Food System Development

Building a Co-operative Food System

Around the world, co-operatives have been innovators in building a more, healthy, just and sustainable food system. Here in our region, food co-ops have served as laboratories for new ways of thinking about the way we eat, from healthy food to organic agriculture, and fairly traded goods to systems for the distribution and retailing of bulk products.  More recently, co-ops in the region have also served as important partners and incubators for local producers — a place where they can can test out new products and grow their businesses.

As we continue to innovate, our immediate goal is to create projects that enable our food co-ops to demonstrate what is possible when we leverage our shared purchasing power to build a better food system.  We currently focus on the following initiatives:

  • The NFCA was the first retailer organization to join the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership, an educational project affiliated with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. Established in response to a crisis presented by more than 130 Northeast organic dairy farmers losing their contracts with major processors, the Partnership is working to to educate consumers and build a region-wide commitment to helping to sustain the working farms.
  • Cave to Co-op is our partnership with the local distributor Provisions International to support our region’s artisan cheesemakers by offering a monthly special cheese at an affordable price.
  • Our partnership with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives / Land Assistance Fund is focused on building an equitable marketing relationship between Black farmer co-ops in the Southeast U.S. and our food co-ops, and also includes co-operative development, policy advocacy, and working together to build racial and economic justice.
  • We are affiliate members of the New England Farmers Union, representing our commitment to working with our region’s family farmers to strengthen the voices of our producers and consumers to policymakers in DC, build stronger rural communities, and grow co-operative enterprise.
  • Farm to Freezer was an innovative initiative launched by the NFCA to support our regional farmers by offering Northeast grown and processed frozen fruits & vegetables.  After a number of years in operation — and tons of produce sold — our regional processing partner decided to close and we were forced to wrap up this successful project.

Special thanks thanks to our partners at Cabot Creamery Co-op for their support of our efforts to build a more, healthy, just and sustainable food system in 2023.