Solidarity – A Core Co-op Value // NFCA News September 2023

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In this edition:

Federation of Southern Cooperatives

NFCA Executive Director Erbin Crowell with Ben Burkett, member of Indian Springs Farmers Association & State Coordinator of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives.

In August, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) joined representatives from the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) and partner organizations for the 56th Anniversary Celebration of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives / Land Assistance Fund (FSC/LAF) in Birmingham, Alabama. Emerging from the Civil Rights movement in 1967, the Federation paved the way for the co-operative development movement in the South and has since grown into an association of Black farmers, landowners, and co-ops with chapters in 17 states across the Southeast U.S.  The organization’s vision is for sustainable rural communities based on local control and ownership and supported by a network of farmers, landowners and co-ops, with a mission of catalyzing the development of self-supporting communities through co-operative economic development, land retention and advocacy. 

The NFCA has worked with FSC/LAF for many years, and in 2021 the two organizations formalized a partnership focused on building equitable trade relationships between Black-led co-ops in the U.S. South and food co-ops in the Northeast, expanding access to education and training, growing awareness of the co-operative movement, and advocating for policies that support co-op development and land retention for Black farmers.  At its Annual Meeting in March, Federation Executive Director Cornelius Blanding was the recipient of the “Neighboring Co-operator Award,” recognizing his leadership and commitment to the co-operative movement and a more healthy, just, and sustainable future.  More recently, the NFCA and FSC/LAF have collaborated on policy advocacy, including efforts to protect the Co-operative Legal Identity.

This year’s events opened with the annual Cooperative Roundtable moderated by Terence Courtney, FSC/LAF Director of Cooperative Development & Strategic Initiatives and attended by co-operative leaders from across the country, including Crowell and Doug O’Brien, President & CEO of NCBA CLUSA, as well as National Cooperative Bank (NCB) CEO Casey Fanon and RL Condra, Senior Vice President of Government Relations. The focus of this year’s conversation was on the infrastructure needed to support new co-ops, as well as the need to focus on succession strategies at established co-operatives so they continue to thrive and serve their communities.

“This gathering continues to inspire,” said O’Brien. “More than anything, it’s humbling to be reminded of the legacy of the Civil Rights movement and the amazing FSC/LAF history and continuing commitment to racial and economic justice, and to growing the co-operative economy.”

NCBA CLUSA was present at the founding of the Federation and continues to see their partnership as central to their mission and particularly their vision for a more inclusive economy.  O’Brien was joined at the event by NCBA CLUSA Executive Vice President and CFO Valeria Roach, members of the Board of Directors including Crowell and Christina Jennings, Executive Director of Shared Capital Cooperative.  FSC/LAF Executive Director Cornelius Blanding also serves on the NCBA CLUSA board.

The evening kicked off with a reception at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a reminder of how far we have come in the struggle for social and economic equity and inclusion, and how much more there is to do. The Annual Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award Dinner provided an opportunity to celebrate and honor people who have done so much to advance the work of civil and economic rights. This year’s honoree, Xernona Clayton, epitomizes the true spirit of community and co-operation, and the struggle for Civil Rights. Xernona moved to Atlanta in 1965 where she accepted a position with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and worked closely with the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Clayton also traveled extensively with Mrs. Coretta Scott King on her nationwide concert tours.  Dedicated to promoting racial understanding, she has been a leader in civic projects and civil rights activities for many years.  Her persistent fight against prejudice and bigotry was never more apparent than in 1968 when the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan denounced the Klan and credited Xernona’s influence with his change. Ms. Clayton’s dedication to the community is reflected in the many hours she spends promoting human relations through bi-racial groups devoted to improving racial understanding. A recipient of numerous media awards, Xernona has been widely honored for her contributions to humanity.  Xernona Clayton’s autobiography, “I’ve Been Marching All the Time,” was published in 1991.

