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building a

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Cooperative Community Fall 2012

Inside: Co-op Values in Action


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Table of Contents

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Value Talk Co-op Values in Action Co-op Companies Fair Trade Companies Other Co-op Examples

cooperativecommunity.com

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Publisher: George Keller © Copyright Fall 2012 Layout & Design by: FascinationDesign.com Contact us at: Co-op Network Attn: George Keller 3381 Royalton Turnpike Road S. Royalton, VT 05068 georgekeller@innevi.com (802) 763-7472

Co-op Values in Action Over 100 new food co-ops have organized in the past few by a few people. Many of the large co-ops experience years as people turn to “Co-op Principles & Values” to member apathy because of the lack of access for particireplace the greed and corruption they see in our govern- pation. The large food co-ops have been using a system ment and capitalist corporations. They are using their of Policy Governance which when properly used defines co-ops as a hub to build local economies (page 16). As roles and provides a balance of power. A number of the new smaller co-ops pointed out on page are using member 6, new members labor and “Member are using their coOnly” policies to op as a “Trailhead” keep the operation which provides the understandable and access point to the 1 Voluntary and Open Membership members involved. folks who are build 2 Democratic Member Control ing a local econ 3 Member Economic Participation Building A Coopomy and working 4 Autonomy and Independence erative Community on social issues. magazine and webThe new food co 5 Education, Training and Information site present examops come in many 6 Cooperation among Cooperatives ples of the new food sizes. Some start 7 Concern for Community co-ops, other co-ops out doing millions and companies that of dollars in sales are putting co-op like River Valley (page 16). Many others are smaller and offer hands on values into action. If you are disgusted with the utter experience for members in daily decision-making and lack of concern for human suffering and the welfare of the earth displayed in our corporations and government operation (pages 9 & 11). then read here about folks who are doing something difCapitalism and Democracy certainly have many good ferent and learn new models of behaving so we can have aspects but these systems in this country have been a fair shot at democracy. usurped by the 1% who make a mockery of the freedoms and opportunities these systems should provide. Coop- If you feel inspired to start a new co-op, try starting here: eratives are also susceptible to being heavily influenced www.foodcoopinitiative.coop

Co-op Principles:


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Values Talk Excerpted from the River Valley Market newsletter Spring 2012 edition “We’re Stronger Together” by Board President Jade Barker

there is strength in mutual self-help and where there is a collective responsibility for the well-being of all its owners; an extended family where we jointly strive to encourage honesty, openness, social responsibility, and fostering peace, equal rights and opportunity for all through cooperation!

By default, injustices that permeate our society will affect our co-op. Power imbalances (often based on gender, race, ethnicity, historic wealth, etc.), unfair economic structures, and corporate domination of our food supply are still with us. Our mission in the midst of all this is to build a “just marketplace that nourishes the community”.

The above describes the kind of people we want to be, and the important characteristics we want to encourage—our hopes and future aspirations. It talks about our values, how we want to be treated and how we want to treat others. It includes all of our stakeholders, recognizing their contributions and their worth, which includes all of our owners, employees, management and the extensive list of our farmers and vendors.

Excerpted from the River Valley Market newsletter Spring 2012 edition “Austin Miller Co-op Hero Awards” Cooperatives are based on the values of working together to create self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative member-owners believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.

Excerpted from the Ashland Food Cooperative newsletter More than Food May/June 2012 edition “Report from the Board” by President Gwyneth Bowman Cooperative: a destination where we can purchase healthy organic and natural food for our families; a business that is owned and run jointly by us its owners in a democratic manner; a caring group of people where

Excerpted from the Whole Earth newsletter Food for Thought March 2012 edition “Aiming High --- and to Please” by Lindsay Van Beek An eclectic array of people from our community comprise our customer base here at Whole Earth Grocery. Some seek to attain a higher level of nutrition in their diets, many are environmentally and socially conscientious shoppers,

...build a “just marketplace that nourishes the community.”


and there are ever more of us who consider ourselves “foodies,” people who identify with a movement that involves the understanding of food as an entity unto itself. How and where a food is grown/produced, developed, distributed, and prepared, sold, and consumed is accepted and understood to be a social issue, possibly now more than ever. Foodies understand that food choices are often statements of political and moral expression. The root of this movement is at the heart of our beloved co-op and is the very foundation from which it grew.

5 Excerpted from the Oryana newsletter Natural Food News Jan/Feb 2012 edition “2012 Is The International Year of Co-ops” Why Co-ops Are Great: Co-ops are owned and democratically controlled by their members—the people who use the co-op’s services or buy its goods—not by investors. Co-ops return surplus revenues to members proportionate to their use of the cooperative, not proportionate to their ownership share. Co-ops are primarily motivated by service to their members, not by profit. Members have a say in the governance of their co-op by electing their Board of Directors and/or running for the Board themselves.


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Excerpted from the Oryana newsletter Natural Food News Jan/Feb 2012 edition “What Co-ops Are All About” by President Amy Tennis “A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democraticallycontrolled enterprise.” – International Cooperative Alliance What a powerful statement. I wonder how many of us think about this as we’re pushing our carts around, making our grocery selections at Oryana? As our world economy spirals and swirls, the Oryana economy is stable and growing. Ironic? The Oryana Board of Directors contemplated this phenomenon at a recent retreat. We discussed how we have come to distrust the vertically integrated profit making likes of mega stores and banks. Capitalism is a good thing, but without the moderation of antitrust legislation and effective banking regulation, more and more of our hard-earned dollars are lining the pockets of the privileged. How comforting then, for us to realize that by creating an alternative economy using the cooperative model, more of our hard-earned money stays right here where it is needed most. But our cooperative venture isn’t purely economics. By definition, Oryana supports our community’s social and cultural needs as well. In Steve’s most recent Ends monitoring report on community, he said, “I do believe in Oryana as a trailhead.” Oryana provides the access point

for many individuals and groups in our area doing work to improve our environment and provide social justice. Because of Oryana they are supported in their work. Further, when the GM and staff spend time and energy with these groups and individuals, it helps form an interconnectedness that magnifies their efforts and fosters mutual support among them. In addition to the community grant program, we use a portion of the resources created by our cooperative enterprise to support ecologically regenerative and socially just organizations and events.

