Co-operation: Our Foundation! // NFCA News March 2024

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Co-operation: Our Foundation

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.  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 “Agenda for Sustainable Development,” which concludes in 2030.

For resources from past NFCA Member Gatherings, please visit

College Conference on Cooperatives

Sarah Medeiros (front row, center) of Willimantic Food Co-op and other conference attendees with Barbara Rightler, Membership Committee Chair, Valley View Cooperative.
Staff from Willimantic Food Co-op participated in the College Conference on Cooperatives in Minneapolis in February.

In February, students from across the U.S. gathered for the College Conference on Co-operatives (CCOC), an annual event organized by the National Farmers Union (NFU) to educate, motivate, and inspire the next generation of co-operators.

Over the course of this three-day conference, participants heard from experts across co-op sectors, engaged in interactive learning activities and workshops, and toured co-ops in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. This event attracts students from across the country and is beneficial to those new to co-ops as well as those with some previous co-op education. Nearly 80 participants registered to attend in-person this year with another 20 more registered to join the one-day livestreamed programming.

We were fortunate to be able to send Sarah Medeiros, staff member at Willimantic Food Co-op in CT, representing the Neighboring Food Co-op Association and our friends at the New England Farmers Union.

“I had the fantastic opportunity to attend CCOC, thanks to the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, New England Farmers Union and the Willimantic Food Co-op.

After a full day of presentations on topics such as ‘Decision-Making in Co-ops’ and ‘Cooperation in Agriculture and Beyond’, we spent another day touring Seward Food Co-op, Riverton Community Housing, MY Credit Union, and REI Co-op Bloomington, as well as hearing about senior cooperative housing in the greater Twin Cities area. The conference was incredibly informative, and I highly recommend it for college students or those new to working at a co-op!” reported Sarah.

Ahead of the conference NFU Senior Director of Engagement Emma McCormick said, “NFU’s history is closely tied to the co-operative movement, and we continue our cooperative advocacy and education today. The College Conference on Cooperatives brings value to Farmers Union members and communities both rural and urban by preparing the next generation of leaders in co-operatives. Each year, a diverse and engaged group of students deepens and broadens their understanding of the co-operative model at this event.”

Participants heard from a variety of speakers from local and national co-ops. The Louis Doering Keynote Luncheon, named in honor of a well-known area leader who first suggested convening the area’s cooperative representatives for networking with the conference attendees, is held in partnership with CoMinnesota and hosted by the Ralph K. Morris Foundation. This year the event featured a keynote address from Brad Schloesser, executive director of the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (MARL) program.

NFU promotes rural economic and co-operative development by supporting existing agricultural co-ops and helping form new farmer co-ops and other rural businesses. The primary objective is to help family farmers and ranchers add value to the food, fiber, and energy they produce. NFU assists producers to retain ownership of their commodity further into the processing channel and enhance market returns on their investment. By working together with other groups and individuals, Farmers Union helps family farmers and ranchers advance their farm, ranch, co-op and community enterprises.

As part of our mission of co-operative education, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association and the New England Farmers Union work in partnership to enable students from our region to attend the College Conference on Cooperatives.  If your food co-op has students on staff who may be interested in attending a future conference, please contact us.

Join our Team for the Co-op 5K!

Join the Neighboring Co-operators team for the Co-op 5k — a fun, family-friendly event and fundraiser for the Cooperative Development Foundation from April 20 to May 3.

Join co-op members, staff, and directors from across the Northeast us for the Co-op 5k, a fun, family-friendly event and fundraiser for the Cooperative Development Foundation — celebrating 80 years in 2024!  Walk, run, roll or stroll with us as we defend our title of Most Co-op Spirit

Click here for more information and to download a flyer to post at your co-op!  The deadline to sign up and get a t-shirt in your size March 31.

NOFA NH & VT Winter Conferences

Allan Reetz, Director of Public & Government Affairs, Hanover Co-op Food Stores and Greg Pollock of Sunfox Farm in Concord, NH met up at the NFCA table.
NOFA NH Winter Conference

Organized under the theme, “A Holistic Food System Future, Farms, Community & Environment,” the NOFA NH Winter Conference 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. 

