October is Co-op Month // NFCA News October 2022

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In this edition:

Co-op Month

Co-ops Build Economic Power!

October is National Co-op Month and your Neighboring Food Co-ops join other co-operatives and credit unions across the United States to celebrate that “Co-ops Build Economic Power”!

The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) identified “Co-ops Build Economic Power” as the theme for 2022, highlighting the cooperative business model as the best way to build an economy that empowers everyone. Co-ops and their members are working together to build stronger, more inclusive and resilient communities.

From in-store events, special sales and membership drives to community activities and more, our Neighboring Food Co-ops are spreading the word about the Co-operative Difference across our region:

  • We’re working with our partners and Member Co-ops to support statewide Co-op Month Proclamations again this year from the Governors of MassachusettsVermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut.  Last year, Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene, NH, Willimantic Food Co-op in Windham, CT, and startup Dorchester Food Co-op worked with their mayors and Boston City Council on proclamations celebrating the important role that co-ops play in our communities.  On the national level, Co-op Month Resolutions were introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.  Stay posted for this year’s resolutions!  See resolution updates here.
  • Member food co-ops are highlighting co-op producers on their store shelves, on websites and in their newsletters. They have co-op producer tastings scheduled utilizing NFCA’s list of co-op producers and you can look for the GO Co-op shelf tags. Thirty co-ops, credit unions and support organizations — including our Neighboring Food Co-ops — are participating in print and online ads organized by the Valley Co-operative Business Association (MA) covering Western MA and Southern VT. 
  • Co-ops will take to the airwaves again this month to continue sharing the Co-op Difference. Past years include River Valley Co-op (MA), Franklin Community Co-op (MA), Putney Food Co-op (VT), Brattleboro Food Co-op (VT), co-op producers CABOT, Real Pickles and Our Family Farms, and Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops (VAWC) on the WHMP Bill Newman annual radio show focusing on co-operatives. Recording of 2021’s programs here and 2020’s: here.
  • The NFCA has teamed up with co-ops, credit unions, and support organizations across Vermont to host a cross-sector Co-op Month Gathering and Celebration in Southern VT and online.
  • As part of NCBA CLUSA’s annual Co-op Impact conference, NFCA Executive Director Erbin Crowell will be presenting as part of a training on “Taking Action on Principle 6,” with guest speakers and faculty from the International Centre for Co-operative Management and Mondragón University. To sign up for an online version of the training in January, visit the Centre’s website.
  • The NFCA and our Member Co-ops are participating in the Cooperative Development Foundation’s Co-op Hall of Fame, celebrating the 2022 inductees and raising and raising funds for co-operative development.
  • Our Neighboring Food Co-ops will be showing off their Co-op Pride in our annual Co-op Month Photo Competition.  Check back each week for new postings! 
  • Our co-ops are holding member drives throughout the month. Join your NFCA Member Co-op in October and be automatically entered to win a prize from these collaborating co-ops: Cabot Creamery, REI or Mad River Ski Area.

Co-op Month is an opportunity to celebrate the contribution that our co-ops make in our communities every day. And this year it was particularly important to leverage our shared Co-operative Identity in the face of some of the biggest challenges we face: a global pandemic, climate emergency and systemic racism. As we continue to build an economy that works for everyone, our biggest impact comes from embracing the values and principles that make us truly unique.

Stop in at your local food co-op during Co-op Month to learn more about what makes co-operatives different. And while you’re there, look for the “Go Co-op” signs on the shelves that identify co-op made products. You may be surprised by what you find, including dairy products from Cabot Creamery Co-op and Organic Valley, fresh produce from Deep Root Organic Co-op, fairly traded coffee, tea, and chocolate from Equal Exchange, beverages from Katalyst Kombucha and La Riojana wines, seeds and bulbs from FEDCO, fruit juice and other products from Ocean Spray, Welch’s and Florida Naturals, naturally fermented vegetables from Real Pickles— and many more!

Cabot Creamery Co-op

Thanks to our friends at Cabot Creamery Co-op, when you join your local food co-ops during October – National Co-op Month – you could be a winner!

Become a new member of our local Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) co-op during October and you will be automatically entered to win one of 10 great prize packages from Cabot Creamery Co-op, Mad River Glen Co-operative, and REI Co-op! (No purchase is necessary, and you can find more information at this link.)

As one of our region’s best known and most-awarded co-operative brands, Cabot has been honored an unprecedented three times at the World Championship Cheese Contests as makers of “The World’s Best Cheddar.” Today, this regional co-operative offers a full line of dairy products including cheese, butter, sour cream, cottage cheese and yogurt.