Excerpted from The Ozark Natural Foods newsletter March & April 2012 edition “Linkage” by Sue Graham The Board just adopted a set of revised Ends. Our Ends address our role in the community, providing food and services, promoting local producers, maintaining strict standards of organic foods and our intent to be a model of environmental stewardship. We added our intent to provide information and education about cooperative values, food and consumer issues, and relevant environmental issues.


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Excerpted from the Everman Natural Foods newsletter The Healthy Alternative May/June 2012 edition “Tell The World You Own It” compiled by Samantha Williams The cooperative model is a business model that is based on values and focuses on fairness, transparency and democracy. This valuesbased focus doesn’t mean standard business practices—like efficiency, effectiveness and profitability—take a back seat. Far from it. Cooperative seek

excellence in all aspects of their business while upholding their values and principles. A co-op is a business model that allows a group of people to combine their resources to meet their common needs. Grocery co-ops are one such kind of co-op. They are the true pioneers of the natural and organic food industry and they’re deeply committed to providing delicious, high quality, healthy food; supporting local, sustainable agriculture; and strengthening their communities. Cooperatives, including grocery co-ops, are much more than brick and mortar stores. Cooperatives are built on the idea that local owners, not far-away investors, gain the benefits of business success. Simply put, cooperation is for everyone.

“simply put, cooperation is for everyone.”


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Co-op Values In Action Sunsets West Co-op

www.sunsetswestcoop.weebly.com Our Philosophy comes from our Mission. Sunsets West Co-op is organized to produce, purchase and distribute goods and services for the mutual benefit of its members and patrons, offering a variety of healthy goods for patrons’ choice. Funds raised are re-invested in the co-op for growth. Our Co-op aims to: • inspire and encourage creative energy within the community • engage people in living their dreams • encourage community members to co-operate with one another and nourish their community and its improvement • involve members in community garden and cottage industries.

Our experience has been wonderful. We are a group of communities who lost our bank and grocery store as the recession started. We have a combined population of 3,330 people according to the census but a majority of these are black single males which accounts for the population of the maximum-security correction center in our area. Other than that we have small rural communities and people living in comparative social isolation. Many years back now this was a thriving area with a good income base. But that changed. Over the 5 years after the grocery store closed and the bank left town the economy folded, bringing drugs and addictive behaviors to a new high. Above: Old building Below: Our new Clallam Bay Business As the Co-op started up in this Center Mall with refurbished totem pole environment it created suspicion. complete with ADA access new in 2012 Most people had let go of the the year of Co-op’s..

Our inspiration comes from the daily living of the spiritual journey through the manifestation of right action. As we live these principles the outpouring of benefits is there for the whole of the community to see, learn from and appreciate.

cooking skills that they had, but after 4.5 years now it has brought sunshine and new motivation to the hearts and lives of many of our people. They are pulling together to make a safer and better life for themselves and this rubs off onto others. We have a community garden, home industries and co-operation between the players.


We now have 95 memberships and 155 members. We are attracting attention as the only Food Co-op in our county, and as we are considered to be the red headed stepchild to the bigger cities in our County. This has caused folk in local government to sit up and take notice. We are now represented on the Planning Commission for the County, we are assisting the startup of the Clallam Food Policy Council, we are represented on the advisory board for the Peninsula College Bakery program that is running at the Correction Center and all in all we are happy with the upgrade this has brought to our group of combined communities on the Northwest Coast of the US. One of our members has just bought and renovated a building for us. We now share this building with two other businesses, so we have formed a Mall in our small town. We are putting in a local healthy home style eatery with guest cooks accredited in our area and have permits to serve local food with an emphasis on healthy choices. This has not been done before here. We are ready to start up our own Credit Union, as there is still no bank closer than 35 miles away over the mountain. The master gardener program is offering to put in an edible herb garden to adorn our site. We feel that being isolated geographically is a good thing for our Co-op, its support communities and its personality. Thank you for this opportunity to express our mission. We are known as “the place with great tastes�. Our people are loving the magic of manifesting a professional and practical community resource known as Sunsets West Co-operative where happiness is expected and the price tag is affordable. We are working on a business that is belonging in every sense of the word to the community. It is their donations that are making it all work. The budget is small but the offerings are huge. Furniture, skills, investors, member worker owners, it all comes from the home base. We are proud of our progress and presentation. Our initial location was petite and from which we were able to grow 2007 to 2012. Sunsets West Co-op recently moved to their new location at 16795 Hwy 112, Clallam Bay, WA.

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Tacoma Food Co-op www.tacomafoodcoop.com

and guidance of other co-ops, but on August 26, 2011 the Tacoma Food Co-op opened its doors for business.

In the fall of 2006, a group of Tacoma residents recognized the need for an affordable urban grocery that would provide local, organic, and natural foods. They envisioned a store that would become the nucleus of a much larger circle of relationships that would directly impact the local food supply and the health and well-being of the larger Tacoma community.

The Tacoma Food Co-op provides educational opportunities and access to healthy foods, and serves as a source of support for individuals and local businesses that practice sustainable, environmentally sound management. Our greatest hope is to have our store foster the health and wellness of all the people of Tacoma and create a strong sense of community spirit.

The group decided a cooperative business model would best meet their needs. They looked to neighboring co-ops for guidance and assistance, and found it, in abundance, and that’s what makes co-ops so great: cooperation among cooperatives. Five years later, the Tacoma Food Coop is in its first year of business. It took a huge membership drive, lots of support from the community, countless hours from countless volunteers, and the generous help

Are you in the process of opening a co-op? We encourage you to contact us (info@tacomafoodcoop. com) or other cooperatives for help, encouragement, or whatever you might need. We love our Tacoma community, and we love our community of cooperatives.

