E-News // Get Ready for Co-op Month // September 2015

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Get ready, Co-operators: Co-op Month launches later this week on the first day of October!

Every October, co-operatives and their members across the country celebrate Co-op Month. The theme identified by the National Co-operative Business Association (NCBA) for 2015 is “Building a Better World with Businesses You Trust.”  This basic message is reminder of the many ways that co-ops enable people to work together to build businesses that are rooted in and accountable to their communities.

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association’s “Go Co-op” initiative offers resources for co-ops and their members to educate, celebrate, and spread the word. One simple tool is shelf tags that member food co-ops can use to indicate products made by supplier co-ops in our local communities and around the world. Look for them at your Neighboring Food Co-op — You may be surprised by the number of “Co-op Made” products you’ll find at your local food co-op, including Artisan Beverage Co-op, Cabot Creamery Co-op, Deep Root Organic Co-op, Equal Exchange, Organic Valley and Real Pickles. For a longer list of co-op suppliers, please visit www.nfca.coop/co-opproducts.  If your co-op wants Go Co-op shelf tags, please email us: info@nfca.coop

The “Go Co-op” logo incorporates the Co-op Marque developed by the International Co-operative Alliance to help co-ops around the world increase awareness, promote the Co-operative Identity, and differentiate co-ops from other business models. The NFCA’s initiative recently received international recognition from Domains.coop for our efforts to educate shoppers about the wider co-operative economy. By promoting our common co-operative identity, our co-ops are demonstrating our shared impact in building a more just, sustainable and participatory food system and economy.

To get started on your planning for Co-op Month, check out the resources and a list of ideas on how you can celebrate co-operation during October and throughout the year: https://nfca.coop/co-opmonth

For print-ready posters, sample social media posts, and more, visit National Cooperative Business Association’s Co-op Month 2015 page: http://ncba.coop/ncba-media/press-releases/1175-october-is-co-op-month



By Bonnie Hudspeth, Neighboring Food Co-op Association

Dairy farmer John Haynes, one of eight siblings, is the only sibling who stayed on the farm with his father.  John claims that he has spent “half of his lifetime” clearing their pasture because his father was so committed to pasture grazing.  John hasn’t plowed his fields in 30 years, and uses rotational grazing to keep his fields healthy, adding in fertilizer from his cows.  Haynes Dairy is just one of the 170 member farms of the Organic Valley co-op in New England that supply milk and dairy products to food co-ops across the region.

Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) worked with Organic Valley staff to organize the third Organic Valley Farm Tour for NFCA member food co-ops. This tour offered 30 food co-op staff from 14 food co-ops across New England to learn more about organic dairy farming, build relationships with farmer members and food co-ops in the region, and enjoy a great day on the farm.

John and Beth Haynes have owned Haynes Dairy since 1991, when they purchased their 130-acre farm from John’s parents.  On the tour, John described his milking process for their 63 cows, and explained how much he appreciates Organic Valley’s “win-win” of paying premiums for healthy milk.   To keep his herd healthy, he focuses on preventative health, giving them calcium, probiotics, and vitamins.  He also takes pride in having a happy herd of cows.  “When we milk cows for the first couple times, we have two people on the job: one to milk them, and one to rub their backs and help them feel comfortable and relaxed.”  John said being a farmer-owner of Organic Valley allows him to work on having healthy, happy cows instead of being forced to push his herd for high production.

The cows on Haynes Farm are quite the characters: they have a “pecking order” with leaders, and certain cows, such as a brown cow, Ember, are natural leaders of the herd. They also know their milking stalls and will nudge other cows away from their stalls when they head into the milking parlor.  As John opens the fence to a fresh section of pasture, the cows rush to graze on the tall, lush mix of native grasses and clover, and staff from food co-ops across New England stand feet away from the rush to fresh pastures, reaching out to greet them and snapping photos to bring back and share with their co-ops and communities.

“Since its start, Organic Valley has valued the support of food co-ops who have been essential partners to our co-operative’s success,” said Regina Beidler, Organic Valley Member Farmer who helped welcome food co-op reps on the tour.  “As farmers owners, we were delighted to have the chance to visit with staff from Neighboring Food Co-ops and to share what makes organic farming and organic food such a positive choice for the consumers we all serve.”

Want to see Haynes Dairy’s happy herd and some happy co-operators?  Check out these photos of the NFCA Organic Valley Farm Tour at Haynes Farm: http://s.coop/nfcaovfarmtour2015

The tour of Haynes Farm was organized by Organic Valley in collaboration with the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), a network of more than 30 food co-ops and start-up co-op initiatives, as part of their work of creating a thriving regional economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable food system and collaboration among co-ops.

*Feel free to use this article and reprint it in your co-op’s newsletter, e-news or website.  Please include the credit information at the end of the article.



Next year, the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op will celebrate its 40th birthday.  The co-op, a member of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), has a lot to celebrate, including 4,200 member-owners, accomplishing four successful expansions in less than four decades, and being recognized nationally as a leader in the local foods movement (the co-op currently does business with 270 separate food producers, and counting).

On September 17, the Addison Independent covered the co-op’s progress and plans for the future.

“The Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op (MNFC) is studying the possibility of once again expanding its store — perhaps by as much as 50 percent — onto property it owns to the west of its store at 1 Washington St.”

