Your Neighboring Food Co-ops
Locally Owned by More Than
150,000 People Like You!
In this Month’s E-News, check out:
- ACTION: Co-op Statute Gains Momentum in CT
- Co-op Week Celebrates Co-op Impact, Co-op Heroes
- NCBA CLUSA Announces Elections Results
- May Sale on Frozen Fruits & Vegetables
- Executive Education: Enhancing Co-op Business Performance
- May’s Cave to Co-op Special
- Farmers Union: Stop Agribusiness Mergers
- Our Neighborhood Co-op Calendar
Proposed amendments to Connecticut’s Co-op Statute have been approved by the State Senate and will now move on to the House of Representatives!
Last week, we learned that SB 138, “An Act Modernizing the State’s Cooperative Association Statutes,” had received unanimous support from the Connecticut State Senate. This bill addresses outdated provisions that effectively discourage the formation of co-operative enterprises in the state. With your help, we can open the way for co-op development, making it easier for people to form and operate member-owned business as we work to build a more just, sustainable, and inclusive economy in the Northeast.
“Our children have learned the value in co-operative associations, taking great pride in the fact that they are members who own Fiddleheads Food Co-op,” said Bonnie Tompkins, pictured at right with her son, Christian, at recent hearings on the bill. “This sense of being connected to our community has proven to be a gift. I leave you with one question: If we, the State of Connecticut, would like to strengthen our communities, isn’t it through connection and support, the type of connection and support that co-operatives naturally foster?”
Here’s how you can help make this vision a reality:
- Connecticut Residents: Please contact your State Representative today and ask them to vote “yes” on SB 138! Note that this bill, which updates state co-op statutes, has recently received unanimous support from the States Senate.
- Non-Residents: Please share this alert with people you know in Connecticut and encourage them to take action! This is an exciting opportunity for us to expand the co-operative movement in our region.
For more information in this legislation: http://fiddleheadsfood.weebly.com/prop138.html.
Thanks to CoBank for their support of our Neighboring Food Co-ops
In May, the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) held its 103rd Annual Meeting as part of Co-op Week celebrations in Washington, DC.
Against the backdrop of a new report from the United Nations on the devastating impact of climate change on animal and plant species, continuing rancor over immigration policies, and growing recognition of the challenge of increasing wealth inequality, co-operators from across the country and many parts of the world gathered to celebrate, reflect, and envision a more sustainable, participatory, and inclusive economy, together.
“We face a pivotal opportunity to share the co-operative model with people who want greater control over their economic lives,” said NCBA CLUSA President and CEO Doug O’Brien in his welcome to the gathering.
A central challenge for co-ops in achieving this goal is how to effectively address the lack of awareness of the co-operative difference, particularly among policymakers. To help remedy this, NCBA CLUSA has been engaging foundations, research organizations, and other groups to explore the relevance of co-ops to today’s critical challenges. One example of this effort, presented during the Cooperative Development Foundation’s Co-op Issues Forum during Co-op Week, is “The ABCs of Cooperative Impact,” a report released by the influential Urban Institute last December.
“Our goal was to answer the question of how co-operatives — as user-owned, democratically controlled businesses — contribute to participation, growth, stability, and equity in communities,” shared Brett Theodos, Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute and one of the authors of the report, along with Corianne Payton Scally and Leiha Edmonds. “We set out to create a framework that could be applied to all co-operative types and would include outcomes for co-op members as well as their broader communities.”
The report presented a seven-component measurement framework across the spectrum of cooperative sectors. In keeping with its alphabetical theme, the report proposed that co-operative impact can best be understood according to a core set of factors including:
- Access: A co-operative can increase access to affordable quality products, services, suppliers, and markets, lowering costs and serving markets and communities historically seen as “higher risk” or underserved.
- Business sustainability: A co-operative business structure can increase firm survival and profitability through higher and less volatile revenues, lower costs, and a focus on long-term outcomes, including scaling the co-operative to compete with multinational corporations.