Great Basin Community Food Cooperative www.greatbasinfood.coop

Community Supported Food Coop The Great Basin Community Food Cooperative in Reno, NV has been a homegrown effort since its inception 7 years ago. Many transformations have taken place in our Coop’s history which would not have been possible without the support of our community members and local business owners. Our first meeting took place on September 14th, 2005, in the home of one of our founders. We started as an independent buying club. For the first 6 months our members picked up their orders from the kitchen of two of our founders members. Then, a local business owner provided

a location in the garage that adjoined her piercing studio. Eight months later, the owners of Sound and Fury record store, let us set up our first storefront in the back of their space, rent free. Quincy Natural Food donated our first cash register. At this point we were run entirely by volunteers. We became one of the only places in Reno, outside of farmers markets, where residents could purchase food from local producers. In 2007 we became the first officially incorporated food Coop in the state of Nevada and hired our first two paid employees.


11 By spring 2008 we had grown too big to remain at the record store. In April 2009 we moved to a small, 490 sq. ft house in downtown Reno. Our membership more than doubled and our staff increased to seven paid employees. By 2011 we needed to expand again. We set our sights on a spacious building a few blocks away. We turned to our community to help us with this massive undertaking. We were able to raise $420,000 in member, $60,000+ in donations, $110,000+

in member equity and over $86,000 in grants, bringing our grand total to over $700,000. The move and expansion was fueled by the hard work of hands on owners, local artists and skilled craft persons. They contributed in countless ways. They helped us with moving and stocking inventory, planting our edible garden, and every other imaginable task. Local craftsmen built the majority of our store fixtures; materials included recycled barn wood and bicycle parts. Our new store features murals and artwork from several local artists. In the center of our main floor stands a cob-built bristlecone pine tree. The tree was designed by an area artist, the materials were donated and dozens of volunteer hands helped sculpt the tree. In just seven years a business that began humbly, in a small living room, now dwells in a 3-story 7,000 sq foot building, employs 22 paid staff members and buys food and goods from more than 60

local producers. It is the loving intention and joyful effort of our community that has helped us grow. Written by Allison Prater


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Greene Hill Food Co-op www.greenehillfood.coop

The 100-percent member-owned and -operated Greene Hill Food Co-op is now open at 18 Putnam Avenue in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn—providing affordable, organic and local groceries for Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, and Prospect Heights, and other neighborhoods. As neighbors, we strive to reflect and support the community in which we live, and we actively work to ensure that our Co-op is accessible to all. Greene Hill is a fully “working co-op,” meaning that members shop at the store, work at the store, and co-own the store. Through the cooperation of all of its members, the store becomes a part of the community, with its members taking part in all aspects of decisionmaking, from what inventory is stocked to how the store is run. “Greene Hill Food Co-op membership has grown more than 26 percent since January 1st, with 800 total members and counting,” said Outreach Coordinator Renée Bergan. “We think this remarkable growth makes it clear that local, organic, and sustainable food is what our Brooklyn communities prefer, and are willing to work for to save money. It’s exciting and empowering to be a part of a community-run endeavor that’s getting stronger every day.”

The Greene Hill Food Co-op requires all members to work two hours every four weeks, either in the store or on a committee that helps to run the store. The Co-op is currently open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.—though hours are expanding quickly as membership grows. Membership is open to everyone. Joining requires a refundable $150 investment and a nonrefundable $25 administrative fee. For members who qualify, the Co-op offers a payment plan with reduced administrative fee. The Co-op accepts EBT/SNAP, debit cards, cash, check, and money orders. All adults in a household sharing food must join, and any member can work another member’s shift. Since 2011, the store has sold a range of local, affordable, organic, and sustainable food through its Buying Club as a way to gauge inventory supply and demand, and establish relationships with local farmers and other suppliers. The success of the Buying Club also helped expand membership, and keep the store’s doors open for neighbors to learn more about the Greene Hill Food Co-op. Recent price comparisons show that Greene Hill Food Coop members can save 20 to 40 percent off of their weekly grocery bill for better quality products. They are able to


13 keep their prices low because as memberowners they are also workers, greatly reducing operating and staffing costs. As membership grows and sales volume increases, bulk purchasing will enable the Co-op to lower prices even more. The shopping selection spans a wide variety of locally sourced fruits and vegetables; dairy products; organic and/ or grass-fed, free-range meats; highquality dried beans, grains, herbs and spices; fair-trade chocolate and coffee; and staples like flour, sugar, canned and jarred goods, and bread. The store also carries environmentally safe cleaning supplies, and will soon begin stocking wild and sustainably farmed fish, natural pet foods, vitamins and dietary supplements, and more.

It’s basic to our mission as a co-op that we have a positive impact on and relationship with our community in every way possible. With this mission in mind: • We value the spirit of cooperation and a democratic process in which each individual has a voice, and each member works to support the Co-op. • We strive to offer a range of local, affordable, organic, and sustainable food. • As neighbors, we strive to reflect the community in which we live and we actively work to ensure that the Co-op is accessible to all. • We seek to develop the Co-op as an ethical entity, using transparent and socially responsible buying and selling practices.

Arena Market & Café www.arenaorganics.org

We are Point Arena’s locally owned, locally serviced coop selling a bountiful variety of organic produce, farm fresh eggs, organic meats, fish from the Mendoicno Pacific, raw foods, organic baked goods, a fine selection of coffees and teas, and more! The mission of the Arena Market & Cafe is to be the foundation of a trusted, cooperative marketplace of goods and services that provide for the needs of our diverse community. We, like all cooperatives, are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.