It was an excellent opportunity to make connections between farmers and co-op representatives.

“It’s uplifting to see the animated conversations and enthusiasm when people connect and share their information. The NOFA Winter conferences provide great venues for these important interactions,” reflected Suzette.

Find out more about Produce Safety trainings, rules and resources:

Suzette was happy to connect with Becky Colpitts, Community Outreach Coordinator, Littleton Food Co-op, NH.
NOFA VT Winter Conference
Attender Joe stopped by the NFCA table with Sue Miller and Katherine Arnold, Buffalo Mountain Co-op Market, Hardwick, VT.

The 2024 NOFA VT Winter Conference brought together over 850 farmers, gardeners, educators, students, policy makers, and other food system activists on February 17th to share ideas, resources, skills, and support.

Long time co-operator Sue Miller staffed a table for NFCA, sharing the good work of our member food co-ops with conference attendees. As a sponsor NFCA also had the opportunity to introduce the NFCA prior to the afternoon workshop, “Business Structures Demystified.NOFA VT offered over 40 workshops, art activities, films, roundtable discussions, and keynote speaker with the conference theme of “Working Upstream.”

“I am proud to have NFCA be a sponsor of NOFA VT and have a presence at the conference. Our co-ops recognize the importance of supporting family farms and the excellent work NOFA VT does in helping farmers be ecologically sound as well as economically viable.” Commented Katherine Arnold, Buffalo Mountain Co-op Market and NFCA Board Member attending the conference. “And it was great to meet up with passionate farmer friends and see Sue, retired Co-General Manager of Upper Valley Food Co-op!”

As part of our mission of supporting the shared success of our members, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association sponsors regional events where we can spread the word about the co-operative difference and impact that food co-ops have in their communities every day.

Welcome to Cambridge Food Co-op’s New General Manager!

Chris Lodico, General Manager of the Cambridge Food Co-op, Cambridge, NY.

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association extends a warm welcome to Chris, the General Manager for Cambridge Food Co-op in Cambridge, New York.

Chris Lodico was hired last July as the new General Manager for the Cambridge Food Co-op. Chris, who was raised in Saratoga, NY, spent the past several decades in various parts of the Northeast, including 15 years in Massachusetts, but decided to move back to the area during the pandemic.

Chris’s educational background includes a business degree, and he has managed various small-scale stores. He brings with him an understanding of store financials, a desire to work in a cooperative environment, and lots of experience directing staff and doing store purchasing.

Fun facts about Chris: he is a bit of a local history buff, he used to be a tour guide at both the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls and the Empire State Plaza Art Collection in Albany, and he worked in the education department at the New York State Museum in Albany.

Please join us in welcoming Chris and look forward to meeting him at future NFCA gatherings. 

Co-ops in the News

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March Cave-to-Co-op Special

This month’s special cheese is Lillé Coulommiers, Vermont Farmstead, South Woodstock, VT

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.

The Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company is the first community owned artisan cheese and dairy facility in Vermont, begun as a neighborhood effort to save a local hillside farm and its surrounding rural landscape in South Woodstock, Vermont. In very short order, the dairy farm was transformed into an award-winning cheese company that is creating an entirely new generation of unique farmstead and artisanal cheeses. Vermont Farmstead’s multi-breed herd, sustainable dairy farming, and creative cheese makers have added a distinctly Vermont take on traditional “old-world” cheeses. In 2012, they created a cut and wrap and shipping facility in Windsor, Vermont, to help with the ongoing company growth. While eagerly embracing the effects of this anticipated growth, the company remains firmly dedicated to its founding principles to produce a variety of unique and excellent cheeses, gently care for its own herd of cows and farm land, serve as a model of sustainable dairy farming, and support Vermont’s family farms and rural communities.

