Was this newsletter forwarded to you? Subscribe here to keep up to date on NFCA News!
In this edition:
On July 1, co-ops and their members around the world will celebrate the International Day of Co-operatives, united by the slogan, “Co-ops 4 Sustainable Development.”
Celebrated worldwide for more than a century and officially proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1995, the International Day of Co-operatives is annually commemorated on the first Saturday of July.
This year, the co-operative movement will celebrate under the theme, Co-ops 4 Sustainable Development, demonstrating how our business model, rooted in our shared values and principles, has the accomplishment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as part of its DNA. During #CoopsDay, co-operators around the world will communicate to their members and shoppers, policymakers, community organizations, and the general public about the contribution of co-ops to a just and sustainable future for all.
Here in our region, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) and its member co-ops are spreading the word: when you shop at your local food co-op, you’ll not only find good food, you’re also helping build more healthy, sustainable, and inclusive communities by supporting…
- Local Food Systems. The NFCA’s annual impact survey found that member co-ops reported that an average of 25% of their sales were local products, supporting small producers and building more resilient communities.
- Food Security. When you shop at your co-op, you’re making healthy, affordable food more accessible to everyone in your community, and ensuring reliable markets for local farmers and producers.
- Good Jobs. You’re supporting more full-time jobs and higher wages for employees. 60% of co-op staff are also members, sharing in the ownership of their grocery store.
- Sustainability. Your dollars support family farming, organic agriculture, reduced packaging, and a business model based on meeting people’s needs rather than maximizing profit.
- A More Inclusive Economy. Food co-ops are jointly owned and democratically governed by their members, people like you who shop there and are working together to build a better economy that works for everyone.
As natural vehicles of collaborative partnership and prosperity for all, co-operatives contribute to economic, social, and environmental sustainability across regions and economic sectors. From farmer co-ops to food co-ops, worker co-ops to credit unions, housing co-ops to mutual insurance, co-operative businesses strengthen communities, enhance local resources, advocate for social responsibility, and promote sustainable business practices based on long-term well-being rather than short-term profits.
So, it may not be surprising that the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) was the first worldwide business network to endorse the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and be recognized as a partner in their advancement. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, offered a blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 goals that recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests. September of 2023 will mark the mid-point in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and seek ways to accelerate progress in the SDGs.
“At the mid-point of the 2030 Agenda, efforts need to be deepened, and this can only be done with more co-operation. Enterprises, which are responsible for organising the production and distribution of goods and services, must focus on people and the planet. Co-operatives have a model for doing this, and have been demonstrating it for almost 200 years”, says ICA President Ariel Guarco.
The NFCA is joining the ICA in encouraging co-ops and their members around the world to celebrate International #CoopsDay and show the world what can be achieved through the power of co-operation.
Remembering Harry Belafonte
The singer, actor, and Civil Rights activist, who passed away on April 25th, also saw co-ops as a tool for social and economic justice.
It is with great sadness that we have learned the news of the passing of Harry Belafonte. The world has lost an icon of inclusivity and co-operatives have lost a champion.
With over 40 million people watching the 2015 Oscars ceremony, organizer, actor and singer Belafonte received the honorary Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, given “to an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”
By that time, Harry Belafonte had become a famous name all over the world. In 1953 he recorded “Matilda,” his life-long signature song and best-selling single. By 1958, he had eight albums to his name and his 1956 Calypso Album featuring “Jamaica Farewell” and the “Banana Boat Song (Day O)” topped the charts for 31 weeks and was the first album to sell over one million copies. Belafonte had also become a screen symbol in the 1954 movie Carmen Jones, followed by his impactful inter-racial 1957 movie “Island in the Sun” with Joan Fontaine.
Belafonte was at the height of his popularity and could pack concert halls all around the world and movie theaters in every town. However, for all of his fame and fortune, the one thing he could not do was to own an apartment in midtown Manhattan.
Belafonte writes in his book, My Song: “Yet by now, I was having almost daily talks with Martin (Martin Luther King Jr). The more he and I spoke, the more I realised that the movement was more important than anything else. I was feeling my way with all this, in the fall of 1958, when I ran into a color barrier so blatant and infuriating – in Manhattan, of all places – that I put my existential balancing act aside. This one was going to take all the money and celebrity I could throw at it, in equal measures, right away.”