We aim to offer a diversity of products with an emphasis on organic, minimally processed and healthful foods that are sustainably produced, as well as locally and regionally sourced whenever possible. We seek to avoid products that depend on the exploitation of others. We support non-toxic, sustainable agriculture. We respect the environment. We strive to reduce the impact of our lifestyles on the world we share with other species and future generations. We recycle. We try to lead by example, educating ourselves and others about health and nutrition, cooperation and the environment.

As a member-owned and operated food store, Arena Mar- We are committed to diversity and equality, and we strive ket & Cafe is an alternative to commercial profit-oriented to make the Coop welcoming and accessible to all and to business. We strive to be a responsible and ethical em- respect the opinions, needs and concerns of every memployer and neighbor, as well as serve as a buying agent for ber. We seek to maximize participation at every level, from policy making to our members rather than a selling agent We welcome all who respect these values. running the store. for industry.


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New Orleans Food Co-op www.nolafood.coop

The New Orleans Food Co-op (NOFC) began organizing in 2002 to create grassroots solutions to increase community access to fresh, healthy food. Significant hurdles in opening the NOFC store-front included dealing with the hardships of the post-Katrina Federal levee breaks and securing funding in the current lending climate; challenges exacerbated by the reality that in New Orleans, the median income is nearly 30% lower than the national average. Despite these obstacles, the NOFC mobilized over 1,800 owner-members and leveraged the equity, loans, and other resources necessary to open a 4,100 sf retail grocery store in the New Orleans Healing Center (an umbrella organization housing over 20 businesses that are committed to making a positive impact on the community). It is the NOFC’s belief that New Orleans citizens deserve a food co-op, which offers access to healthy food and a mission of sharing the cooperative economic model, for the same reasons it was such a monumental task to open one. On October 10th 2011, the NOFC opened it’s doors and on November 12th, we celebrated with a grand opening festival lovingly entitled “Harvest.” This store is the first full-service grocery store to open in its 8th ward neighborhood since the Federal levee breaks and owner-members are finally sharing the benefits of 10 years of hard work, financial investment, and last but not least, faith. The store dramatically increases access to healthy food for those living in the St. Roch, Marigny, Bywater, Lower Ninth Ward and Holy Cross neighborhoods that surround us. Thousands of people now have improved access to

a groceries, seven days a week, from 9am-9pm. It is no accident that the doors are clearly marked, “Everyone welcome!” NOFC has consciously traveled outside the conventional model of opening natural foods stores in neighborhoods that have the highest income and education levels. As a mission-driven business, the NOFC has intentionally selected an underserved area with mixed income and education levels as our location. Thus far, this venture is proving successful, as weekly sales are averaging $40K, right on track for $2.1m year one sales projected in the study. Like most consumer co-ops, in addition to operating a grocery store, the New Orleans Food Co-op is mission driven and committed to advancing community education about co-ops, as well as increasing awareness of nutrition and the effects that food choices have on public health, the local economy, workers and the environment. The NOFC has yet another challenge -- getting fresh, locally produced foods into the store. While New Orleans has some great gardeners, farmers markets, and restaurants that buy local, the city is severely lacking the resources and infrastructure necessary to distribute the products of local vendors. “This challenge is another opportunity for us to be a leader in the local food economy” said Lori Burge, General Manager of the NOFC.. “Our mission includes promoting local and regional food production. As a result, we’re already supporting producers


15 in navigating licensing issues, discussing the role and importance of organic farming, and industry standards for packaging and marketing. Signage and in-store demos function on two levels: educating our shoppers and supporting local entrepreneurs. Additionally, the NOFC is committed to reflecting it’s unique community and this is outlined in the NOFC’s Ends Statement. “We’ve been working hard to build a co-op that represents our community and are looking deeper at the barriers that prevent broader community participation in the NOFC. Diversity of staff, board, owners and shoppers is only one way of addressing this. There is a long standing history of racism and class issues that effect food justice and access, which we can see quite literally in our neighborhood. This history directly effects the food choices made by those living on limited financial resources. Given these issues, when you pair the NOFC’s commitment to diversity and social justice with our value of increasing access to healthy foods, there is a lot of food for thought.” At the NOFC, we understand that ensuring that everyone feels welcome means more than hanging a sign. Hiring from the community, creating a culture where every customer is respected as a valued part of the co-op, providing the highest standard of customer service to all and playing music that will appeal to a wide audience are important ways the NOFC can create a climate of accessibility. The NOFC’s product mix is another way to bridge the gap between new and experienced healthy-food shoppers. Finding the right balance between

organic and fair trade items and commercial, brand-name groceries is an important way for the NOFC to appeal to our neighborhood. “As a co-op, we work to advance our mission while responding to the needs and expectations of our shoppers,” says Burge. “Our community is very price conscious and for many, the product selection of the co-op is new. Given this, our ability to satisfy our shoppers is connected to our openness in offering some options from standard conventional lines alongside organic, local and fair-trade products. These choices are what our owner-members have asked for and we’re listening.” “There is probably no other city more challenging to open a co-op grocery store with an emphasis on natural & local foods,” Burge exclaims, “but the New Orleans community has so passionately rallied around the NOFC that I’m very positive about our future. The need is so great and the

expectations are so large; this is surely a great adventure. And I believe that the fact that we are figuring all of these issues out while operating a cooperatively owned business makes us a model for other co-op’s. Of course, we are so thankful for the co-op community. We could not do what we’re doing without your history, support and inspiration. “This article was excerpted from Cooperative Grocer, Spring 2012 and was written by Lori Burge, NOFC General Manager and Elizabeth Underwood, NOFC Outreach Coordinator”.