The next day included a journey to the Federation’s Rural Training Research Center in Epes, Alabama, where co-ops and their members and partners gathered for a day of workshops, policy dialogs, and a panel of representatives from the USDA presenting information on the latest developments in programs supporting family-sized farmers.

The existence of the Center itself speaks to the struggle for justice and the power of association in enabling people to work together for a better future. In the 1960s, when sharecroppers were driven from their homes in retaliation for participation in voter registration efforts, one group formed a land buying co-op, pooling limited resources to purchase land. One of these properties was later acquired by the Federation and converted into a conference and training center in 1971. During the visit, Crowell and O’Brien also had the opportunity to join Cornelius Blanding and Training Center Director Freddie Davis for a tour of demonstration plots, as well as nearby housing and health co-ops that are part of the Federation.

Looking forward, the NFCA and FSC/LAF are continuing to advance their partnership, including dialogs at the gathering on sourcing of watermelons and other products from member co-ops and associations.

For more information on the Federation of Southern Cooperatives / Land Assistance Fund, please visit

Welcome New GMs!

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) extends a warm welcome to Ian Rose, incoming General Manager of Springfield Food Co-op, Springfield, VT, and Darrion Whalen, the new General Manager for the Upper Valley Food Co-op, in White River Junction.

Originally from Boston, IAN ROSE has nearly 30 years of food service experience, mostly working in chef/owner-operated farm to table restaurants.  He and his family relocated to Vermont seven years ago wanting to create a new life chapter surrounded by nature.  Ian shared that he and his kids love exploring their country surroundings and delight at the abundance of amazing food grown so close to their new home.  

The culture of a workplace is of extreme importance to Ian, and he’s committed to putting lots of energy towards making sure that all who enter the Co-op feel encouraged and inspired by the space, the products and team members.

“I am extremely excited to begin my time working with the incredible team we have here at the store,” says Ian.  “My life’s work has revolved around local food and it’s an honor to be part of shaping our store’s place in Springfield for many years to come.  Life is made better with tasty food and our Co-op is the perfect place for our community to make those connections.”  

Ian looks forward to getting to know Springfield Food Co-op members and community and we look forward to getting to know him as a member of our Neighboring Food Co-ops community!

DARRION WHALEN grew up in the Hudson Valley area of New York and has since lived and traveled numerous places throughout the U.S. looking for a place to set down roots.

“Since becoming parents, my wife and I have sought a place that spoke to us and fulfilled our desire to be connected to beauty, varied landscapes, seasons and a simpler way of existence,” says Darrion.  “We have found that and more here in the Green Mountain state, and our roots are settling into the fertile soil.”

Darrion’s professional life spans a few decades in the food service industry, and then a transition to the retail grocery world in 2017 where he was the general manager for a regional independent grocer that specialized in organic foods.  This path led him to the Upper Valley Food Co-op, where Darrion shares that he is looking forward to leading the co-op team in their mission to provide the Upper Valley community with access to the most wholesome and high-quality foods, foster educational opportunities, and continue to be a positive force in the community. 

Please join us in welcoming Darrion and Ian to the Neighboring Food Co-ops community and look forward to meeting them at a future gathering.

Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership

Poster at River Valley Co-op, MA

The work continues as we build food system resilience for the future.

In the fall of 2021, 135 organic family farms across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and eastern New York received the sudden news that Horizon and Maple Hill Creamery were terminating their purchase contracts, effective in early 2023. This news put these farms, many of whom have been in business for generations, at serious risk of closure unless they find alternate outlets. In January 2022, the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership, a first-of-its-kind campaign in partnership with the Maine Organic Farming and Gardening Association (MOFGA), was created to help solve the crisis of disappearing family farms in our region.

NFCA was the first retailers’ organization to join the Partnership which is a collaboration of farmers, processors, retailers, activists, government agencies and consumers. Twenty-two NFCA member co-ops joined in the effort, encouraging their shoppers to take the pledge to support our organic dairy farmers and increasing sales of their products.