- Community commitment: A community-focused co-operative is committed to being a good neighbor through education, financial support, facility use, and business practices that reflect the values of the community.
- Democratic governance and empowerment: In a well-functioning co-operative, membership actively participates and shapes the mission and decisions of the organization, which translates into broader civic and political involvement.
- Equity, diversity, and inclusion: To be an effective contributor to its community, co-operative membership reflects the community in racial composition, gender, age, and abilities, and historically excluded communities and individuals have a voice and leadership opportunities.
- Financial security and advancement for workers: Co-operatives work best for their members, employees, and communities when they provide living-wage jobs with benefits and increased opportunity for wealth building, career advancement, training, and leadership development with lower turnover and higher job satisfaction.
- Growth: Co-operatives can be local and regional anchors, promoting economic growth through stable jobs, high industry standards, consistent services, and economic multiplier effects through increased community investment, local jobs, and local procurement.
To illustrate how these factors could be applied to a better understanding of co-operative impact, the presentation included a panel of representatives from across sectors, including utilities co-operatives, credit unions, farmer co-ops, and housing co-operatives.
Jerry McGeorge, Vice President for Co-operative Affairs at Organic Valley, shared the story of this co-op’s humble beginnings in Wisconsin in the midst of the family farm crisis of the 1980s. Flash forward to the present and Organic Valley is a billion-dollar co-operative, owned by more than 2,000 family farmers, including over 600 here in the Northeast. In between, the co-op has had a dramatic influence on the growth and success of the organic industry.
“But our impact is not just for our farmers,” said McGeorge. “We also employ more than 1,000 people, most of whom are based in one of the poorest parts of our state, and have recently implemented a $15 per hour minimum wage. It is the partnership between our farmer members and our employees that makes this effort work.”
Like many electric co-ops, BARC Electric Cooperative in Virginia got its start when commercial energy providers cherry-picked more profitable urban areas, leaving rural communities without power. Farmers banded together and in 1938 established a community owned co-operative to meet their own needs, together. Today, CEO Mike Keyser, describes BARC as being in the “quality of life business,” as it has expanded its services to solar energy development and the provision of broadband internet to ensure that rural communities are not left out of a rapidly changing economy.
Paul Bradley, President of New Hampshire-based Resident Owned Communities (ROC USA), shared the profound impact of the co-operative business model for residents of mobile home parks. These communities typically face an enormous amount of insecurity because the land, utilities and roads beneath them are owned by someone else. Forming a co-op gives them direct ownership and control, together. Founded in 2008, in its first nine years ROC USA helped convert 119 communities in 14 states to co-operative ownership, empowering 8,400 families to build a more stable and secure future.
Credit unions are another example of the power of the co-operative business model, with most of them getting their start among working people locked out of investor-owned financial services. Carla Decker, President & CEO of DC Credit Union (DCCU), shared the story of local government employees, primarily African-Americans, who banded together to form a financial co-operative in the 1950s. As demographics have changed in the city, so has the credit union, expanding its charter beyond city employees and obtaining designation as a “Low Income Credit Union” and “Community Development Financial Institution” to be more responsive to and inclusive of immigrant, Latino and other underserved communities.
Along with bringing forward the best thinking on the co-operative distinction, Co-op Week also features the Co-op Hall of Fame, which celebrated the induction of this year’s Co-op Heroes, including two extraordinary leaders from right here the Northeast: Terry Appleby, retired General Manager of Co-op Food Stores of New Hampshire and Vermont, and Dr. Richard Stammer, former President and CEO of Agri-Mark and Cabot Creamery Co-op. In the early 1990s, during particularly hard times for dairy farmers, Stammer played a key role in ensuring the survival of two co-ops through a merger that enabled farmer-members to continue to own their product from the farm to the grocery store shelf.