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Excerpted from the Marquette Food Co-op Newsletter Food For Thought Summer 2012 edition Hub Talk: Chicago by Community Liaison Natasha Lantz

Excerpted from the River Valley Market newsletter River Valley Market Spring 2012 edition “Building Our Team” by General Manager Rochelle Prunty

Our Co-op is immersed in local food and agriculture. I’m grateful to report that our food co-op is doing really This is evidenced by our work to create a U.P.-wide well as we approach our store’s 4th birthday on April 30th. During the startFood Hub, our reup process we had faith cent sponsorships of that opening a food co-op the U.P. Ag for To...a food hub is, “A business or in Northampton was an morrow Conference organization that actively manages the important thing to do… and GAP (Generally aggregation, distribution and marketing then just as we opened Accepted Practices) in 2008 , the economy hit Food Safety trainof source-identified local and regional tough times. Fortunately, ing for farmers, our food products, primarily from small to we opened just in time to continued work with mid-sized producers to wholesalers, be able to help support hoop houses, comlocal farmers and vendors munity gardens, and retailers, and/or institutional buyers.” farmers markets, as well as our ongoing work to cultivate new relationships and maintain ongoing ones with the local farmers supplying food to our store.

... able to help support local farmers and vendors ...

I would like to explain food hubs, since that term is becoming a buzz word these days. One commonly accepted definition of a food hub is, “A business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified local and regional food products, primarily from small to mid-sized producers to wholesalers, retailers, and/or institutional buyers.” Our co-op has been participating at the state level as part of a group working to develop food hubs in Michigan. The idea of food hubs has already taken hold in other states, and food hub development is being encouraged by the USDA (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture) as well as by our own MDA.

with an added source of revenue through their sales to the co-op and we’ve continued to grow our local purchases every year. We are on track to exceed $15 million in sales for our 4th year, which is well above the $13 million level we had projected for our 10th year. Our membership has grown to include more than 5,000 area families, building our democratic ownership base ever wider. We have nearly 100 employees, we’ve increased our compensation levels, and are closing in on hitting the financial targets that we set to make added wage scale increases feasible this year.


Mass Local Food Cooperative

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www.masslocalfood.org

In central Massachusetts, members of Mass Local Food (www.masslocalfood.org), can buy locally sourced vegetables, meat, chicken, artisan cheese and all-natural baked goods—to name just a few of the products—every month of the year. They go to the website, check out what’s for sale and fill an online shopping cart. On the first Friday of the month, products are delivered to a distribution site where volunteers sort and fill orders. Members of the coop pick up their items at one of five additional locations in neighboring towns. The online co-op, first in the state, has been growing steadily since it launched in June, 2009 with 40 members; Mass Local Food now has over 400 members with more than three dozen local farms selling products through the co-op. For farmers like Andy and Kerrie Hertel, who raise cows, pigs and chickens on their 49-acre Maple Heights Farm, the co-op provides an important source of customers. Finding people who are willing to pay a lot more per pound for grass-fed beef and pastured pork than they would in supermarkets is a challenge for small farmers who rarely have enough time for marketing efforts. Connecting the two groups—farmers and customers—has been the goal of the co-op’s founder, Kelley O’Connor, a software engineer from Sterling, Mass. She got help starting Mass Local Food from the Oklahoma Food Cooperative; since Mass Local Food went online it has been sustained by a network of volunteers.

On the first Friday of the month volunteers sort orders as sellers arrive with cases of frozen meat and chickens or boxes of produce and baked goods. Invoices are checked to make sure customers get what they ordered. Everything is kept chilled or frozen as needed in low temperature coolers. As orders are dropped off early in the afternoon, sellers are paid on the spot. Mass Local Food’s one-time membership fee of $50 enables the co-op to pay producers in such a timely fashion. “I’m amazed at what we’ve accomplished,” says Kelley. “$15,000 in sales this spring and 90% of that went to local farmers.” S h e r y l Va i l l e t t e , a founding member of Mass Local Food points out the growing number of people who are buying local. “I’m proud that I had a hand in bringing healthy sustainable food to people and I’m proud of the relationships we’re building.” she said.

Editor ’s Note: Online Co-ops -

One of the most important innovations from the new wave of food co-ops is the Online co-op. These co-ops have the ability to connect all the participants in a local economy and provide a ready market for local food startup ventures. Oklahoma Co-op provides help for starting an Online co-op at www.Oklahomafood.coop


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Cooperative Companies Organic Maple Cooperative - Maple Valley www.maplevalleysyrup.coop

of representatives from all areas of membership, makes all major business decisions for the cooperative. For this reason, the Organic Maple Cooperative is a much more socially responsible business due to its bottom up/democratic structure involving all member-owners.

Organic Maple Cooperative was one of the first multi-stakeholder cooperatives in the nation. They have member-owners that are producers (farmers), vendors (processors), customers (businesses buying and selling their products), investors, and employees (folks working in the office, warehouse, and bottling facility). This allows all individuals and businesses that have an interest in the co-op succeeding, to become members. The Organic Maple Co-op’s structure as a cooperative business sets it apart from other maple syrup companies. All of its members are able to vote in the board of director elections. They can also run for a board member position if they would like. The board, which is composed

Today the cooperative is going strong with 15 producer, 4 employee, 60 customer, 1 vendor, and 10 investor owners. To learn more about the Organic Maple Cooperative, visit their website at: www.maplevalleysyrup.coop. This was excerpted from an article by Bjorn Bergman in the March/April 2012 issue of Pea Soup, the Viroqua Food Cooperative newsletter.

Pachamama Coffee Cooperative www.pacha.coop

Ownership matters! Pachamama Coffee Cooperative is 100% farmerowned and democratically governed. Based in California, “Pacha” is owned by family farmers in Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and Ethiopia. Formed in 2001, Pacha is the first global co-op of coffee farmers selling directly to consumers in the United States. The co-op’s board of directors is 100% comprised of farmers, and that is unprecedented in the world of Fair Trade! Many of Pachamama’s member-owners – like Roberto Acuna, have never applied chemicals to their land, which today is coveted for its rich soil and unique climate. Roberto and his wife Rosa are members of COCLA, a cooperative of more than 8,500 small producers in the Andes of Peru. COCLA was a founding member of

Pachamama in 2001, when it incorporated in the United States. Since then other producer groups have joined Pachamama and elect one representative to serve on the Pachamama’s board of directors. Pachamama provides detailed information about each unique coffee it brings to market, including: Arabica varietals, soil conditions, type of processing, certifications, and an introduction to the farmers themselves. Committed to a transparent supply chain, much of this information is available online. Please contact us to learn more about this unique farmer enterprise. We specialize in serving food cooperatives and cafes. www.pacha.coop. Phone: (530) 204-7554.