To help with their planning, the co-op’s staff, board and member-owners have contributed to a long-range plan.   Though the plan includes discussion of future store growth,  “as we look to the future, however, we imagine the co-op as something bigger than the store.”

One example is the work the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op is doing with the Neighboring Food Co-op Association and other neighboring food co-ops to make healthy food and co-op ownership more accessible to all. “‘Providing healthy foods for everyone in our community while keeping prices down and remaining central to the strength of our local food system, has never been more important, even as our commitment to things like environmental best practice and remaining downtown raises the bar,’” said MNFC Board President Tam Stewart.

“‘It’s definitely an exciting time for food co-ops,’” said MNFC general manager Glenn Lower. “‘There are more of them cropping up around the country.’”

Read the full article from the Addison Independent: click here



Have you noticed the “Cave to Co-op” signs in the cheese section of your neighboring food co-op? Septembers’ “Cave to Co-op” special artisan cheese is “Reading” from Spring Brook Farm in Reading, VT.

Reading is a semi-soft cheese ideal for melting over vegetables, breads, or meats, and it can also stand alone on any cheese plate.  It offers a creamy, nutty flavor from cows grazing in Vermont pastures.  Reading is a beautiful cheese in the kitchen and, with the start of fall, its versatility shines in these recipes: https://nfca.coop/CaveToCo-opSeptember2015

All funds from the sale of Spring Brook Farm cheese go to support the Farms For City Kids Foundation.

Cave to Co-op is a partnership between Provisions International and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) to support local, artisanal cheese producers in our region and make their products more easily available to co-op shoppers. For more information on the program, please visit www.nfca.coop/CaveToCo-op.



You may have seen references to “COOL” in the news or in social media lately, perhaps alongside a photo of cellophane-wrapped meat at a grocery store. What exactly is COOL, besides a way to beat the heat? And why should you care about it? Well, as with many agricultural policy issues, this one isn’t simple, but Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) does make a big difference to farmers and consumers alike. Recent movement toward voluntary labeling seems to be the way forward.

Overview: In 2002 and 2008, Congress passed mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), a popular labeling law that says muscle cuts of meat, and fruits and vegetables, must be labeled with the country’s name where they were produced.

Mexico and Canada subsequently filed claims at the World Trade Organization (WTO) charging that COOL was causing a decrease in volume of their livestock exports to the U.S. The WTO has repeatedly taken issue with the way COOL has been implemented, and arbitration is currently underway. While National Farmers Union (NFU) remains steadfast in its support of COOL, Congress is likely to take action prior to the conclusion of arbitration. Responding to the threat of retaliatory tariffs, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to repeal COOL, and the issue is now before the Senate.

Solution: A bipartisan Senate compromise bill – known as the “Voluntary COOL and Trade Enhancement Act” and sponsored by Senators Stabenow, D-Michigan, and Hoeven, R-North Dakota – completely repeals mandatory COOL, thus putting to rest the complaint by Canada and Mexico, and puts in its place a voluntary labeling system that could allow consumers to know the origin of their food. The U.S. Trade Representative has noted that repealing the mandatory requirement and replacing it with a voluntary system has the “potential to constitute compliance with U.S. WTO obligations.” This is a win-win scenario for all parties involved because:

  • Canada and Mexico Win: Canada and Mexico have made clear that a voluntary labeling system in the U.S. would be a working solution.
  • U.S. Consumers Win: The new voluntary system maintains integrity of the ‘Made in the USA’ brand and will prevent meat packers from deliberately deceiving consumers as they have in the past. A decade’s worth of polling shows unequivocal strong support among consumers for food labeling.

NFU President Roger Johnson points out that NFU has championed mandatory COOL for three decades, so this clearly wasn’t an easy pill to swallow. “But it is the only way to retain some semblance of clear and accurate food labeling that allows consumers to know where their food comes from, and it offers farmers and ranchers an avenue to allow that to happen.”

Take Action: Want to help work toward transparency in labeling? Join New England Farmers Union and help us strengthen the voice of the family farmer: 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 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.



October: National Co-op Month!

Visit www.nfca.coop/co-opmonth for resources for planning your celebrations!

Oct 18 – 21, 2015: “Co-operative Management Practices to Strengthen Identity, Loyalty, and Overall Business Performance”

The course takes place from Sunday October 18th to Wednesday October 21st at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It focuses on leading thinking in co-operative management and pairing those learnings with tangible examples using open dialogue and case study work. There will also be guest presenters providing sector specific expertise creating a very well rounded few days. Further details are included in the link below and I’ve attached a brochure with this email that explains each day of the course in more detail:


Oct 24, 2015: Neighboring Food Co-op Association Fall Member Gathering

Member co-ops of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA): Save the date for our annual Fall Gathering, including workshops, presentations and peer to peer networking opportunities. For more information, e-mail: info@nfca.coop.

Oct 31 – Nov 1, 2015: North American Students of Co-operation Annual Institute

Common Interest: Co-ops Investing in Community Wealth. Since 1977, NASCO’s Cooperative Education & Training Institute has been widely recognized as one of the most important training and networking opportunities available to members, directors, staff and managers of group-equity cooperatives. The annual NASCO Institute is always a one-of-a-kind opportunity to network with hundreds of cooperative leaders and employers, to caucus about pressing issues, and to work on building an inclusive and accessible cooperative movement.


Nov 6-8, 2015: New England Farmers Union Annual Meeting, Concord, NH


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


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