It is easy to think of the Co-op as just another choice when you’re shopping for groceries. I know I sometimes do. It is easy to forget that co-ops are a radically different alternative to meeting our needs: for food, for housing, for financial services, for insurance, for agriculture.
Well, as a way to remind us of that, it turns out that October is Co-op Month! We have our own month!!! Co-op Month, it turns out, has been a nationally recognized celebration since 1964.
In honor of my first 4th of July as GM of the Co-op, I would like to share some thoughts about independence. Independence has been core to the Co-op identity since the Rochdale Principles were articulated in 1844. As such, it is an important concept for us to understand and embrace at the Brattleboro Food Co-op (BFC). Independence is usually defined in one of two ways. The first is the state of being free from outside control. The second is not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence. I firmly believe that in order to serve the Ends articulated by our shareholders, we must be true to our Cooperative Principles.
Perhaps a little of my personal history is in order as I begin my first year as the new Board president. I’m a baby boomer in my mid-sixties who moved to the Brattleboro area as a 29-year old. I’d just completed four years of teaching at a Waldorf school in New York City. Having grown up in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, this area geographically felt very much like home. Joining the Brattleboro Food Co-op was one of the very first things I did upon moving here in 1983 – quality food and a sense of community being my big motivators. (It was in college at the University of Maryland where I shopped at my very first co-op.) Soon with a baby and a toddler I spent a fair amount of time in the kids room at the Co-op when it was on Flat St. I also volunteered as editor of the first regular Food For Thought newsletter, a role I enjoyed for about 10 years.
On Saturday, July 7th, our Brattleboro Food Co-op will join co-ops around the world in celebrating International Co-ops Day, joining the United Nations (UN) and the International Co-operative Alliance in a commemoration held annually since 1923. This year, at a time of dramatic change in the political and environmental climates and local economies, co-ops and credit unions are highlighting how their businesses offer a solution by contributing to more sustainable local communities.