Last year NFCA member food co-ops sold more than $113 million in locally sourced products representing a 11.5% increase over 2021 dales. Co-ops that signed on as Retail Partners reported a collective increase of 14% in organic, family farm dairy products (Partner Brands) over 2021. A central goal of the effort is to increase demand for dairy produced in our region, creating market stability to help save the at-risk farms and build greater food system resilience for the future.

The work continues. Food co-ops have been pioneers in building a more resilient and sustainable food system by partnering with local farms, producers, and organizations with a shared mission. Providing opportunities for consumers to understand where their food comes from and the impact their purchases have on our regional economy is part of the work our food co-ops do on an ongoing basis.

The NFCA is encouraging its member co-ops to continue to contribute to consumer awareness by being Retail Partners, encouraging consumers to take the pledge to increase their purchases of Northeast organic dairy products, and promoting regionally-sourced brands.

To sign the consumer pledge, become a Retail Partner, or learn more about the Partnership, please visit:  And if your Food Co-op’s Marketing Manager or Dairy Buyer would like to be more involved in planning this effort, please e-mail Suzette Snow-Cobb.

Co-ops in the News

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Partner Profile: CDF

Dedicated to Co-op Development and Education

Partnering with the Cooperative Development Foundation. Based in Washington, DC, the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF) promotes self-help and mutual aid in community, economic, and social development through co-operative enterprise. CDF is a thought leader in the use of co-operatives to create resilient communities, including the housing and care needs of seniors and people living with disabilities.

Created in 1944, CDF was first known as the Freedom Fund. It focused on the reconstruction and development of European cooperatives in the post-war era, an initiative that engaged the entire U.S. cooperative community. One of the CDF’s most significant investments was a $30,000 grant to help launch Cooperatives for American Relief to Europe. Today this organization is the Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere, better known as CARE. 

Today, through its funds, fiscal sponsorships, and fundraising, CDF makes grants and loans that foster co-operative development domestically and abroad. Support for cooperative research, sponsorships of education events and scholarships, and development of education materials and programs are funded through the Cooperative Education Fund.

The Cooperative Development Fund focuses on co-operative development, research, and technical assistance with particular emphasis on cooperatives serving the needs of seniors, providing affordable housing, and building resilience in the developing world. Through the Disaster Recovery Fund, CDF provides grants to co-operatives impacted by disaster. In 2022 CDF distributed nearly $1 million in grants through these funds that supported education projects, event sponsorships, scholarships, and disaster recovery.

CDF hosts annual fundraising events to engage cooperators to further strengthen and honor our co-operative ecosystem. The Cooperative Hall of Fame honors co-operative heroes who have positively impacted and inspired co-operative efforts and serves as a major fundraise for the Foundation. The Co-op 5K is a fun, family- friendly fundraiser to support cooperative development nationwide.

In collaboration with CDF, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, has continued its long-time partnership through a project to support small, rural food co-ops in the Northeast as they recover from the pandemic. By providing technical support in governance, management and membership engagement and development. This two-year project is funded through USDA from the Rural Cooperative Development and Socially Disadvantaged Group grants.

Our partnership is also visible in NFCA’s consistent sponsorship of the Cooperative Hall of Fame and the Co-op 5K as well as CDF’s support for the NFCA’s Annual Meetings and educational activities.

Support the only foundation in the U.S. devoted solely to the development of co-operatives across sectors for nearly 80 years! Plan to make a year-end donation individually or organize through your co-op. Your contribution can position CDF to accomplish even more in 2024.

For more information on the Cooperative Development Foundation, visit

September Cave-to-Co-op Special

This month’s special cheese is Hermit, Parish Hill Creamery, Westminster West, Vermont

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.

We are happy to be able to welcome back Parish Hill Creamery who make this month’s featured cheese, Hermit, a raw cow-milk with a beer-washed natural rind.