Organic Valley

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www.organicvalley.coop Most folks think of Organic Valley and Organic Prairie as sources of delicious and healthful organic foods. What they don’t know is that the key to our success is our cooperative business model, known as the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP). CROPP Cooperative C-E-I-E-I-O George Siemon has summed up our cooperative world as neatly as anyone could. “We are a social experiment disguised as a business,” he says. This is true at many levels for individuals, communities, and ecosystems, as well as the animals, both wild and domestic, that inhabit them. If a company is going to make a difference in today’s world, it has to think differently. To us, that means thinking, acting and working cooperatively. It starts with the farmers who share their wisdom and the fruits of their labor with us, their neighbors. It benefits the land that we care for as it cares for us. Nature is our teacher because, after all, the earth is the best model of cooperation. In almost 25 years since we joined together as a handful of organic farmers, our co-op, through the Organic Valley brand, has become a leading source of organic milk in the nation. The owners of the co-op now number 1,687 farm families, who are located from coast to coast and most points in between. We credit our success to the partnership society—the cooperative—we’ve created between farmers, employees and citizens. Each plays a vital role in the balance of our health and stability. To recognize the contributions of all, we have adopted a profit sharing model that we deploy in those years we achieve our modest 1.5% profit goal. Profits exceeding this profit goal are split between all who had a hand in the cooperative’s success: • 45% of profits to farmers • 45% of profits to employees • 10% of profits to community CROPP has also created the country’s first and largest organic-specific grant-

ing fund focused on advancing organic food and farming research, education and advocacy—all funded by CROPP Cooperative farmer-owners. Our co-op was born with a mission “to promote regional farm diversity and economic stability by the means of organic agricultural methods and the sale of certified organic products.” The integrity of our mission is inherent in our commitment to organic education and delivering the highest quality, strictly organic products to consumers, schools, and a variety of manufacturers looking for organic ingredients. Our commitment to the cooperative model and to our mission has enabled us to keep farm families on the land and pay them the actual, unsubsidized cost of conscientious, sustainable, organic agriculture. There are no shortcuts, but there are plenty of challenges. We have learned that though our challenges are many, when we join our cooperative hearts and minds, the solutions are endless.


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Frontier Co-op

www.frontiercoop.com Serving Many Communities Our commitment to community at Frontier Natural Products Coop starts down the road and extends around the world. As a rural Iowa co-op with a national membership and interna-

tional supplier partnerships, the way we do business affects many people in a lot of places. Our stated goal regarding community participation is “to have a positive impact on the communities where we do business — to be a good citizen in the communities impacted by our business.” And we pursue this goal with transparency, publicly reporting in our annual Sustainability Report on our donations and the organizations, causes, and activities we support each year. Our local community benefits from our commitment in several ways. An employee-run Community Giving Team allocates funds each year to community events, functions, and organizations supported by our employees. The Team also organizes activities such as the annual Breast Cancer Run and The Big Brothers Big Sisters annual fund-raiser. In addition, Frontier provides each employee with eight hours of paid volunteer time to help out in his or her community.

We’re proud to be a co-op, and we try to represent responsibly our community of co-op members — many of whom are locally based co-ops themselves. Our co-op structure is at the root of our open, honest approach to doing business, and we value interaction with both our members and the larger co-op community and try to do business in a way that is consistent with their values — honestly and fairly and with a concern for both social responsibility and the environment. A leader in the natural products community, we have championed organic agriculture since the 1980s and adopted the values of sustainability before the term became popular. Our SO1% Fund gives back 1% of all of our Simply Organic brand sales — over half a million dollars so far — to promote and support organic agriculture, and we are leaders in green business practices. Our efforts to be a good citizen of the world community are extensive. We made grants totaling $50,853 in 2011 to non-profits that “support dynamic, social, educational, and environmental causes” through our Frontier Foundation, mostly for disaster relief. A Well Earth sourcing partner in Madagascar — a co-op of small farmers that provides us with vanilla— received an especially impactful grant of $40,000 this year to build 49 wells in 38 villages. Before the wells were built, villagers often walked several miles to a river for water. Our aromatherapy brand, Aura Cacia, provided $14,106 to build and furnish a pre-school for rural Madagascar children of ylang ylang oil farmers. We’ve made it our business to be a helpful participant in the many communities our co-op is a part of. Whether it’s cleaning a nearby roadside ditch, working to promote sustainable business practices, or digging wells for remote villagers, we’re trying to make things better.


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Fair Trade Companies Divine Cholcolate

www.divinechocolateusa.com N’nobua is a community tradition among cocoa farmers in Ghana. N’nobua means “if you help me, I will help you.” Cocoa farming is hot, tedious work performed from the early morning hours in the rainforest. It’s more than one can do alone so friends and neighbors help one another gather the cocoa pods and break them open for fermentation. It’s a great opportunity to share information about what works and what doesn’t to address the many challenges farmers face with their cocoa crops. It’s also a time to do what friends and neighbors do when they get together – share stories, gossip, laugh, talk about their children and their lives.

community, including its children. By creating a formal way for women to participate, Kuapa could ensure that women could access money from the sale of cocoa, use that money to feed children, send them to school, and they could also have a say in how Kuapa’s Fairtrade premium is spent. Women’s influence can be seen in the significant investment Kuapa has made in building schools, creating scholarships and creating additional income generation opportunities for women. The first woman president of Kuapa Kokoo was elected two years ago and this is a testament to the success of their leadership training and the widespread acceptance of women’s leadership throughout the organization.

