What is a Co-op

Celebrate International Day of Cooperatives!

The United Nations International Day of Cooperatives is celebrated annually on the first Saturday of July. The aim of this celebration is to increase awareness of cooperatives, the work we do in our communities, and the things that make our business model unique. 

The theme of the International Day of Cooperatives for 2019 is COOPS 4 DECENT WORK. We are shouting out the message that cooperatives are people-centered enterprises characterized by democratic control that prioritize human development and social justice within the workplace.

Cooperative employment is far from a marginal phenomenon. According to a recent estimate, cooperatives around the world employ or are the main source of income for more than 279 million people—almost 10% of humanity’s total working population!

Here’s a look at the cooperative impact in New England:

Together, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association includes more than 35 food co-ops and start-ups that are
  • Locally owned by 150,000 people (up from 144,000 last year)
  • Provide more than 2,300 good local jobs (up from 2,000)
  • Generate $340 million in shared revenue (up from $330M)
  • and sell over $93 million in local products every year (up from $90M)

Beyond these numbers, different studies have confirmed that, by comparison with employment in other sectors, cooperative jobs…

  • tend to be more sustainable over time
  • show a smaller gap in earnings between higher and lower-paid positions, and
  • are more evenly distributed between rural and urban areas.

Co-operative businesses granted equal voting rights for women almost a century before most parliaments of the world did! 

As businesses driven by values, not just profit, cooperatives share internationally agreed principles and act together to build a better world through cooperation. Putting fairness, equality and social justice at the heart of the enterprise, cooperatives around the world are allowing people to work together to create sustainable enterprises that generate long-term jobs and prosperity. 

As people-centered enterprises, cooperatives have an important role to play in the creation of decent jobs and the social and economic empowerment of local communities. The second International Cooperative Principle, “Democratic member control,” enables communities to own and govern cooperatives jointly through democratic control that brings about inclusive and sustainable growth, leaving no one behind.

As member-owned, member-run and member-serving businesses, cooperatives empower people to collectively realize their economic aspirations, while strengthening their social and human capital and developing their communities.

So on Saturday, July 6th join us as we celebrate a future in which human development and social justice are priorities! Through #CoopsDay, local, national and global policymakers, civil society organizations and the public, in general, can learn how cooperatives contribute to a decent working environment.

To learn more visit: www.coopsday.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. 

Celebrating Co-op Month

October is International Co-op Month! We’re celebrating all month long with special store promotions on products made by cooperatives like Organic Valley, Equal Exchange, Alaffia, Frontier, Blue Diamond, Cabot, La Riojana, and Real Pickles, to name a few. We’re also celebrating this special month by spreading the word about the cooperative business model and what makes it so unique.

What is a Co-op?

There are over 2.5 million cooperatives around the globe, including food co-ops, agricultural co-ops, housing cooperatives, artists’ co-ops, credit unions, and even cooperative sports teams! Despite our diversity, we are all unified by the Seven Cooperative Principles, which are a set of ideals that form the basis for how cooperatives around the world operate. They were created in 1844 by the founders of the very first co-op, the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in Rochdale, England, and we are still guided by this same set of principles today.

In short, cooperatives exist to meet the needs of their member-owners and their communities. They are democratically controlled by their member-owners through an elected Board of Directors, and the profits generated by a cooperative are equitably distributed back to the member-owners and the community through patronage dividends and community philanthropic activities. “When you shop at your local food co-op, you’re getting more than good food for you and your family,” said Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA). “You are also joining with other people in your community to build local ownership, provide good jobs, support your local farmers and producers, and build stronger, more vibrant communities.”

From food co-ops to farmer co-ops, worker co-ops to credit unions, and housing co-ops to energy co-ops, many different types of co-operatives contribute to our communities and the economy. Co-ops are also more common than you might think: here in the United States, 1 in 3 people are members of at least one co-op or credit union. Nationwide, cooperatives create 2.1 million jobs and generate more than $650 billion in sales and other revenue annually. Because they are member-owned, co-ops empower people from all walks of life to work together to build a better world.

Our Co-op

Our cooperative began in the early 1970’s as a pre-order buying club with a goal of providing members with wholesome, natural foods. Fast forward 40 years and there are now over 4,700 member households in this community that own our Co-op! Our member-owners elect an eleven-member Board of Directors to develop policies which guide the fundamental direction of our cooperative and we have a General Manager to guide our staff in the day-to-day operations of the store.

Our Ends

Our Ends statement lists the reasons we exist as a co-op:

MNFC member-owners, customers, and the community benefit from

  • healthy foods
  • a vibrant local economy
  • environmentally sustainable and energy efficient practices
  • cooperative democratic ownership
  • learning about these values

We also have a buying criterion that guides our decision making about what types of products we offer. Our buying criterion includes a strong emphasis on local and organic products and we currently work with over 400 different local farmers and producers to make that happen.

Community Impact

This year’s Co-op Month theme is “Co-ops Commit . . .”, which invites cooperatives to complete the slogan in a way that reflects their priorities and visions for the future. We’re excited for this opportunity to celebrate how our food co-op is committed to this wonderful community. As mentioned previously, we are locally owned by more than 4,700 member-owner households and profits generated by our cooperative are equitably distributed back to the member-owners and the community through patronage dividends and community philanthropic activities. We provide jobs to over 90 people and pay more than $3.5 million to local farmers and producers every year. $1.3 million of that goes directly to Addison County farmers and producers. Last year, we were able to donate $51,000 to various Addison County-based nonprofits and donate over 12,000 pounds of food to local food shelves. And we couldn’t do any of it without your support!

We’re awfully proud to serve this community and to be so well supported by our member-owners. When a community-owned store like our Co-op thrives, we see it is a reflection of a thriving, healthy community. As we like to say,  It’s YOUR Co-op – own it!