NFCA

Celebrating Co-op Month!

This October, we’re joining co-operatives and credit unions across the United States in celebrating Co-op Month, observed nationally since 1964. This year’s theme, “Co-ops Commit: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion,” was chosen by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) to promote how co-ops and their members are working together to build more inclusive businesses and more resilient communities.

Our Co-op is celebrating this special month in a number of ways. Throughout the month, we’ll be promoting some of our favorite Co-op-made products and brands. Check out our Weekly Sale and Member Deals displays all month long to find great deals on co-op-made products by Equal Exchange, Aura Cacia, Blue Diamond, Alter Eco, Organic Valley, La Riojana, and more. Be sure to check out the Addison Independent each week for coupons that will offer even deeper discounts on these great products. We’ve also dedicated the latest edition of our Under The Sun newsletter to our local co-operative food system and all of the people who make it shine. Finally, we invite you to check out a free screening of Food For Changea fantastic documentary by filmmaker Steve Alves, which traces the history of food cooperatives in the United States. We hosted a screening of this film here at our Co-op a few years back and it’s a treat to be able to offer a link for a free virtual screening in celebration of Co-op Month!

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical components of our work here at the Co-op and we remain dedicated to centering these issues so that we’re able to create a more welcoming, inclusive, and participatory atmosphere at our Co-op. After all, people have historically used food co-ops to improve access to healthy, local, affordable food, and build stronger, more inclusive communities and this valuable work must continue.  Most co-op grocery stores got their start during times of social and economic change, enabling people to access healthy food, support local producers, and provide good jobs.  More recently, a new wave of startups has been growing, representing a renewed interest in food security, and racial and economic justice. Today, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) includes 40 food co-ops and startups, jointly owned by more than 150,000 members and employing over 2,350 people.  Together, these co-ops generate shared annual revenue of nearly $347 million, with local products representing close to a third of total sales. 

“Our vision for a more inclusive economy is one of shared prosperity and well-being, of empowering people to work together to build a better future for themselves and their families,” said Erbin Crowell, NFCA executive director and chair of the NCBA CLUSA board of directors. “And as co-operatives, we have to acknowledge that this vision cannot be achieved without also confronting the racism, inequality, and injustice in our society and its institutions.”

Our staff is actively engaged in the necessary work of better understanding how we can be a part of dismantling the systems of oppression in our country. One of the ways that we’re diving deeply into this critical issue is through a series of staff book clubs. Staff members selected one of three titles to engage with, including So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, and My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem, then joined the corresponding book group so that we could engage in honest conversations about racism and the way it impacts all aspects of American life. Our Board of Directors is doing similarly engaging work, which you can read more about in this blog post by Board Member Erin Buckwalter.  We believe in the transformative power of this work and understand that it is necessary if we are to create the diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment that we envision for our Co-op and beyond.

Books that Co-op Staff Members are Reading and Discussing

Food co-ops are not alone in their contribution to more inclusive and resilient local communities.  From farmer co-ops to worker co-ops, credit unions to mutual insurance, and housing co-ops to energy co-ops, co-operative businesses thrive across the U.S. economy, where 350 million people are co-op members.  Nationwide, co-ops generate $514 billion in revenue and more than $25 billion in wages, according to NCBA CLUSA.  And because they are member-owned, co-operatives are rooted in their communities and governed by the people who use them to meet their needs, rather than outside investors.

Stop into the 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 products that were “co-op made”.  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, naturally fermented vegetables from Real Pickles, Northeast Grown frozen fruits and vegetables from your Neighboring Food Co-ops — and many others. Visit www.nfca.coop/co-opproducts for a more comprehensive list.

To learn more about the food cooperatives in your region and their collective impact, please visit www.nfca.coop.

Celebrating Co-op Month

“…Twenty-eight working people founded the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society A store was opened that only offered five items for sale, and though the shop lacked inventory, it was filled with hope. What they lacked in experience, the members made up with enthusiasm. From the mutual efforts of those humble workers grew an idea that today serves (over 1 billion) members worldwide. The year 1844, therefore, represents the birth of the modern cooperative movement.”

-from Weavers of Dreams, a book about the history of cooperatives by David Thompson

 

This October, our Co-op is joining over 40,000 co-operatives and credit unions across the United States in celebrating Co-op Month, observed nationally since 1964. This year, the National Cooperative Business Association has chosen “Co-operatives See the Future” as the theme for the month, inviting co-op members to work together to make the world a better place, now and for future generations.

“From healthy food to organic agriculture, Fair Trade to building stronger local economies, good jobs to alternative energy, food co-ops have been pioneers, empowering people to work together to make the world a better place,” said Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA).  “And as our co-ops look to the future, we are working to build a more fair, sustainable, and inclusive economy that works for everyone.”