Underlying Cabot’s business success is its commitment to working with different co-op sectors such as food co-ops, credit unions and energy co-ops to spread the word about the co-operative difference. Community, democracy and local ownership are integral to our business model — service to, and for, the communities in which members live, work and shop. In this spirit, Cabot has partnered with the NFCA to grow the wider co-operative movement with this special Co-op Month celebration.

Cabot Creamery Co-operative is proud to be owned by the farmer members who provide the fresh milk for its award-winning cheeses and dairy products. To learn more visit https://cabotcheese.coop.

*No purchase necessary

Co-operative Education Series

Just in time for Co-op Month, our new video series offers a tool for community education on the Co-operative Movement.

With the partnership of the National Farmers Union and support from the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF), the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) has launched a video series to help co-operatives engage their members, customers, employees, and community members in the co-operative difference.

The free resource is built on a series of webinars developed in collaboration with the Farmers Union and includes short videos followed by a set of questions to help the viewer explore the topic further. It was designed to provide co-ops with a ready-made tool for staff and member education.

NFCA Executive Director, Erbin Crowell, presenting “The Evolution of Co-operative Identity” as part of the Co-operative Education Webinar Series Sponsored by the National Famers Union

“As a marketing and membership manager at my food co-op, I was always looking for resources that could help me quickly and easily communicate to our customers and staff what makes co-ops different,” said Suzette Snow-Cobb, who coordinated the project. “It was a lot of fun creating something that I wished I had back then, and we hope it will be a fun tool for our co-ops to use.”

Connecting Food Co-op Staff

Justina, Prepared Foods Dept. rockstar from Franklin Community Co-op, MA

On peer networking calls, staff of food co-op prepared foods departments get together to network, build supportive relationships, and share ideas, strategies, and innovations to support shared success.

Food co-ops across the Northeast established the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) to provide themselves with opportunities for peer-to-peer collaboration and learning. For example, regular online peer dialogs provide a forum for ongoing informal communication, problem-solving, and collaboration for our co-op directors, managers, and departmental staff. And often, new and innovative ideas are the result.

In September, Prepared Foods Department staff from Neighboring Food Co-ops got together for a robust dialog on preparing for the holidays and sharing recipes. The group also explored new purchasing preferences and trends by members and shoppers in meal selections, self-service options, and pre-packs, an exchange of sourcing ideas for ingredients and containers in the face of supply chain issues, and strategies for supporting staff as the impact of the pandemic continues to be felt. To top off the appreciation, enthusiasm, and camaraderie expressed during the call, Littleton Food Co-op’s Deli Manager Jose Bonilla wrapped up the call with a team cheer of “Co-op Strong!”

Bonnie Hudspeth coordinates the NFCA’s Co-operative Development programs. She may be contacted at Bonnie@nfca.coop. See more upcoming NFCA peer calls and other co-op events in our region: https://nfca.coop/calendar/

Co-op Month, Co-op Survey!

Our shared Co-operative Identity — and your input — has never been more important. Complete this short survey by October 15 and be part of the global dialog!

Our shared Co-operative Identity — and your input — has never been more important. Complete this short survey by October 15 and be part of the global dialog!

“Is the Co-operative Identity widely understood? Are co-operatives operating in a manner consistent with it? Are any changes to the formal expression of our Identity required?”

At the 33rd World Co-operative Congress, held in December 2021 in Seoul, the Republic of Korea, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) launched a global dialog and reflection on our shared Values and Principles. A Co-operative Identity Advisory Group was then formed to help coordinate outreach to co-ops and their members around the world to encourage them to participate in this international consultation — the first in 25 years.

“Our Co-operative Identity has never been more important,” said Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) and a member of the Advisory Group. “And this global consultation on our values and principles is a reflection of our movement’s commitment to education, democracy and participation. I hope that our co-ops and their members will take advantage of this opportunity to be part of this historic discussion.”

With the deadline for responses extended to October 15, food co-ops are invited to respond and to encourage their individual members to participate as part of Co-op Month education and engagement efforts. For more information, visit: https://coopidentity.ica.coop/

October Cave-to-Co-op Special

This month’s special cheese is Swallowtail, Stony Pond Farm, Enosburg Falls, VT

If you were to ask a cheese pro what a Tomme is they’d likely give an answer along the lines of: it’s a small format natural rind farmer’s cheese. Another answer might be: Tommes refer to small cheeses made in the summer months while the ruminants are out eating fresh grass. Both definitions would apply to Swallow Tail Tomme, a raw milk, natural rind farmer’s cheese.

Swallow Tail Tomme is named after swallows that swoop and dive over the fields at Stony Pond, controlling pests that would bother cow and human alike. Made using raw milk from a single milking, then aging for an average of ninety days, this cheese is a time capsule of the organic fields spring through early fall.