Parish Hill Creamery produces seasonal, handmade, raw milk cheeses inspired by the traditional cheeses of Italy. Peter Dixon brings over 30 years of cheesemaking experience and he is joined by his wife Rachel Schaal and sister Alex Schaal. The creamery is the culmination of Peter’s years making cheese, teaching classes, solving problems, and imagining possibilities.

Peter, Rachel and Alex love making cheese. They make cheese traditionally, simply, as near to home as possible, and with the highest quality ingredients and results as can be had.

Parish Hill gets milk from Elm Lea Farm at the Putney School, just up the road from the creamery, and the milk is the result of healthy animals grazing lush pastures. Protein and fat are balanced ideally for the cheeses produced, and the cheese changes subtly throughout the season, reflecting the growth and maturation of various pasture plants.

Their starter cultures are made from the milk of 4 individual cows. Helga, Abigail, Clothilda, and Sonia were chosen for their health, their components, and their disposition. As a result Parish Hill makes mother cultures that are truly an articulation of their milk and the resulting cheese is a revelation of that milk, the cows, the pastures, the water and the land.

Rowdy Monk ale, used as the rind wash, is a barrel aged sour brown quadrupel ale, fermented with mixed culture and aged in red wine barrels and scotch barrels for 12-18 months until tart and very dry by the folks at Hermit Thrush Brewery in Brattleboro, Vermont. Hermit’s large format wheels are aged at least three months resulting in a Tomme style cheese with a rustic, natural rind.

Crispy Potato Stacks with Hermit

  • 5-6 skinny baking potatoes – about 5 cups sliced
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1⁄2 T chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 t crunchy sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ounces finely grated Hermit cheese, plus more for the tops

makes 12

pre-heat oven to 375°

  1. Peel and slice the potatoes very thinly and place in a bowl. A mandolin works well for this!
  2. Melt the butter with the olive oil, and then stir in the rosemary, salt, pepper, and grated Herdsman.
  3. Pour this over the potatoes and gently toss until they are well coated.
  4. Lightly butter a 12-cup muffin pan. Divide and layer the potato slices evenly between the muffin tins, completely filling them to the top.
  5. Sprinkle additional cheese and rosemary over the tops, and then a final scatter of sea salt.
  6. Bake for 40- 50 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown and crispy.
  7. Take them out of the oven and let them sit for five minutes to settle.
  8. Remove the potato stacks from the tins and serve.

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. 

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

President Joe Biden welcomed to the stage, Roger Noonan top right.

Farmers Union Leaders Attend Inflation Reduction Act 1-year Anniversary 

Four Farmers Union member-leaders had the chance to join President Biden to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act. All four of the members have first-hand stories about the major investments in conservation programs included in the legislation.

New England Farmers Union President Roger Noonan, Rachel Bouressa of Wisconsin Farmers Union, Kyler Brown of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, and Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish were all invited up on stage to stand with President Biden during his remarks.

These Farmers Union members also had the opportunity to hear from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Michael Regan as part of the festivities.

Also during August, the House Agriculture Committee, which includes Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Marc Molinaro (NY-19), Janana Hayes (CT-05), and Jim McGovern (MA-02), held several field hearings in Maine.  The listening session in Freeport brought together farmers, ranchers, producers, and agribusiness owners to solicit public feedback — an integral part of the Farm Bill reauthorization process.  New England Farmers Union President Roger Noonan participated in the dialog, highlighting the impacts of market concentration on rural communities and the need for updated disaster assistance programs for farmers operating at a smaller scale, particularly in the wake of recent flooding across our region. 

Join the Farmers UnionThe 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

Co-operative Governance: Democratic, people-centered, and transformational practice


Register for this engaging in-person knowledge building and networking opportunity ahead of the NCBA CLUSA Co-op IMPACT Conference in Washington, DC, October 4 & 5.  This training will take place at the National Cooperative Bank in Arlington, Virginia, a short commute from downtown DC.  For more information, visit:

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