Fair Trade Chocolate – It’s Divine

Organizing, both formally and informally like n’nobua, is one of the most important opportunities that membership in a cooperative provides to family farmers such as the 60,000 cocoa farmers who belong to Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union in Ghana. Kuapa is one of the most well established and respected Fairtrade farmers organizations because it has formalized farmer participation and grassroots democracy at a significant scale. Kuapa has also prioritized the role of women in democracy and this makes them unique. Why the focus on women? Kuapa recognized that women have a significant role in cocoa farming but because they were not engaged in the selling of cocoa to the buying clerks that collect cocoa in Ghana, they had little access to the economic benefits of cocoa production. As a Fairtrade farmers organization that invests in its communities, women also had an important role to play in ensuring that benefits were directed to the whole of a

When we buy chocolate we are connected and cooperating with family farmers in the global food system. What we choose to buy and what we choose to eat shapes the opportunities for women and their families the world over. Fairtrade that focuses on family farmer cooperatives enables farmers to collectively invest in healthier communities, better agricultural practices, and democratic empowerment so that the most marginalized, including women and children, have fair and decent treatment. Divine’s mission, as a Fairtrade chocolate company largely owned by the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo, is to make chocolate something that is cherished by everyone, including cocoa farmers. We hope to be a bridge between cocoa and chocolate lovers so that together we can make chocolate something to feel good about. We hope you will cherish Divine too!


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CHOCOLATE


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Global Mamas

www.globalmamas.org LOVE YOUR PRODUCT “Global Mamas has been a brilliant addition to our housewares selection; their products are well made, the colors are bold and eye-catching and our customers love the story behind the organization. Their textiles are so beautiful they can be gift items but priced so well that they can serve your daily household needs too!” Robin Davis/General Merchandise Buyer, Seward Co-op, Minneapolis, MN KNOW YOUR PRODUCER Global Mamas producers are mothers, wives, grandmothers, sisters, talented entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities. There are over 600 producers from 7 different communities in the Global Mamas network. Each item comes with a hang-tag that is signed by the producer. Each Mama’s story (with pictures) is available in the Meet the Women section of www.globalmamas.org. CHANGE HER LIFE Batiker, Emma Meyers (Cape Coast, Ghana) is one of the

6 founding Global Mamas. In 2002, when she first began working with the organization, Emma was struggling to send her children to primary school and was being evicted from her home because she was doing her batik work in the courtyard. Over the years, thanks to consistent orders and reliable pay, Emma has been able to secure a permanent workshop and build her own home. For Emma, using her Global Mamas proceeds to send her kids “all the way through school – even University!” is her most meaningful achievement. Global Mamas is committed to sustainable growth and since inception has created nearly 400 new jobs in Ghana. Fair Trade practices ensure that every Global Mama is paid a living wage. Purchases directly enhance the standard of living of producers and their families, so Emma’s story is just one of many.


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Brattleboro Holistic Health Center

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brattleboroholistichealth.com

Brattleboro Holistic Health Center is proud to be a workerowned cooperative. BHHC is a member of the Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives which envisions a cooperative economy where one can live an entirely cooperative day: an economy built on workers’ self-determination and freedom of action and association; an economy of breadth and depth that puts working people in control of their economic destiny while serving their communities in accordance with the co-operative values and principles. BHHC’s mission: To Provide quality goods and services focused on accessibility, affordability, sustainability, and a local cooperative economy.

Community education that: promotes the understanding that each individual is a unique integrated being; emphasizes self-care, self-awareness and responsibility; and provides information and referrals for a wide variety of healthcare options. Creating a cooperative work environment that supports the practitioners through self-determination, professional development, peer supervision, personal growth, and a livable wage.

Cooperative Living

www.albuquerquecohousing.org • www.cohousing.org Would you like to come home to a neighborhood where you know your neighbors well, the kids are safe playing outdoors, and you can easily bike, walk, or take a bus to work, or take a bus to work or to run errands? Would you like to use fewer natural resources and create less pollution? Many of us would like to live this way, but aren’t able to create these conditions by ourselves. Living in a cohousing neighborhood is a way to return to this older model of community and sustainability.

purpose space, one or more rooms for residents to rent for their guests, and other amenities chosen by the community. The houses are clustered in order to provide more common open space and to facilitate casual interaction among residents. For walkability, cars are often parked on the edges of the development instead of next to each house. The common open space may include landscaping, play areas, a common garden, and other features the residents want, for example, a dog park.

Cohousing is... • the peace and security of an old-fashioned village • environmentally friendly living • private homes, clustered to preserve green space • greater social interaction and stronger neighborhood ties • common house for recreation, shared meals and celebrations • diverse mix of families, couples, singles and retirees • pedestrian-friendly pathways • innovative ways to share resources, such as lawn equipment, the fun, and the rewarding experience of creating a community.

Green building practices reduce the cost of heating and cooling. Passive solar heating, passive cooling, grey water use, and rainwater catchment can be built into the development. Locating the cohousing on a bus line and close to schools, grocery stores, libraries, and other common destinations allows residents to use their cars less often.

Cohousing is a type of cooperative association, democratically run by its residents, who decide what physical form and social interactions they want to have in their community. Usually each household owns a private house and small yard, and also owns part of a common house and common land in the cohousing development. The common house typically includes a kitchen, a multi-

This article was excerpted from an article written by Katie McCorkell about Albuquerque Cohousing appearing in La Montanita’s November 2011 newsletter. Albuquerque Cohousing in New Mexico has been meeting for three years. They have found a tract of land that meets their criteria for access to public transportation and to other amenities. They are ready to take the next step of acquiring the land and beginning the development process. They envision 25 to 28 households in the group. More info on the Albuquerque Cohousing is at www.albuquerquecohousing.org. More information about cohousing at www.cohousing.org


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Valley Cooperative Business Association www.vcba2012.coop

Announcing the Valley Cooperative Business Association Open for Co-operation! Co-operatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility. - United Nations SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-moon

and more than 29,000 co-ops here in the United States (www.ica.coop). The energy and inspiration of these early co-operators lives on today in UK’s Co-operative Group, one of the largest co-ops in the world (www.cooperativegroup.coop).