“Now that we were a family, Julie and I had started searching for a larger apartment than the one we’d found off Central Park West. Our first thought was to rent on the Upper East Side, but every broker we contacted seemed to blanch when we walked in. The message conveyed, either implicitly or overtly, was that we’d be happier in some other neighborhood. I heard the message loud and clear, and I sent back one of my own, by calling a press conference to announce I’d filed a formal complaint with the city. One of those who read the news was Eleanor Roosevelt.”
In her nationally syndicated column, My Day, published on October 20th, 1958, former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote: “I am sure that every New Yorker was shocked the other day to read that Harry Belafonte and his charming wife and baby were finding it practically impossible to get an apartment in New York City except in what might be considered segregated areas or in a hotel.”
In that same 1958 column, Eleanor Roosevelt highlighted housing co-operatives as one of the solutions for desegregation: “There are beginnings to encourage us. The Committee on Civil Rights in Manhattan, for example, has issued a pamphlet on housing co-ops which may be the answer for a number of people. Some private builders who are planning and constructing co-op apartments are particularly interested in seeing that there is no discrimination in any project where they have invested their money.”
Roosevelt concluded her column: “I can think of nothing I would enjoy more than having Mr. and Mrs. Belafonte as my neighbors. I hope they will find a home shortly where they and their enchanting little boy can grow up without feeling the evils of the segregation pattern.”
In fact, Eleanor Roosevelt called Belafonte up and offered to share her own large apartment with him and his family. However, a few months later, Belafonte and his wife did find a four-bedroom apartment they really liked at 300 West End Avenue. They loved the place but when they tried to rent it the apartment was “suddenly unavailable.”
Belafonte recounts: “Furious, I sent a white friend – Mike Merrick, my publicist – in as my stalking horse. Now the lease was readily conferred. Mike passed it on to me, I signed it with my own name, and the one-year lease was countersigned. Apparently, the building manager did not know who I was. Julie and I moved our furniture in first, then showed up to take occupancy. Within hours, the building manager became aware that he had a Negro as a tenant.”
The building owner responded by telling Belafonte to pack up and leave, but Belafonte refused. As Belafonte tells it in his book, the apartment building was owned by Ramfis Trujillo, the illegitimate son of the dictator of the Dominican Republic. Belafonte and others set up anonymous companies that sent in separate bids to buy the building.
Belafonte recounts: “The whole concept of co-ops was just beginning to take hold. What we were proposing would soon become a trend. We would buy the building outright from its owner, then try to sell as many of the apartments as possible to the tenants who lived in them. Any tenant who preferred to keep renting could do that.
“It all worked like a charm. Just as my one-year lease was about to lapse, our absentee billionaire owner accepted the highest bid… The Trujillo’s were under increasing political pressure and both father and son were looking to build up their liquid assets in the event they had to flee.”
The building was bought by Belafonte and his partners. Belafonte put up most of the funds. The other tenants purchased shares and the housing co-op was created. As the remaining rental units turned over, Belafonte encouraged his friends to join the co-op. Lena Horne (Belafonte’s singing partner on the album Porgy and Bess) was one of the first to join the co-op.
“We didn’t just invite black friends, though, our goal was integration not reverse segregation. Eventually, 300 West End Avenue became known as Harry’s building. Strictly speaking, that was no longer true; when the building went completely co-op, I no longer owned any part of it besides our fifth floor combined apartments. But I was glad to have a home that was mine.”
In March of 1959, that co-op apartment, Belafonte’s first home, would welcome as some of its earliest guests, Martin and Coretta King. “Martin would come to think of it as his home away from home, staying with us on many of his New York trips, he brought with him two or three of his closest advisors, and by the mid-sixties, Belafonte’s co-op apartment was one of the movement’s New York headquarters.”
For the next almost 50 years that co-op was Belafonte’s home. Numerous civil rights leaders, celebrities and public figures would come there for meetings, for dinner or for a fundraising reception. Among those who came were Eleanor Roosevelt and later Senator John Kennedy to seek Belafonte’s support for his 1960 presidential candidacy.
Belafonte played an important role during the key years of the Civil Rights Movement. During that time, he became a confidante of Martin Luther King Jr. and his family. At his co-op apartment, through fundraisers, he led the efforts to raise bail for many of those jailed during critical moments in the struggle. At one fundraiser in March of 1963, he raised $50,000 which was sent to bail out as many people as possible who were imprisoned in Birmingham Jail. That was at the time that King was writing his now famous, Letter from Birmingham Jail.