A little over a decade ago, the co-ops that would later form the NFCA began envisioning how the future might be different if they worked together.  As a first step, they commissioned a study to better understand their shared impact.  At the time, few would have guessed that these 17 co-ops had a combined membership of 64,000 people and annual revenue exceeding $161 million. They also had a dramatic impact on local economies, including sales of more than $52 million in local products and jobs for over 1,200 people. Taken together, food co-ops in Vermont were among the top 25 employers in the state!

This year, the NFCA surveyed the same co-ops to see what changed over the past decade.  Though one co-op from the original study closed its doors, the others have continued to grow, with overall membership expanding 38% to more than 88,000 people who, together, own their local grocery store.  Shared revenue has also increased 39% to over $224 million, with sales of local products growing to $64.7 million.  Employment grew 20% to 1,485, while and wages grew 69%, from $28.6 million to almost $48.3 million, reflecting the commitment of food co-ops to more sustainable jobs.

During the same time, the NFCA as a whole has grown, and now includes over 35 food co-ops and start-ups, locally owned by more than 144,000 members and employing over 2,300 people.  Together, these food co-ops generate shared annual revenue of $330 million, including sales of $90 million in local products. 

And food co-ops are not alone in their contribution to more resilient local communities.  From farmer co-ops to worker co-ops, credit unions to mutual insurance, and housing co-ops to energy co-ops, co-operative businesses thrive across the U.S. economy, where 1 in 3 people are members of at least one co-op or credit union.  Nationwide, co-operatives create 2.1 million jobs and generate more than $650 billion in sales and other revenue annually. Because they are member-owned, co-ops are driven by the needs of the people who work there or use their products and services, rather than maximizing profit.

In celebration of Co-op Month, we’ll feature many co-op made products in our weekly sales and be sure to clip the coupon from the Addison Independent which will save you $3 on any co-op made product.  Look for the “Go Co-op” signs on the shelves (see image above) that identify products that were made by other co-operatives. You may be surprised by what you find, including dairy products from Cabot Creamery Co-op and Organic Valley, fairly traded bananas, avocados, coffee, and chocolate from Equal Exchange, naturally fermented vegetables from Real Pickles, Northeast Grown frozen fruits and vegetables from your Neighboring Food Co-ops — and many others. 

Farm to Freezer for the Holidays

Here at the Co-op, we work hard to support our local farmers. And we are proud to be working with other food co-ops across our region to make regionally grown produce available to our shoppers year ‘round.

As you shop at your local food co-op for all the ingredients you need for a delicious meal this holiday, don’t forget to check out our frozen fruits and vegetables from the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA). These farm-to-freezer products are the result of a project that brings together food co-ops throughout the northeast to increase the availability of healthy, sustainably grown, regionally sourced fruits and vegetables for consumers beyond the traditional local harvest season. This also provides a boost for the farmers producing these crops by extending their marketing season beyond the typical (and brief) growing season in our region.

The NFCA’s Farm to Freezer project began in 2011 while exploring opportunities for increasing regional food sourcing. They noticed that most of the frozen fruits and vegetables on co-op shelves were grown on large, industrial farms and processed by distant corporations.  In collaboration with local farmers, food cooperatives, and regional processors, they developed a pilot of frozen products grown, processed and packaged right here in the Northeast.

Since the launch of this project, food co-op shoppers have purchased nearly 20,000 pounds of Blueberries, Organic Broccoli, Organic Edamame, Organic Green Beans, and non-GMO Sweet Corn — all grown and packaged right here in the Northeast, and available only at your food co-op!

As you celebrate with friends and family, we invite you to “Keep it Local” with delicious produce from our region’s family farmers! Look for our Northeast Grown Frozen Fruits and Vegetables in the freezer section. They’re easy to find because they’re packed in a clear package so you can see what’s inside!

Click here for more information and a fantastic holiday green bean recipe!

 

July 1st is International Co-op Day

Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Celebrates International Co-op Day

Middlebury, Vermont – On Saturday, July 1st, Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op will join co-ops around the world in celebrating International Co-op Day, joining the United Nations (UN) and the International Co-operative Alliance in a commemoration held annually since 1923.  This year, at a time of increasing economic inequality, co-ops and credit unions are highlighting how their businesses can offer a solution by contributing to economic inclusion and building community wealth.

“Co-op Day is an opportunity for co-ops and their members to look at how we contribute to international efforts to address economic inequality,” said Bonnie Hudspeth, Member Programs Manager of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), a federation of more than 35 food co-ops across the Northeast, locally owned by more than 120,000 people from all walks of life. “When our needs are not being met — whether it’s for things like food, credit, jobs, or insurance — co-ops offer a way for people to meet those needs, together.”