VCBA sees our common history and principles as a framework for co-operatives to work together. The In2012 – declared the International Year of the Coopera- ternational Year of Co-operatives is an unprecendented tives by the United Nations - co-ops in western Massa- opportunity to educate about our model and the benefits it creates in our communichusetts and southern ties. How can we build Vermont are joining on the success of current together to share their Co-operatives exist for people to work co-ops and identify new opmessage. The Valley portunities for co-operative Co-operative Busitogether to enrich and improve their enterprise? How can we ness Association was lives and their communities. best promote co-ops’ susrecently established tainably rooting capital and by a group of food employment in our commuco-ops, worker coops and a credit union to make our co-ops more visible, nities? Other regions of the world such as the UK, the to advance our region’s co-operative economy and to Basque region of Spain and the Emilia Romagna region make the benefits of co-operation more available in our of Italy provide examples of how co-ops, both in and across sectors, can work together. These regions provide community. examples for us, but how can we pool resources, just as Our valley is already home to a vibrant community of in England 150 years ago, to support existing co-ops and co-operative enterprises. Though our co-ops can have build new ones? different structures - whether they be worker co-ops like Collective Copies or Pioneer Valley Photovoltaics, Co-operatives exist for people to work together to enrich consumer co-ops like Green Field’s Market or UMASS 5 and improve their lives and their communities. Co-ops Credit Union, or producer co-ops like Cabot Cheese– we have been resilient in the current recession, preserving jobs, economic infrastructure and community wealth. have much in common. Using the co-operative model people can share resources Co-ops share a common history, identity and set of to gain greater access and control over food, finances and principles. In 1844, during England’s 19th century rapid housing. Co-ops secure employment, build community industrialization, 28 weavers and community activists and market products being guided by our shared princiestablished a new kind of business based on open mem- ples, allowing members to live according to their values. bership, self-responsibility, shared ownership and the Visit Valley Co-operative Business Association’s webmeeting of human needs. Members pooled capital to site – www.vcba2012.coop – and find us on facebook order soap and tea, cutting out the ‘middle-man’, sav- where you’ll find upcoming articles about cross sector ing money and gaining control their economic well be- collaboration, events, and more. ing. A store was opened later that year with farmer and worker co-ops providing more good for members to take By VCBA Steering Committee: Suzette Snow-Cobb (Frankcontrol of new aspects of their economic destiny. The lin Community Co-op), Erbin Crowell (Neighboring Food principles set forth by the “Rochdale Society of Equi- Co-op Association), Sean Capaloff-Jones (Umass 5 Credit table Pioneers” formed the basis of today’s co-operative Union), Jon Reske (Umass 5 Credit Union) and Adam Trott movement, which includes a billion members worldwide (Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives)


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Maggie’s Organics and Once Again Nut Butter collaborate efforts in Central America Two US-Based fair trade companies share soil and support for organic farmers in Nicaragua

In a unique and symbiotic relationship, Maggie’s Organics and Once Again Nut Butter purchase from eleven agricultural cooperatives in Nicaragua, sharing the same soil and providing livelihoods for over 2000 farmers.

Maggie’s met the Jubilee House, and thanks to the existing organic sesame farmers, a partnership was formed to add cotton to their crop rotation. In addition to establishing a 100% worker-owned sewing cooperative, Maggie’s and the Jubilee House worked together with Organic farmers utilize the farmers to revive planned crop rotation in About Maggie’s Organics Nicaragua’s dying cotorder to ensure that soil Maggie’s Organics, located in Ypsilanti, MI, was founded ton industry, converting nutrients remain intact. in 1992 on the premise that workers should be treated ethiit all to organic. Crop rotation encourages cally and that clothing should be durable, affordable and healthy soil as well as susconstructed of environment-sustaining materials. Maggie’s The number of rural tainability for farmers. In creates socks, scarves, leggings, and classic apparel that family farmers involved this instance, organic cotfeel as good to buy as they do to wear. in this partnership has ton for Maggie’s is grown grown to over 2,000. in one season, and sesame About Once Again Nut Butter With greater yields and seed for Once Again is Once Again is a democratically operated employeeincreased price for their grown the next. The third owned company, priding themselves in providing healthcrops, more farmers year in this rotation is conscious consumers products of superior quality and are coming into the usually a legume or yucca integrity. Located in a small rural community, Once Again program each year. By crop, which the farmers is dedicated to supporting organic and sustainable farming working together, both sell within Nicaragua. practices. They are proud to offer a healthier alternative, Once Again and Magwhere every customer matters. gie’s purchase high Once Again began workquality raw materials, ing in Nicaragua in 1995 while farmers sustain with a non-profit service For more information, contact: their local economies! organization called the Jubilee House Commu• Maggie’s Organics: Doug Wilson at 800-609-8593, or The next time you nity. What started out as dwilson@organicclothes.com are stocking up your 4 acres of test plots has • Once Again: Gael Orr at 585-468-2535 ext.35, or shelves, consider supturned into the creation gorr@onceagainnutbutter.com porting our initiatives of 11 worker co-ops repby carrying products resenting 2,000 farms. In the mid 1990’s, local sports clothing manufacturer from employee-owned company, Once Again Nut Butter Champion Products moved their production off-shore. and Maggie’s Organic clothing. Chances are they came Once Again arranged for the purchase of about $80,000 from the same farmers and co-ops in Nicaragua. worth of sewing equipment to be shipped to Nicaragua.


32 - Building a Cooperative Community Fall 2012

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This website and our magazine, Building A Cooperative Community, celebrate the new wave of food co-ops that were started in the 21st Century...

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