Co-ops Cultivate Co-ops; Co-ops Cultivate Community
As I write, the Supreme Court just ruled in the McCutcheon case, increasing yet again the ability for the wealthy to control the country’s political process. Meanwhile, back at your local co-ops, the co-operative principle of “democratic member control” still holds: one member, one vote. As a co-op member-owner, you have a real say in what happens at your business: who serves on the board of directors, what changes are made to the bylaws. You also have the ear of the board, management, and staff. And any profit the co-op makes goes not to a few, but rather benefits member-owners and the community.
One consumer co-op may not have much influence in national matters. But when added together, co-operatives can be a huge force. When the co-operative model becomes the model that businesses want to emulate, that can change everything. The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) has set a goal that by 2020, co-ops will be the acknowledged leader in economic, social and environmental sustainability – and that cooperatives will be the fastest growing form of enterprise.*
This ambitious goal can be made reality largely because of another of the seven principles: “cooperation among cooperatives.” Co-ops support each other both formally – through organizations like the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) - as well as informally, such as in the way UVFC and the Co-op Food Store in WRJ send customers to one another.
In New England, the NFCA supports existing co-ops, expansions, and start-ups. NFCA provides educational programs and materials as well as gatherings and communication platforms for its member co-ops. NFCA also partners with the New England Farmers Union, which supports co-operative undertakings (such as a producer grant with Deep Root Organic Co-op), organizes educational opportunities, and partners with NFCA around issues that affect family farmers.
NFCA Executive Director Erbin Crowell (guest speaker at UVFC’s 2013 Annual Meeting) has been involved in another huge milestone: co-ops are entering the economics department. UMass now offers a course, “Introduction to the Co-operative Movement,” as well as an Undergraduate Certificate Program in Applied Economic Research on Cooperatives.
Co-ops return more money to the local economy. When the “multiplier effect” of money re-circulating in the local economy is factored in, every $1,000 a shopper spends at their local food co-op generates $1,604 in economic activity in their local economy. That is $239 more than if they had spent that same $1,000 at a conventional grocer.
Food co-ops promote community food security, buying from local farmers and producers and fostering regional food distribution systems. While, on average, conventional grocers work with 65 local farmers and food producers, food co-ops work with 157. Locally sourced products make up an average of 20 percent of co-op sales, compared to 6 percent at conventional stores.
Regionally, co-ops are introducing programs to be sure that all members of the community have access to healthful food options available at food co-ops, and to the benefits of member-ownership.At UVFC, information, classes, a community garden, meeting space, inexpensive lunches, and a place to talk with friends are additional contributions made to the local community. What others can you think of?
*This includes all types of co-ops – Consumer (food co-ops, credit unions, housing cooperatives), Worker (e.g., Brattleboro Holistic Health Center Co-operative , Once Again Nut Butters), Producer (Deep Root, CROPP/Organic Valley), Purchasing/Share Services Cooperatives (i.e., Ace or True Value hardware), and Hybrid (Weaver Street Market in Hillsborough, NC is owned by both consumer members and worker members).
What is Hemp?
Hemp is the distinct oilseed and fiber varieties of the plant species Cannabis sativa L. It is a tall, slender, fibrous plant that has been cultivated worldwide for over 10,000 years. It is important to note that hemp has no drug value. Hemp seed contains little to no measurable amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in drug varieties of Cannabis. Using hemp products will not cause a false positive drug test.
A low-impact agricultural product, hemp is a renewable resource that can be grown without pesticides or agricultural chemicals.
A nutrition powerhouse, hemp is also an environmentally sustainable solution for potentially thousands of products ranging from body care to plastics, paper, textiles, building materials and even ethanol. With a rapidly expanding market for hemp products, cultivating hemp is an untapped opportunity for American farmers.
Did You Know?
June 2 through June 8 is Hemp History Week. On Wednesday, June 4th come hear from Robb Kidd of Rural Vermont. He will host a hemp info forum in the gathering room from 5:30 to 7:45.
Swing by on Friday, June 6th for our First Friday event. Members of the Board of Directors will be in attendance to talk to you, answer questions and find out if you have a skillset to offer and an interest in joining the board. Lisa Johnson will be here as well serving up her Yummy Yammy products. Miranda Moody Miller is our musical guest. Come out on Friday and get a 5% discount on purchases made between 4 and 6:30pm!
Saturday, June 21st is our Solstice/Anniversary Celebration! Come by and join in our cookout from 11 to 1. We will have samples and vendors in-store as well as demonstrations and food outside. 5% discount when you present this coupon.
This is our last full month of classes at the Sew-op. Check out the offerings: Pajama Pants, Draft Your Own Skirt, Tech Gadget Sleeves, Kids’ Classes and Open Hours. Look for offering on our Community Calendar.
Please note that the UVFC Library is closed beginning in June. We are tackling some renovations and will be opening the upstairs in September with a wonderful teaching facility and meeting space.
The White River Community Garden is slowly coming to life as more and more plots are being covered with compost mulch. In preparation for the full bloom of spring, the UVFC Education and Outreach team attended the VCGN Grow-it! Workshop in Woodstock. The Vermont Community Garden Network is an organization that works to connect community gardens throughout Vermont. Their focus is on the operational side of a garden, training garden leaders, funding garden projects, working to connect youth to growing their own food and advocating for fair and just community-based food systems.
The Grow-It! workshops include fun activities. This past week the participants learned how to distinguish the different components of soil using a simple technique involving a mason jar and a bit of time. Charlie Nardozzi is a partner with the VCGN and he helps to facilitate the workshops bringing practical methods to use in the garden. Charlie lends his expertise and humor to the experience making it a fun time for all.
The spring workshops with VCGN are done, but if you’re interested in getting more involved with your garden, talk to your garden organizer about attending one of the fall workshops. And keep an eye out for what’s happening at the White River Community Garden! Workshops and farm tours can be found on the google calendar on the Education page or here.
May 10th was World Fair Trade Day. Fair Trade is one of those categories important to us, right up there with Local, Non-GMO Verified and Organic. Below are some companies who are doing their best to tread lightly.
Following the Cooperative Model
“In 1986, Equal Exchange was founded to challenge the existing trade model, which favors large plantations, agri-business, and multi-national corporations; support small farmers; and connect consumers and producers through information, education, and the exchange of products in the marketplace. With our founding, we joined a growing movement of small farmers, alternative traders (ATOs), religious organizations, and non-profits throughout the world with like-minded principles and objectives. Underlying our work is the belief that only through organization, can small farmers survive and thrive. The cooperative model has been essential for building this model of change.”
Supply Chain Transparency
Maggie’s Functional Organics puts a real focus on transparency throughout their supply chain. For every item that Maggie’s sells, you can look up where the cotton was grown and where the item was made, and to what Fair Trade standards. That kind of transparency is what makes good business, and what makes the Fair Trade label mean something.
“In 2006, Dr. Bronner’s committed to sourcing our major raw materials from certified Fair Trade and organic projects around the world that ensure fair prices, living wages and community benefits for farmers, workers and their families. Now, when you purchase Dr. Bronner’s products, you are supporting these more just and vibrant producer communities around the world.”