The theme of inclusion builds on the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which seeks to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change over the next fifteen years. As democratic, community-based businesses, co-ops have a unique role to play in these efforts.

Here in our region, food co-ops have been at the forefront of efforts to build a fair, just and sustainable economy. And over the past few years, NFCA member co-ops have been working together to share strategies for ensuring that healthy food and co-op member-ownership are available to everyone.

Observed internationally on the first Saturday in July, Co-op Day coincides with Independence Day celebrations here in the United States. Based on the principle of one member one vote, co-ops reflect American ideals of democracy, mutual self-help, and equality.

“The co-operative model is unique in that it empowers people to work together to meet their needs through jointly owned, democratically governed businesses,” said Erbin Crowell, NFCA Executive Director. “It should come as no surprise that co-ops have been part of American history from our beginnings and continue to play a key role in building vibrant local communities, creating good, sustainable jobs, and contributing to a stronger, more resilient economy.”

For more information and a map of food co-ops, please visit www.nfca.coop.

Farm To Freezer

We’re having a Spring Sale on NFCA Farm-to-freezer fruits and veggies! What makes these blueberries special? Read on to learn about a cool collaboration between area food co-ops and farmers working together to make year-round regional produce an option for Co-op shoppers:

Being a year-round localvore is now a little easier thanks to a project bringing together food co-ops throughout the northeast to increase the availability of healthy, sustainably grown, regionally sourced fruits and vegetables for consumers beyond the traditional local harvest season. This also provides a boost for the farmers producing these crops by extending their marketing season beyond the typical (and brief) growing season in our region.

The project was spearheaded by the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), which is a cooperative federation bringing together over 30 food co-ops and start-up initiatives throughout New England that are working together toward a shared vision of a thriving co-operative economy rooted in a healthy, just, and sustainable regional food system and a vibrant community of cooperative enterprise.

The NFCA’s Farm to Freezer project began in 2011 while exploring opportunities for increasing regional food sourcing. They noticed that most of the frozen fruits and vegetables on co-op shelves were grown on large, industrial farms and processed by distant corporations.  In collaboration with local farmers, food cooperatives, and regional processors, they developed a pilot of frozen products grown, processed and packaged right here in the Northeast. Supported in part by two grants from the Eastern Corridor of National Co+op Grocers (NCG), the project enabled the NFCA to test consumer interest, processing infrastructure, and the availability of regional produce.

After two seasons, Farm to Freezer was put on hold as they worked with partners at the New England Farmers Union and Deep Root Organic Co-op to obtain a USDA Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) to explore options for future collaboration, processing, and distribution. Thanks to a new partnership with regional distributor Associated Buyers, they were able to make these products available again, exclusively through their member food co-ops.

Here’s a little more info about the fruits and veggies available and the farmers who grow them:

Blueberries

The delicious highbush blueberries are grown by Greig Farm, a diversified fruit and vegetable farm in Red Hook, NY, in operation for over 60 years. Greig Farm practices Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to maintain healthy, productive blueberry bushes.

Organic Broccoli

Established in 1818, Hepworth Farms is a seventh-generation family farm in Milton, NY, in the Hudson Valley. Today, the farm includes 250 acres of NOFA-certified land yielding more than 400 varieties of organic vegetables.

Organic Edamame

The organically grown edamame comes from Markristo Farm in Hillsdale, NY. Farmers Martin and Christa Stosiek are committed to healthy food systems and sustainable agriculture. They are active board members of Berkshire Grown.

Organic Green Beans

Martin and Christa Stosiek started Markristo Farm in 1988 on the land where Martin was raised in Hillsdale, NY. Their farm has grown from just a couple of acres to over 20 acres, producing a diverse crop of vegetables, cut flowers, and bedding plants. They work to support the ideals of a local food system and enjoy connecting with those who purchase their products.

Sweet Corn

Our delicious, non-GMO sweet corn is grown by Altobelli Farm, a third generation farm in Columbia County, NY. John Altobelli has been farming on this land for over 30 years, using minimum tillage, drip irrigation, cover cropping, and no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

We hope that you will try these products and support your local food co-ops as we work together to build a thriving co-operative economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable food system in our region and beyond!