On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King made his controversial anti-war speech at Riverside Church in New York City. Many civil rights leaders asked King not to take up the issue of the Vietnam War, but he was determined to speak to the issue. In the days before the speech, King was staying with Belafonte at his co-op. Belafonte writes: “But still I was surprised when Martin began drafting his anti-war speech in my apartment, discarding yellow-pad pages of scrawled script as he refined his speech.”
Later Belafonte wrote: “When Martin headed back down to Atlanta, I saw that he’d left legal-pad pages in his guest-room waste basket. I retrieved them and framed them and for years they graced what I called my civil rights wall,” a hallway of movement photographs, letters and other memorabilia.
One co-op that Belafonte cared a great deal for was the Freedom Farm Cooperative started in Ruleville, Sunflower County, Mississippi by the Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer. Ms. Hamer knew there would be no safety unless the land was owned by the co-op and not leased from a landlord. Only 71 minorities owned land in Sunflower County, which had a black population of 31,000.
In 1969, Belafonte wrote a fundraising letter urging people to donate towards the purchase of land for the Freedom Farm Cooperative. In his letter Belafonte wrote that Freedom Farm was an “example of initiative, racial co-operation, and political militancy worthy of the support of all decent Americans.” Due to all the various fundraising efforts, enough money was raised to eventually buy over 700 acres.
During this time Belafonte also became a fervent supporter of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and its many programs throughout the South. In 2003, the Federation marked Belafonte’s contributions by awarding him their highest honour, the Estelle Witherspoon Award, at their Annual Awards Banquet in Birmingham, Al. The award is named after the woman who led efforts to unite the Gee’s Bend quilters into the nationally famous Quilting Bee Co-op in Alberta, Alabama.
In 2015, Belafonte was still working with the Federation on issues of the day. During his talk at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis on January 17, 2013, Belafonte spoke of his efforts to bring the gangs of Los Angeles together to find ways to communicate. “I paid everyone’s way to Epes, Alabama, a back country settlement of former sharecroppers one hundred miles away from the nearest distractions. For decades, Epes has been a base for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, dedicated to helping black farmers keep their land.”
Interviewed in 2015, Ralph Paige (now deceased), executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives had known Harry Belafonte since the Civil Rights era of the 1960’s. He recounted: “We could not buy the support that Harry has given the Federation over the years. Without his backing there are so many things that the Federation could not have achieved. I still call him a lot and in all those years he has never turned us down.”
Ralph, a Cooperative Hall of Fame inductee, believed that Belafonte supported the Federation and co-ops because, “we use co-operatives to focus on the daily task of building community and social networks. Co-operatives get poor people to work together yet co-operatives take time. Belafonte has often funded and participated in Federation events that were gatherings of all races to look for ways to work together in the rural South. Belafonte has stuck with the Federation through thick and thin.”
Special thanks to David J. Thompson for his permission to reprint this article.
Action on Child Labor
The Neighboring Food Co-op Association has joined with partners including New England Farmers Union, NOFA NY, NOFA VT, and Organic Valley / CROPP Co-op in endorsing the Child Labor Exploitation Accountability Act.
In April, U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-VT) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, will introduce the bicameral Child Labor Exploitation Accountability Act, legislation aimed at holding corporations accountable for the exploitation of children and workers in the food industry. The bill prohibits the Department of Agriculture (USDA) from engaging in contracts with companies that have committed egregious labor law violations and/or contracted with vendors that have incurred, and failed to rectify, serious worker or labor infractions. U.S. Representative Greg Casar (D-TX) will introduce the companion bill in the House.
“No child should be made to do hazardous work – but as recent reporting has shown, that remains all too common in the United States,” said Senator Welch, who is also a member of the National Cooperative Business Association’s Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus. “We must use every tool at our disposal to end child labor, and that’s why I am proud to join Sen. Booker to introduce the Child Labor Exploitation Accountability Act and leverage the power of federal contracts to hold corporations accountable for these shameful practices.”
Specifically, the Child Labor Exploitation Accountability Act would:
- Require companies competing for contracts with Department of Agriculture to disclose labor and worker safety infractions by the company itself as well as by any of their contractors in the preceding three years;
- Empower the Secretary of Labor to determine corrective measures for a company and/or their contractors to remain eligible for the USDA contracts;
- Require the Secretary of Labor to prepare a list of companies that are ineligible for USDA contracts for that year based on serious, repeated, or pervasive violations of labor laws; and
- Establish transparency measures to ensure USDA and DOL compliance.
