On March 18th, co-operators from across our region gathered at Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, MA, for the Sixth Annual Meeting of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA). The meeting brought together 150 representatives from more than 35 food co-ops, start-up initiatives, and partner organizations, including Upper Valley Food Co-op.
Keynote speaker for the day was Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Co-operatives/Land Assistance Fund, as his organization celebrated 50 years of helping African Americans across the South to retain their farms and build economic security through co-operative enterprise.
Blanding challenged attendees with the simple question of What If…? “What if the residents of communities truly owned the economic base and infrastructure of their communities?” he asked. “Well, what if is possible. Because what we’re talking about are co-operatives. Organizations, businesses, economic bases, infrastructure that are owned by the people that use and benefit from them.” The answer to the challenge of food justice, continued Blanding, is ownership through co-ops.
In addition to reports from the NFCA Board of Directors and staff, networking discussions provided opportunities for peer dialog on key issues identified by member food co-ops, including legislative advocacy, marketing and messaging, and healthy food access. Afternoon workshops explored diversity, inclusion and participation in food co-ops, strategies for successful expansions and remodels, and financial tools for start-ups.
“Thank you for such a great meeting,” said Alice Rubin, General Manager of Willimantic Food Co-op in Connecticut. “It really brought back to me why we all do this — a great look at the bigger picture!”
Newly elected to the NFCA Board of Directors were Kate Arnold (Buffalo Mountain Co-op, VT) and John Crane (Portland Food Co-op, ME), joining re-elected Board Members Kari Bradley (Hunger Mountain Co-op, VT), Faye Conte (City Market/Onion River Co-op, VT), Sue Miller (Upper Valley Food Co-op, VT), and Michael Wells (Putney Food Co-op, VT). Continuing on the Board of Directors are Davie Durfee (Wild Oats Co-op Market, MA), Suzette Snow-Cobb (Franklin Community Co-op, MA), and Joanne S. Todd (Willimantic Food Co-op, CT).
To wrap up the day, founding Board Member Glenn Lower, General Manager at Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op (VT) was thanked for his service, and NFCA President Suzette Snow-Cobb named outgoing Board Member Kay Litten the 2017 “Neighboring Co-operator” for her special contributions to the advancement of the vision of the NFCA. A former Board Member and past President of the Hanover Consumer Co-operative, Litten has served two terms on the NFCA Board of Director and has been a tireless cheerleader for our work together. Individuals and organizations are invited to make a tax-deductible contribution in honor of Kay Litten to the Bowers Fund, which supports training and education for food co-op staff, managers, and board members: www.cdf.coop/nfca.
The Neighboring Food Co-op Association includes more than 35 food co-ops and start-up initiatives, locally owned by over 100,000 people across New England. For more information, please visit www.nfca.coop.