This October, Brattleboro Food 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’s theme, “Co-ops: By the Community, For the Community,” was chosen by the National Cooperative Business Association to promote how co-operative enterprises enable people to work together to meet their needs and build stronger communities.
Brattleboro Food Co-op Board of Directors 2 Main Street, Room 130, Brattleboro, VT
Each month, Co-op employees nominate colleagues they want to honor, and a committee comes together to vote on a winner. In September, Jeff in Security won for his outstanding work. In the words of his colleague: “Jeff is very responsive and on top of all security issues when they come up, and even when we don’t notice.” Thanks Jeff for your hard work and commitment to the safety of the Co-op!
As of this writing, I have completed nine months of BFC Board service. A couple of months ago, I became chair of the Shareholder Engagement Committee. The Shareholder Engagement Committee, which includes Mary Bene and Tamara Stenn, meets monthly between regularly scheduled Board meetings. Often Sabine Rhyne, the BFC GM, and Jon Megas-Russell, head of Marketing and Shareholder Services, join our meetings and we discuss how we can be supportive of, and responsive to, the General Manager’s efforts and initiatives. Our meeting notes are part of monthly Board packets, are included in the agenda and are discussed at the full Board at each meeting.
Even though I’ve heard the mantra about October being Co-op Month for 35 years, and even though there is some absurdity around celebrating important concepts—or even entire cultures—for a month or a day, the act of acknowledging things that often get taken for granted or ignored can be productive. (We all know that, especially in the age of tweets, human beings now have the attention span of a flea, and this mechanism is one way to remind ourselves about things that are important and relevant.)
Approximately 80% of open land in Vermont is managed by dairy farmers which are predominantly small family owned farms. Leon, Linda and Abbie Corse manage 375 acres in Whitingham and Wilmington, VT with many of those acres being open pasture for their cows. They are the 5th and 6th generation in their family to operate this dairy farm. This family is tremendously important to our region as dairy farming in Vermont protects and maintains our precious open land that otherwise would grow to forest or be turned into real estate. Additionally, it is a robust economic driver largely due to their large scale purchasing of farm supplies from machinery to building materials to grain. The Corse Farm Dairy became certified organic through Vermont Organic Farmers in 2008 and began shipping milk to CROPP cooperative/Organic Valley since then; they are among the 2,000 or so farmers nationally that own the cooperative. A purchase of an Organic Valley product is a purchase for the Corse family. Organic Valley functions within a deeply regionalized product system; when you purchase Organic Valley fluid milk you are buying their product. Without their transition to organic and to farmer-owners of Organic Valley, the Corses have no doubt their farm would have gone out of business. October is National Co-op Month and we are proud as a food co-op to share one family story of dairy farming and how the cooperative model has supported their continued success.