It was a particular honor to celebrate the induction of Terry Appleby into the Co-op Hall of Fame. While his career in co-ops began on the west coast, Terry has been a guiding light for the co-operative community here in the Northeast since taking on the role of General Manager of one our oldest and most esteemed food co-ops, the Hanover Consumer Co-operative Society in Hanover, NH, better known as Co-op Food Stores. Under Terry’s 25 years of leadership, this co-op became a major influence on the regional food system and economy, growing from one store to four locations in two states and more than $75 million in sales. Terry has also been a generous mentor to other co-ops and played a key role in the development of National Co+op Grocers and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, which today includes 35 food co-ops and start-ups, locally owned by 150,000 members across New England and New York State, employing over 2,300 people, and selling more than $93 million in local products annually.
As all of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees pointed out, co-operative leadership is focused on service, with the core purpose of creating impact and building a better future for co-op members and their communities. It’s as basic as the ABCs.
Erbin Crowell serves as Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association. He received his Master of Management: Co-operatives & Credit Unions from Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia and serves on the Board of Directors of NCBA CLUSA. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[For photos from Co-op Hall of Fame celebrations, visit heroes.coop. Pictured above at the NFCA table at the Hall of Fame Banquet are: Erbin Crowell, NFCA executive director; Robyn O’Brien, Putney Food Co-op General Manager; Roger Noonan, President, New England Farmers Union; Barry Smith, Flatbush Food Co-op General Manager; Suzette Snow-Cobb, NFCA Sourcing Coordinator; Terrence Courtney, Director of Cooperative Development & Strategic Initiatives, Federation of Southern Cooperatives; and Michael Wells, President, Putney Food Co-op.]
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Erbin Crowell, Neighboring Food Co-op Association Executive Director, reelected to the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) Board of Directors.
John Engelen, chair of the Nominations Committee and vice president ofGovernment Affairs for CHS, Inc. announced the results of NCBA CLUSA’s 2019 Board of Directors election at the organizations’s 103rd Annual Meeting in May.
The following individuals were reelected to the board: Erbin Crowell, executive director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association; Jerry McGeorge, vice president of Co-operative Affairs at CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley; and Deb Trocha, executive director of the Indiana Cooperative Development Center.
NCBA CLUSA also welcomed the addition of two new board members this year: Paul Bradley, founding president of ROC USA®, a nonprofit social venture that aims to makes co-operative ownership of manufactured (“mobile”) home communities viable and successful nationwide; and Diane Gasaway, executive director of the Northwest Cooperative Development Center, a nonprofit organization devoted to assisting new and existing co-operative businesses in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
The NCBA CLUSA Board directs and inspires the organization as it deepens the influence and impact cooperatives have in communities in the U.S. and around the world. The board also brings consistent focus to the association’s longer-term impacts, results, purposes and future opportunities to serve the needs of its members.
The NCBA CLUSA Board election is handled electronically through Simply Voting, a secure, cost-effective and environmentally responsible online platform for election services.
Our May Sale is a Great Opportunity to Try Our Northeast Grown Frozen Fruits & Vegetables!
As we anticipate fresh berry season, you can still enjoy Northeast Grown Blueberries supporting our local growers! Our co-ops have sold 3 tons of frozen fruits and vegetables through the Farm to Freezer program over the last year — just one of the ways our co-ops work together to bring you the fresh, quality local food all year long.
Throughout May our Northeast Grown frozen products are on sale at participating food co-ops — a great time to try them, stock up!
Here is a favorite family recipe from Kay Litten (at right), a former Board Member at NFCA and the Co-op Food Stores, that is perfect for special celebrations or simple get-togethers with friends.
Kay’s Best Blueberry Pie
- 4 cups frozen NFCA blueberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 baked pie shell or a prepared crumb crust
- Crush 2 cups of berries and blend with the sugar and cornstarch (which have been mixed together).
- Cook over direct heat, stirring frequently, until thick and smooth (8 to 10 minutes).
- Add the lemon juice. Cool.
- Then fold the remaining berries into the mixture.
- Sprinkle the sugar over the bottom of the pie shell and add the filling.
- Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
- Top with the whip cream sweetened with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
For more Farm to Freezer information — including more recipes for spring family celebrations using frozen corn, edamame, peas, or blueberries — visit: www.nfca.coop/farmtofreezer.
Thanks to New England Farmers Union for their support of our Neighboring Food Co-ops
Ready for growth? Ready to move up into a new leadership position at your Co-op or Credit Union?
The Neighboring Food Co-op Association is hosting a second Annual training with Professor Daniel Côté of Saint Mary’s University, October 24 – 25, 2019 in Greenfield, MA.
Enhancing Co-operative Business Performance: How to Strengthen Identity, Loyalty and Participation will be an interactive intensive professional development opportunity focused on learning new practices leading thinking in co-operative management coupled with tangible examples of how to translate knowledge into action.
“The Executive Education course gave me a chance to step outside the everyday routine of running a food co-op and learn with other co-operators, including those from other co-op sectors,” said Patty Smith, Operations Manager at the Willimantic Food Co-op (CT). “The focus on renewing our individual co-operative identities to stay relevant in today’s marketplace gave me many ah-ha! moments, and I came back to work with an enhanced view of the big co-op picture, as well as lots of new tactical ideas to improve my co-op’s operations.”
Who should come? Co-op General Managers/CEOs, Senior Managers, Board Members and Staff.
Registration is now open!
Get More info & Register: https://nfca.coop/events/
Lake’s Edge, Blue Ledge Farm, Salisbury, VT
Lake’s Edge is Blue Ledge Farm’s signature cheese: a dramatic ash-veined goat cheese is aged for three weeks and named after the stones found along Lake Champlain. Lake’s Edge is a beautiful cheese with a centerline of ash that contrasts with the chalk white of the paste. The texture is rich and creamy, denser towards the center and the flavor is the perfect balance of sweet, salty and tart.
Cheesemakers Hannah Sessions and Greg Bernhardt milk over one hundred goats and produce eleven types of cheese, from very fresh to semi-aged bloomy rind cheeses, to harder cheeses aged three months. True to their mission with a focus that is always on sustaining a high-quality, consistent product with lots of attention and gentle handling. The 150 acres of Blue Ledge Farm consist of woods, hayland, pasture and wetland. The goats spend their spring, summer and fall days browsing in the woods, return to the barn for 4 pm milking and lounge around in a grass pasture as evening sets.
For the past two decades, Hannah and Greg have worked to remain true to their belief that a food system is based on a cornerstone of respect for the land, the animals and the consumer as well as the local community. They both celebrate the opportunity to raise healthy, contented animals and make great cheese.
It is recommended to slowly devour the deliciousness of Lake’s Edge with nothing more than a fresh crusty baguette!
Cave to Co-op 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.
For more information on Cave to Co-op, visit: www.nfca.coop/CaveToCo-op
Today, a broad-based coalition of 219 farm, food, rural, faith and consumer advocacy organizations delivered a letter to Congress endorsing food and agribusiness merger moratorium bills introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Jon Tester (D-MT) and Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI).
“New England Farmers Union is pleased to support this legislation,” said Roger Noonan, President. “It is time to demand action from our government to end the crony capitalism that fuels the continued consolidation of our economy and contributes to driving family farms off the land, extracts wealth from our rural communities, limits choices for consumers and degrades our shared natural resources.”
The Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2019 would initiate a moratorium on large agriculture, food and beverage manufacturing and grocery retail mergers to allow time to assess the impact corporate consolidation has on farmers, workers, consumers and communities. It also recommends improvements to antitrust enforcement. The bills were also introduced in the House and Senate in 2018.
“Over the past several decades, lax antitrust enforcement has greatly reduced competition in the industries that supply and buy from family farmers and ranchers, saddling them with higher input costs, fewer choices, and less innovation,” said National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. “After a recent wave of agribusiness mega-mergers, Senator Booker and Representative Pocan’s legislation would provide a much-needed opportunity to evaluate the damage and establish stronger safeguards to prevent this level of consolidation in the future. We heartily support this merger moratorium, and we urge Congress to do so as well by passing it swiftly.”