“We must hold companies accountable if they violate labor laws and exploit workers, including vulnerable children,” said Senator Booker. “Companies that benefit from federal contracts have a responsibility to ensure that their workers, whether direct employees or contract workers, are treated fairly and safely. My bill will ensure companies are barred from participating in federal contracts if they engage in labor law violations that include the use of child labor.”
Working for multinational agribusiness is incredibly dangerous, as these corporations regularly violate federal worker safety protections with little recourse, and even shield themselves from accountability through the use of a subcontracted workforce. One recent analysis found that an average 27 workers a day suffer an amputation or hospitalization, with workers in the agriculture sector being among the most endangered. During the pandemic, supervisors at a pork processing plant placed bets to “guess how many plant employees would test positive” for COVID-19 after being required to report to work; at least six employees were reported to have died from COVID-19 at that plant alone.
The House companion bill is cosponsored by Northeast U.S. Representatives including Becca Balint (VT-AL), David Cicilline (RI-01), Seth Magaziner (RI-02), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), and Paul Tonko (NY-20).
What You Can Do: Is your Representative on the list of co-sponsors? Reach out and thank them for their support. If your Representative is not listed, contact them and ask that they co-sponsor the Child Labor Exploitation Accountability Act today!
What You Can Do: Is your Representative on the list of co-sponsors? Reach out and thank them for their support. If your Representative is not listed, contact them and ask that they co-sponsor the Child Labor Exploitation Accountability Act today! Contact Your Representative Today!
National Cooperative Bank (NCB)
Your Choices Reflect Your Values. Your Bank Should Too.
National Cooperative Bank (NCB) has 45 years of dedicated service to food co-ops and is committed to providing you with the best loan and deposit products to make your business thrive. Whether you would like to refinance your existing debt or plan for larger capital investments, NCB has loan options to meet your needs. Financing programs are available for new store development, acquisition, store remodels, equipment/infrastructure/technology, and energy efficiency upgrades.
NCB has been a long-time partner of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) as we have worked together to grow the co-operative economy in the Northeast.
NCB is the One Source for All Your Banking Needs:
- Acquisition and Expansion Financing.
- Term Loans and Working Capital Lines of Credit.
- Real Estate Loans
- SBA Loans
- Full-Service Cash Management with Online and Mobile Banking
- Personal Banking including deposits and online banking
Co-ops in the News
North Country This Week
Has your co-op been in the news recently? Send your item to email@example.com.
May Cave-to-Co-op Special
This month’s special cheese is Harbison from Jasper Hill Farm, Greensboro, VT.
Andy and Mateo Kehler are the cheesemakers at Jasper Hill Farm. The Kehlers began farming and making cheese with a goal of creating a model to be replicated by other farmers in Vermont who wished to diversify their quickly disappearing farms into more workable options. They wanted to demonstrate that it is still possible to prosper on a rocky hillside farm, creating a vehicle for the renewal of the local dairy economy in the form of a business model that can be replicated by other dairy farms.
Andy and Mateo have a small herd of registered Ayrshire cows. Ayrshires are a high component breed; their milk is rich in protein and fat. It is the qualities of these components that sets the breed apart. They produce small fat globules, which break down easily during the ripening process yielding clean consistent flavors. Ayrshires are also the most efficient feed converters of any dairy breed; they are great grazers. They are also quite spoiled. Jasper Hill’s cows go out on a fresh piece of pasture after every milking during the spring, summer, fall and are fed a ration of dry hay through the winter when they stay in, avoiding harsh winter wind and snow while listening to a great selection of jazz and classical music.
Harbison is named for Anne Harbison, affectionately known as the grandmother of Greensboro. She was active in the Greensboro community, ran a bed and breakfast, worked in the public library, and was delighted to be honored with a namesake cheese.
Harbison is a soft-ripened cheese with a rustic, bloomy rind. Young cheeses are wrapped in strips of spruce cambium, the tree’s inner bark layer, harvested from the woodlands of New England. The spoonable texture begins to develop in the vaults, though the paste continues to soften on the way to market. Harbison is woodsy and sweet, balanced with lemon, mustard, and vegetal flavors.