 

NFCA Statement on Diversity & Inclusion

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is a co-operative federation bringing together 35 food co-ops and start-up initiatives throughout New England that are working together toward a shared vision of a thriving co-operative economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable regional food system and a vibrant community of co-operative enterprise. Our Co-op is a proud member of NFCA and in light of recent occurrences of political, social, and economic division, the NFCA Board of Directors released the following statement to clarify our collective position on these events:

 

For over 170 years, the Co-operative Movement has stood for ideals of democracy, empowerment and inclusion — ideals that are at the heart of the America’s journey as a nation, and that we continue to strive toward today. From our beginnings, co-ops have celebrated human diversity and worked to bring people together to meet our needs and achieve our aspirations. In short, we believe that we are better when we are welcoming, when we lift one another up, and when we work together to make life better for everyone.

In keeping with the principles of the International Co-operative Alliance, our food co-ops work to ensure that our doors are open to all persons, “without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.” As community-owned enterprises, we value respectful dialog, debate, and participation as expressions of economic democracy. As organizations of people who depend on a healthy planet to survive and thrive, we are committed to development policies and strategies that will sustain our communities over time.

Today, we are witnessing levels of political, social, and economic division that we believe do not reflect our ideals as a nation. While we honor differences of opinion, we are concerned that actions by this administration are fundamentally at odds with American principles of democracy, diversity and inclusion, as well as co-operative values of equality, solidarity, and caring for others. Specifically, we are seeing initiatives that we believe undermine human rights, immigration policies that exclude people based on their origin and religious beliefs, and initiatives that undercut efforts to slow climate change.

In this context, we reaffirm our commitment to being not just welcoming businesses, but empowering community enterprises. We seek to be a positive resource and influence, presenting opportunities for constructive dialog and collective action for change. And we will explore ways that we can reach beyond our walls, advocating for policies that will contribute to democracy and equality, advance human rights, and support environmental sustainability.

As a federation of community-owned food co-ops, we seek to empower people to enjoy healthier lives, build stronger local communities, and provide good jobs. We advocate for a deeper sense of corporate social responsibility that includes democratic ownership, the full expression of human diversity and the needs of future generations. In taking this stand, we acknowledge that we can always do better and must challenge ourselves to live up to our values and principles. By working together, we believe that we can help build stronger communities, a more inclusive nation, and a better world for everyone.

Sincerely,

The Board of Directors & Staff of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association

Co-ops Commit to a Sustainable Future

One of the many cool things about co-ops is that we like to work together. We collectively recognize that cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures. It’s one of the Seven Cooperative Principles that help guide and unify cooperatives of all kinds around the world.

One of the ways that our Co-op connects with other food co-ops in our region to share ideas and inspiration is through the Neighboring Food Cooperative Association (NFCA). The NFCA is a cooperative federation bringing together over 30 food co-ops and start-up initiatives across New England that are working together toward a shared vision of a thriving cooperative economy, rooted in a healthy, just, and sustainable regional food system and a vibrant community of co-operative enterprise. NFCA Executive Director Erbin Crowell recently shared with us the following message about an exciting initiative dubbed Co-ops for 2030 that is bringing together co-ops across the globe committed to building a more sustainable world through the adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We are so excited about this project, we wanted to share it with you:

As we enter the New Year, it may be easy to feel disheartened. But there is work to do, and co-ops can help.

2016 saw global temperatures that were the hottest on record, a steadily widening gap in wealth and opportunity, and electoral processes that have drifted far from our ideals of democracy, diversity, and dialog.

In this context, the continuing engagement of the co-operative movement in building a better world has been inspiring. At the International Summit of Co-operatives in Quebec last Fall, for example, delegates approved a declaration, “Co-operatives: The Power to Act,” calling on co-ops around the world to commit to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Approved in 2015, the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes seventeen goals that recognize that sustainability is not simply a matter of conserving resources but includes other priorities including the elimination of poverty, gender equality, and reducing wealth disparities.

“The co-operative model is now, more than ever, the answer the world needs to address the challenges it faces and to take advantage of the opportunities that arise,” states the Summit Declaration. “By committing to the Sustainable Development Goals in a measurable way and adopting growth objectives for 2030, the global co-operative movement is putting forward its collective expertise and its power to act.”

As member-owned enterprises driven by a distinct set of values and principles, co-ops combine both social and economic purposes. Our engagement in the Sustainable Development Goals is an opportunity to engage members in a positive vision for the future, and support shared business success by communicating our difference to consumers, activists, and policymakers. From energy conservation to clean power, good jobs to sustainable business, local economics to co-op to co-op trade, honoring diversity to Healthy Food Access and community empowerment, our Neighboring Food Co-ops have much to offer and much to gain from engagement in this effort to build a better world.

In support of this effort, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) has launched the Co-ops for 2030 campaign, which includes a website where co-ops can learn more about the SDGs, pledge their commitment to specific sustainability goals, and see what other co-ops are doing.

Erbin Crowell, Executive Director
Neighboring Food Co-op Association