foundation, CHS, CoBank, Farmers Union Industries Foundation, NFU Foundation, Minnesota Co-operative Education Foundation, and Organic Valley. A special thanks goes out to NEFU, which was able to support the participation of our New England delegation through grants from USDA Rural Development and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. By becoming a member of the Farmers Union, you can support programs such as the CCOC. Remember, you don’t have to be a farmer to join. And if you are a member of your local Neighboring Food Co-op Association member food co-op, you can join at a special discounted rate.

Please consider joining at www.newenglandfarmersunion.org. Together, we can strengthen the voice of New England’s Farmers and Fishermen!

Marcus A. Smith is a Sustainable Food and Farming major and candidate for the Certificate in Applied Economic Research in Co-operative Enterprise with the Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He manages the Amherst Winter Farmers Market and the Summer Amherst Farmers Market, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Amherst Community Co-op, a start-up food co-op. This summer, Marcus is working on an internship with the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, researching the synergies between food co-ops and farmers markets, and the potential for transitioning an established farmers market to a co-operative structure.

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 info on our partnership & how you can become a member, visit: www.newenglandfarmersunion.org/co-operation.



Neighboring Food Co-op Association’s EVENTS calendar:



July 2nd 2016: International Day of Co-operatives


Celebrated on the first Saturday in July since 1923, this year’s theme is “Co-operatives: The Power to Act for a Sustainable Future,” a nod of support to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. On the 2016 Day let us speak out loud, on the value of co-operatives’ unique approach to sustainable economic, social and environmental development.


August 12-14, 2016: NOFA Summer Conference, UMass, Amherst, MA


Cultivating The Organic Grassroots Movement. The Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Summer Conference is the community learning hub of the NOFA universe. We learn, we play, and we enjoy a weekend of skill building, inspiration and entertainment. It is our opportunity to get together and inspire one another during a family friendly weekend with people living the same lifestyle, holding the same vision and working respectively in many ways toward the same goals.


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