E-News // Farm is Freezer is Back! // November 2015

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



Across our region, our co-ops are working together to support their shared success and build a more healthy, just, and sustainable food system. On October 24, over 100 people attended the Neighboring Food Co-op Association’s (NFCA) Fifth Fall Gathering, bringing together member co-ops and partner organizations for a day of networking, shared learning, and collaboration.  The meeting included representatives from more than 40 food co-ops, start-ups, and partner organizations.

David Thompson, author and president of the Twin Pines Co-operative Foundation, discussed “The Role Co-ops & the Civil Rights Movement” in his keynote address, sharing his research and perspective on the historical collaboration of these two movements. Attendees were then invited to reflect on how our co-ops contribute to movements for a more just and sustainable future in our own time.

“The gathering was both amazing and inspiring,” said Thompson. “I could feel the energy and pride rising in the participants as the day unfolded.”

Special guests included Pat Sterner, COO of the National Cooperative Business Association, and Roger Noonan, President of the New England Farmers Union (NEFU), who updated attendees on key policy issues in the co-operative community and food system. Activities during the day included opportunities for collaboration on everything from planning a successful expansion and healthy food access to planning successful capital campaigns.  Afternoon workshops addressed how co-ops can use Co-operative Community Funds to engage their communities, helping start-ups communicate the co-op difference to local development organizations, and sharing effective strategies for thriving in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Executive Director Erbin Crowell announced the NFCA’s collaboration with regional distributor Associated Buyers to offer more affordable natural products to member co-ops, and the re-launch of the NFCA’s Farm to Freezer program, a line of Northeast grown frozen fruits and vegetables available exclusively through member co-ops. NFCA Membership and Outreach Coordinator Bonnie Hudspeth reminded attendees to save the dates for CCMA, the national conference for food co-ops, which will be hosted by the NFCA in Amherst, MA, June 9-11, 2016.

“This year’s fall gathering was one of my favorites,” said Board President Kari Bradley, General Manager of Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier, VT. “It was inspiring to talk with so many dedicated co-operators and learn from experts within our community. Thanks to all of the presenters and participants who made the day such a success.”

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association includes more than 35 food co-ops and start-ups, locally owned by over 90,000 people across New England.  For more information, please visit www.nfca.coop.


WASHINGTON POST: “One Big Reason REI Can Decide to Skip Black Friday…” It’s a Co-op!

Much to the surprise of the business community, outdoor retailer REI, an outdoor equipment consumer co-operative, announced in October that it will be closed this year on Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year. The announcement received much attention, including an online Washington Post article highlighting the co-operative difference:

“It was savvy marketing, a generous employee benefit and an external display of the brand’s principles all rolled into one. It’s also an example of something REI can do because it’s one of the country’s few large retail cooperatives and not a publicly traded company.

A cooperative, roughly defined, is a business that’s owned not by shareholders but by members—people who use the business, such as its shoppers, producers or employees. In cooperatives, profits are treated as a surplus and are redistributed to members or reinvested in the business. And because the governing principle is to run the business in the best interests of their members, rather than shareholders, cooperatives tend to think in longer time horizons than the quarter-to-quarter whims of Wall Street.

“‘That basic structure frees up the business to do things that don’t really make sense in conventional market terms,’ says Erbin Crowell, executive director for the Neighboring Food Co-op Association. He teaches a class on co-ops at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst…”

In an era with engaged consumers, more corporations touting their social responsibility, and even new corporate structures like B corporations that have sprung up to focus beyond traditional shareholder capitalism, Crowell says it makes sense for REI to spotlight its co-op identity. ‘Clearly they’re seeing their social purpose, their cooperative structure, has value again,’ he said, ‘and it’s something they want to lift up and share.’”

Read the full article here: http://s.coop/1wwqv



Northeast Grown Frozen Fruits & Vegetables Are Back — Only at Your Neighboring Food Co-op.

Your local food co-op works hard to support local producers. And by working together, the members of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), a network of over 35 food co-ops and start-ups across New England, are increasing our impact as we grow the regional food system.