The entire line of Vermont Farmstead cheeses is made in small batches at the farm and creamery in South Woodstock, Vermont. The farmstead milk comes from their mixed herd of Holstein, Jersey, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss and Milking Shorthorn. This blend makes for exceptional milk, with each breed contributing a different component for a unique and excellent combination for cheese. Any other milk that is brought in for their artisanal cheeses is 100% Vermont milk from local farms. All natural farmstead and local milk, careful artisanal, hand-crafted cheesemaking, along with a love of old world cheeses, have resulted in a wide array of delicious, award winning cheeses.

Top among that array of cheese is Lillé, their take on French Coulommiers. The name and the origin of this Coulommiers-style cheese is from the northern reaches of France. A thicker ancestor of Brie, Lillé is handmade in small batches and each wheel is slightly different in appearance. Aged in its own special room and lovingly turned on a regular basis, the delicate edible rind develops evenly with a white downy bloom. This decadently sumptuous soft-ripened cheese has a supple paste core enveloped by a rich creamy body and reveals a subtle mushroom nuance with notes of nut and butter. The rind gives a nice salty bite versus the delicate interior.

Is it grilling time yet? Check out this recipe for turkey burgers with Lillé and apple.

Turkey Burgers w/Lillé and apple

Serves 2 to 4

  • 1-1⁄4 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 Lillé Coulommiers cut into thin wedges
  • 1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 large apple, cored and sliced into 1⁄2 inch crosswise pieces
  • olive oil for brushing the burgers and apples
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 burger rolls or an Italian loaf cut into quarters
  • 1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup arugula

Pre-heat oven to 400º F

  1. If using a grill, pre-heat it on high for 15 minutes.
  2. Mix parsley into the ground turkey and shape it into 4 round patties about 1-1⁄2 inches thick. Make a little ‘well’ in the center of each, place 1 piece of cheese in each and press the turkey up and around to cover the cheese completely.
  3. Brush both sides of each burger lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Grill according to your specific grill instructions, about 4-5 minutes each side. Alternatively, you can cook the burgers on the stove.
  5. Brush a sauté pan with a small amount of olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Place the burgers in the pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes on each side.
  6. While the burgers are cooking, brush the apple slices with olive oil and set aside. When the burgers are cooked through, remove them from the heat, cover lightly and set aside for 5 minutes.
  7. Cook the apple slices in the pan or on the grill until they are golden and caramelized.
  8. Toast the bread, spread with mayo, then place a burger on the bottom, top with some apple, arugula, then top with bread.

Look for the “Cave to Co-opsign in the cheese section at your local food co-op. To find one near you, visit

New England Farmers Union: Fighting for Family Farmers

corn field

In February, USDA released the 2022 Ag Census data, and it made it abundantly clear that we need to continue fighting for family farmers.  You can help.

According to the release, “there were 1.9 million farms and ranches (down 7% from 2017) with an average size of 463 acres (up 5%) on 880 million acres of farmland (down 2%).” Simply put – the “get big or get out” mentality of previous years has taken a toll.

The preamble to the National Farmers Union Policy Book lays out our position quite clearly: “The loss of family farms and other independently owned businesses is not inevitable. We believe the accelerated march toward a vertically integrated production system must be reversed. This requires action to enforce and enhance antitrust and competition laws, strengthen the regulatory system, and revitalize independently owned businesses and competitive markets.”

A bright spot in the data was that the number of producers under the age of 35 has increased by almost 4%. As we continue to push for new and beginning farmers, we’re hopeful that number will increase.

We’re proud to be fighting for our members – regardless of the size and type of the farms. Luckily, the current administration and USDA view Farmers Union as a trusted voice and we’re optimistic that the broader and more inclusive approach to program funding and distribution will help stem the losses of family farms that the 2022 data showed.

You can make a difference: Join the Farmers UnionThe Neighboring Food Co-op Association is an affiliate member of the New England Farmers Union – and invites farmers, food co-ops, and consumers to join us!  NFCA Member Co-ops and individual members can join at a special discount.  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. For more information, please visit

Upcoming Events

NFCA’s 13th Annual Meeting

Organized under the theme, “Co-operation: Our Foundation,” NFCA’s 13th Annual Meeting and Member Gathering will take place Saturday, 16 March 2024, at Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, MA.