This October, Brattleboro Food Co-op is joining over 65,000 co-operatives and credit unions across the United States in celebrating Co-op Month, observed nationally since 1964. This year’s theme, “Build Back for IMPACT,” was chosen by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) to promote how co-ops and their members are working together to build stronger, more inclusive and resilient communities in the wake of the pandemic.
Locally, we will be offering many ways for folks to get involved with the Co-op and make an impact. Each week Co-op staff will be holding tabling sessions so that folks can learn more about becoming a Co-op Shareholder and the Co-op’s impact. During the month of October Vermont Releaf Collective will be featured as the Round Up recipient. The Vermont Releaf Collective is providing a space for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Vermonters passionate about land, environment, agriculture, and food systems to build community, and to connect members to resources, knowledge, and opportunities for joy. A donation to them in October will support their community building events, like community dinners, workshops, skillshares, retreats, discussion groups, and more. IN addition Real Pickles, a worker owned Cooperative will be the featured Producer of the Month to help raise awareness about other Co-ops in our region and their work towards building the cooperative economy.
Across the Northeast, people have used food co-ops to improve access to healthy, local, affordable food, and build stronger, more inclusive communities. Most of these grocery stores got their start during times of social and economic change, enabling people to access healthy food, support local producers, and provide good jobs. More recently, a new wave of startups has been growing, representing renewed interest in food security, and racial and economic justice. Today, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) includes 40 food co-ops and start-ups, locally owned by more than 164,000 members and employing over 2,460 people. Together, these co-ops generate shared annual revenue of over $382 million, with local products representing close to a third of total sales.
“Despite the challenges of the past year, food co-ops across our region continued to grow in 2020, sustaining local producers, providing good jobs, and working to keep shoppers healthy and safe, during the pandemic,” said Erbin Crowell, NFCA Executive Director. For example, NFCA member co-ops grew their revenue by 10% over the previous year, with sales of local products topping $100 million. “And as we look forward, our co-ops are building on this foundation to build more resilient communities, a more sustainable food system, and a more inclusive economy that works for everyone,” added Crowell.
Food co-ops are not alone in their contribution to more inclusive and 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 three people are co-op members. Around the world, around 1 billion people are members of about 3 million co-operatives, and 10% of the world’s population, or around 280 million people, are employed by co-ops. And because they are member-owned, co-operatives are rooted in their communities and governed by the people who use them to meet their needs.
Stop in at your local food co-op during Co-op Month to learn more about what makes co-operatives different. And while you’re there, look for the “Go Co-op” signs on the shelves that identify co-op made products. You may be surprised by what you find, including dairy products from Cabot Creamery Co-op and Organic Valley, fresh produce from Deep Root Organic Co-op, fairly traded coffee, tea, and chocolate from Equal Exchange, beverages from Katalyst Kombucha and La Riojana wines, seeds and bulbs from FEDCO, naturally fermented vegetables from Real Pickles, Northeast Grown frozen fruits and vegetables from your Neighboring Food Co-ops — and many others.
To find food co-ops all over the Northeast, and for more examples of how co-ops are building back for impact, please visit www.nfca.coop.
Brattleboro Food Co-op
|Erbin Crowell, Executive Director
Neighboring Food Co-op Association