Recognizing that most frozen fruits and vegetables on our shelves come from far away, the NFCA launched ‘Farm to Freezer,’ an innovative pilot project a few years ago to explore the feasibility of sourcing, processing, and packaging these products closer to home. The goal was to extend the marketing season for family farmers in the Northeast and increase the availability of healthy, sustainably grown, regionally sourced fruits and vegetables for our members and shoppers. The project was a great success, moving more than 13,000 pounds of locally grown Blueberries, Organic Green Beans, Organic and Non-GMO Sweet Corn, and Organic Broccoli, and demonstrating what food co-ops can accomplish when we use our shared strength to create change in our food system.

Now the NFCA is bringing Farm to Freezer back in collaboration with regional distributor Associated Buyers to increase availability to member food co-ops across New England. A new addition to the product line is Organic Edamame.

“Our member food co-ops purchase an estimated $50 million in local products annually,” said Erbin Crowell, NFCA executive director.  “And by working together, we can do more to grow a more healthy, sustainable and co-operative regional food system.”

The NFCA’s Northeast Grown Frozen Fruits & Vegetables are easy to find in your food co-op’s freezer section — they’re packed with a simple black and white label in a clear package so you can see what’s inside.  For more information, please visit www.nfca.coop/farmtofreezer or stop in at your local food co-op: www.nfca.coop/members.



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.

November’s “Cave to Co-op” special artisan cheese is “Dorset” from Consider Bardwell Farm, Pawlet VT. Dorset is a washed-rind, raw Jersey cow cheese with a rich, buttery texture and seasonally influenced pungency.  Earthy and complex with a beautiful basket weave rind, Dorset is a savory, nutty and earthy delight that is perfect for November.  It’s great on a cheese plate and useful in the kitchen. Here are a few ways to use it!  https://nfca.coop/CaveToCo-opNovember2015

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



“When we look at how to build local and regional food systems, we need to recognize that co-ops are among of the most effective tools that we have,” said Erbin Crowell, Vice President of the New England Farmers Union and Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA). “From the producer to the consumer and everything in between, co-operative enterprise contributes to more fair, sustainable and resilient economies.”

Crowell was part of a panel on ‘Accessing Local and Regional Food Systems’ at the New England Farmers Union (NEFU) Annual Convention, November 6-8 in Concord, NH. The NFCA is an affiliate member of the Farmers Union, representing a shared commitment to strengthening family farming and fisheries in our region. Over the past few years, the organizations have partnered on several projects, including co-operative education, regional product development, and increasing Healthy Food Access for consumers on limited incomes.

“The National Farmers Union was founded in 1902 and was instrumental in creating the laws that enable people to form co-ops,” said Crowell. “It has been an honor for our food co-ops to partner with NEFU on the local level to tell this important story and empower people to meet their own needs and sustain their farms and communities through co-operative business development.”

“This is an amazing time for local food,” said Elanor Starmer, advisor to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak and administrator of the USDA program ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’. As part of the panel, Starmer described ways the USDA is supporting the local food movement including programs such as:

  • A Natural Resource Conservation Service ‘High Tunnel’ initiative that supports farmers in extending the growing season;
  • Farm Service Agency microloans for farm equipment and facilities; and
  • Farm-to-School grants and technical assistance for food service professionals.

The Farmers Union works to promote programs such as these, giving voice to family farmers and fishermen, working to influence food system policy, and offering opportunities for education and advocacy. Other topics at the Convention included ‘Climate Change and Agriculture,’ the Food Safety Modernization Act, and a listening session with Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster, U.S. Representative for New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District.

Whatever your role is in the food system, you can become an individual member of the New England Farmers Union and help strengthen the voice of our region’s family farmers and fishermen. And if you are already a member of an NFCA-member food co-op, you can receive a discount membership for $25! Please visit www.newenglandfarmersunion.org to join online.

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.



Check out Neighboring Food Co-op Association’s EVENTS calendar: https://nfca.coop/calendar

Nov 11-15, 2015: Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group


Jan 16th 2016: Northeast Organic Farming Association MASS Winter Conference


Jan 30th 2016: Northeast Organic Farming Association NH Winter Conference


Feb 13-15th 2016: Northeast Organic Farming Association VT Winter Conference


March 5th 2016:  NFCA 5th Annual Meeting


March 10-12th 2016: Up & Coming, Up & Running


March 12-13th 2016: CT Northeast Organic Farming Association Winter Conference


June 9-11th 2016: CCMA 2016

Hosted by the Neighboring Food Co-op Association in Amherst, MA


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