Stony Pond Farm is a 260-acre certified organic first-generation farm owned and operated by Tyler and Melanie Webb in Enosburg Falls, Vermont. People looking at Stony Pond Farm’s cattle might come away scratching their heads. The mix of breeds is a little strange for most New England farms. There are Jerseys, Devons, and British White mixed together. The calves are even more unique. The milk comes from the pretty faced Jerseys and some of the Devons, giving plentiful and rich milk, which until summer of 2019 was sold to Organic Valley. A lifelong dream of making cheese had Melanie and Tyler converting an unused part of their property into a cheesemaking room and another into an aging room where cheese is made 2-3 times a week.

October is the perfect time to try this recipe with pumpkins and Swallow Tail Tomme.

Swallow Tail Tomme Pumpkins

  • 6 small pumpkins
  • 7oz of olive oil
  • 1 branch of thyme
  • 21 oz of Swallow Tail Tomme
  • 8.5 oz of chicken broth
  • 7 oz of cream
  1. From the top, open the pumpkins, removing the seeds. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the pumpkins on a plate, sprinkle with oil, season them. Sprinkle thyme over it and bake for 30 minutes. Then cover with foil and finish cooking for 15 min at 350°F.
  2. Remove the rind from cheese and cut into small pieces. Bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add the cream and reduce slightly, pepper well. Add the cheese and melt on low heat while stirring often.
  3. Remove the pumpkins from the oven and place one per plate.
  4. Pour the cheesy broth in the center of each and serve immediately.

Each month, your Neighboring Food Co-ops feature our region’s artisan cheesemakers by offering a specially selected cheese at great price. The Cave to Co-op program is possible because of the partnership between distributor Provisions International, NFCA Co-ops and the many cheese producers in our region. Strengthening our local and regional farmers and producers by supporting artisanal cheesemakers is a key goal of the Cave to Co-op program.

Look for the “Cave to Co-op” sign in the cheese section at your local food co-op. To find one near you, visit www.nfca.coop/members.

New England Farmers Union 

New England Farmers Union delegation meets with Congressman Jim McGovern (MA) in DC. With (L-R) John Cleary, VT farmer and Organic Valley Field Representative; Congressman Jim McGovern; Mary Castonguay, NEFU Vice President and organic dairy farmer; and Roger Noonan, NEFU President and organic farmer.

During the National Farmers Union legislative fly-in in September, members from across the country – including a delegation from the Northeast – advocated for fairness for farmers and a Farm Bill that works for small farmers, their communities, and consumers. Delegates attended hundreds of Congressional meetings, met with over a dozen federal agencies, and directly participated in discussions with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission chair Rostin Behnam, among other leaders.

“Our focus this year was on fairness for farmers and advocating for small family farms in the upcoming farm bill,”

Mary Castonguay, Maine Organic Dairy Farmer and Vice President of the New England Farmers Union.

“We want to make sure that farmers across the Northeast are able to utilize the programs in the Farm Bill, not just large corporate farms.”

“One of the most interesting meetings of the week was at the Justice Department, with Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter,” she said. “In the Northeast, we have all seen a decrease in our beef prices due to corporate consolidation and it was very interesting to hear about how the Justice Department is working to stop the price fixing and confronting the corrupt practices of meat packers and processors.”

Congressman Jim McGovern (MA), member of the House Agriculture Committee and a champion of our regional food system, responded to the question of the importance of the Farmers Union fly-in: “It is incredibly important to hear directly from farmers, … to hear first-hand about their challenges about what’s going well and what’s not going so well. …. every farmer raised the issue of climate change and were relieved that we are moving toward providing some help in the inflation reduction act to help farmers deal with the climate crisis.”

“I’m not an expert on all things agriculture related,” he continued. “So, the only way I can learn is to be present or to have people come and talk to me directly, first-hand information from farmers. I’m hearing individual stories [which] is very, very powerful. I think I’m a better representative on the agriculture committee because of all the interactions and conversations I’ve had with farmers all across this district and all across this country.”

“This has been an incredibly productive and successful fly-in for Farmers Union,” said NFU President Rob Larew. “It’s a testament to the passion and interest of our members that they’re willing to take time away from the farm and come to Washington and build bipartisan support for Fairness for Farmers and their farm bill priorities.”

Our Local Farmers Need You! 

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.  Farmers are invited to join the New England Farmers Union chapter – and consumers can join as a “Friend of the Farmer” for just $15.  For more information, please visit www.newenglandfarmersunion.org. 

Upcoming Events

Join National Farmers Union and NCBA CLUSA on Tuesday, October 11 at 2:00 pm ET for a conversation on the Farm Bill.  

How have past Farm Bills impacted co-ops, and what role do co-ops play in shaping the Farm Bill? Hear from NCBA CLUSA President and CEO, Doug O’Brien, on this timely topic.  

Click below to learn more and register for this webinar! 

(Can’t attend live? Register to receive a link to the recording.)