“The hyper-consolidation of our food supply means that farmers earn less, consumers pay more and our food system is less resilient,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “With mega-deals like ChemChina-Syngenta, Monsanto-Bayer and Dow-DuPont going through in just the last few years, it’s past time for Congress to act to stop the further consolidation of our food system.”
The letter outlines the impacts of a merger and acquisition spree that has swept through food and agriculture in the last decade, with mergers between major seed, fertilizer, food processing and grocery retail giants. This wave of consolidation has contributed to falling farm prices, declining farm incomes, stagnant wages for food workers, rising food prices and economic stagnation in rural communities.
“OCM is proud to stand with over 200 organizations calling on Congress to hit the pause button on agriculture, food and retail concentration. With as much as 82 percent of agriculture markets controlled by four transnational corporations, farmers and rural communities are being preyed upon by these global giants and their opportunity for prosperity is being ripped from them,” said Joe Maxwell, Executive Director of the Organization for Competitive Markets. “With many of the recent agriculture mergers happening between foreign interests, this is not only an economic issue but a food security issue as well.”
The Booker-Pocan bill would put a strategic pause on merger combinations of over $160 million in sales or assets and establish a commission to study the impacts of consolidation in the food and agricultural sectors on farmers, rural communities, workers and consumers. The commission would also recommend any necessary changes to federal antitrust statutes or other laws and regulations to restore a fair and competitive agricultural marketplace.
“Smaller-scale and historically disadvantaged farmers who have long depended on livestock to sustain their diverse operations face disproportionate challenges marketing their products at fair prices in an increasingly concentrated agribusiness dominated market,” said Lorette Picciano, Executive Director of the Rural Coalition. “Mega-mergers are the prime driver of the downward spiral in income, wages and working conditions for this sector of producers as well as farm and food chain workers, and small businesses that erodes rural economic vitality and ecological health, and pits workers and communities against each other to survive. It is long past time for policy makers to provide them the time and statutory tools they need to build the futures they want.”
The letter, signed by groups from 46 states, urged other Members of Congress to cosponsor the legislation to stop the mergers that threaten independent family farmers, consumers and communities.
“For too long, corporate consolidation in the food and agriculture sectors has been ignored despite alarms raised by family farmers and rural communities of the negative, anti-democratic impacts of this trend,” said Jim Goodman, Board President of the National Family Farm Coalition. “Corporate domination of our rural economies and agricultural markets has undercut independent producers, exploited the workers who grow and process our food, forced rural businesses to close, and degraded our ecosystems.
We are encouraged by the leadership of Senator Booker and Representative Pocan in bringing attention to this issue and taking a first step toward protecting the viability of small and mid-scale family farmers and local food systems.”
A copy of the letter is available here.
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The New England Farmers Union Needs You!
If you care about where your food comes from and want to support the people who produce it, consider joining 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 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 the Northeast.
See you in Durham, NC, June 6-8 for CCMA 2019!
We’re looking forward to seeing you at CCMA 2019 as the national food co-op movement gathers to explore how we can weave our co-operative values and unique co-op identities into community-led solutions that help us be more relevant and successful.
In addition to a great lineup of workshops and speakers, the NFCA’s Bonnie Hudspeth will be presenting with partners on our work in supporting food co-op success and strategies for supporting diversity and inclusion!
More Co-op & Food System Related Events: https://nfca.coop/calendar
June 6-8, 2019
CCMA National Food Co-op Conference, Durham, NC
NOFA Summer Conference, Amherst, MA
Sponsored by the NFCA
Aug 15-17, 2019
Federation of Southern Co-operatives 52nd Annual Meeting
OCTOBER IS CO-OP MONTH!
NCBA CLUSA Co-op Impact Conference
CDS Co-op Cafe, Keene, NH
Co-Hosted by the NFCA
Saint Mary’s University Co-op Management Training, Greenfield, MA
Hosted by the NFCA
The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is a co-operative federation of 35 food co-ops and start-up 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.