Harbison made its debut in 2011 and won American Cheese Society’s coveted Best of Show award in 2018. You can view a sweet 4-minute video about its production made by Jasper Hill available on YouTube here. Try Harbison in your favorite recipe using soft cheese or try this recipe:
HARBISON AU GRATIN
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 wheel Harbison
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 pounds mixed fingerling potatoes, sliced thin
- 3 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 6 oz Alpha Tolman, grated
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350. Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add onions and garlic, season with a pinch of kosher salt and sauté until soft. Turn off heat, add cream and half of the grated Alpha Tolman. Fingerling potatoes should not be peeled and sliced thin using a mandolin.
- Grease a 9″ pie dish with olive oil or butter. Transfer half of the onion-cream mixture into prepared pie dish, and place one layer of potatoes on top. Open the wheel of Harbison like you would open a tin can. Spoon or drizzle the Harbison on top of the potato layer. Sprinkled a dash of pepper on top of Harbison. Repeat layers of remaining onion-cream mixture, potatoes, Harbison and pepper. Lastly, top with remaining Alpha Tolman.
- Cover pie dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes, until bubbly and golden. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh chives if desired. Serve a slice with a juicy steak and mixed green salad.
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.
New England Farmers Union
Colorado “Right to Repair Law” a win for farmers across the country, offering a precedent for similar legislation in Vermont and other states in the Northeast.
After months of work by the National Farmers Union (NFU), Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU), Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), and “Right to Repair” advocates around the country, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed into law the Consumer Right to Repair Agricultural Equipment Act (HB 23-1011). This law will give farmers and ranchers in the state of Colorado the ability to repair their own equipment.
Major farm equipment manufacturers have been refusing to make the software tools necessary to repair modern tractors, combines, and other farm equipment fully available to farmers and independent mechanics. This leaves farmers no choice but to take their broken equipment to licensed dealerships, which has led to repair delays and inflated repair costs.
“This is a huge win for farmers and ranchers in Colorado and across the country,” said NFU President Rob Larew. “NFU has been pushing on Right to Repair issues for years and seeing a bill like this cross the finish line is a testament to the persistence of our members and the need for this issue to be addressed nationally.”
Passage of HB 23-1011 makes Colorado the first state to pass an agricultural Right to Repair bill into law. The bill will serve as a model for legislation in other states and at the federal level as elected officials seek to codify the Right to Repair.
“Right to Repair is a key issue in the Farmers Union’s Fairness for Farmers campaign,” said Roger Noonan, President of the New England Farmers Union. “Passage of this legislation in Colorado should set an example for policy makers here in the Northeast as we work to support our family farmers and address the monopoly crisis in agriculture.”
For example, in Vermont, Representatives Anne Donohue (Washington-1) and Katherine Sims (Orleans-4) introduced similar legislation in January and it has been moving through committee discussions in the House. H.81, “An Act Relating to Fair Repair of Agricultural Equipment,” would ensure that farmers have the right to repair their own equipment, reducing costs, reducing monopolies, and supporting farm viability.
Maddie Kemper, NOFA-VT Policy Director, testified on H.81 during the House Agriculture, Food Resiliency and Forestry Committee session in March: “Ensuring farmers’ and loggers’ right to repair their own equipment aligns with Vermont’s culture that values self-sufficiency and practicality,” said Kemper. “Requiring farmers and loggers to go through the dealer for repairs is often more costly, and having to wait many days for an authorized repair person to travel to the farm or woodlot can sometimes cause significant loss of income.”
How Can You Help?
How Can You Help? Vermont Food Co-ops & Residents – You can help farmers win the “Right to Repair” by asking your Representative to cosponsor H.81: “An Act Relating to Fair Repair of Agricultural Equipment”! For more information and a list of sponsors, visit this link.
Join the Farmers Union! 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. The Neighboring Food Co-op Association is an affiliate member of the New England Farmers Union chapter – and invites farmers, food co-ops, and consumers to join us! For more information, please visit www.newenglandfarmersunion.org.
CCMA, June 8-10, 2023!
Co-sponsored by the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, CCMA is the national annual conference for food co-op directors, management, staff, and sector allies. The CCMA conference is organized by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives with assistance from a planning committee comprised of co-op managers and board members, representatives from co-operative associations, development organizations, financial partners and other various allies.