On Tuesday, September 28, my work for the Brattleboro Food Co-op put me on a flight to Washington, D.C. I would soon join Karin Mott of Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op and Allan Reetz of Hanover Food Co-op in the nation’s Capital. Together, we would spend an unforgettable day at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.
October is National Co-op Month, and each year we choose to highlight a co-op that is locally owned and sold right here at your Brattleboro Food Co-op. Cabot Cooperative offers a unique and important representation of how co-ops can be locally owned by farms yet support production of nationally popular products. One owner of Cabot Cooperative is Hinsdale, NH-based Echo Farm. From supplying milk for Cabot products, to sitting on committees, to supporting the marketing and outreach of Cabot Cooperative, this female-run farm is proud of their contributions. In addition to supplying milk to Cabot, they proudly hand-made puddings that they sell all over the Northeast at co-ops and natural foods stores. And though they are a small farm at merely 35 acres and 70 cows, their early adoption of cutting-edge humane animal husbandry technology and protocols have made them leaders in their field.
Alaffia is a bodycare brand that exists not to make a profit but to fight poverty and increase gender equality. Olowo-n’djo Tchala and Prairie Rose Hyde met in 1996 in Togo, West Africa, when Hyde was there as a Peace Corps volunteer. They both grew up without much, though to differing degrees because of their countries of origin: Hyde’s family relied on assistance programs but she was still able to get a great education, while Tchala, one of 42 children (his father had multiple wives), had to drop out of school as an adolescent to help out his family. They married in the mid-90’s and moved to Olympia, WA, Hyde’s home town, and five years later they helped to form a shea butter cooperative in Tchala’s home, thinking they’d create jobs for women.
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.)
Every October, cooperatively-owned businesses around the world celebrate National Cooperative Month. No matter what type of co-op it is—whether it’s an electrical utility, credit union, or food cooperative like our own BFC, it is our shared values and principles that steer our businesses forward, and this is the month to share our successes! Look for signs calling out cooperative food companies, follow us on Facebook for fun facts, and view our website events calendar to see our scheduled tastings and demos featuring cooperative companies. And in this month’s Food for Thought, we are taking the opportunity to share the story of one cooperatively-owned business that is locally owned…and quite possibly chilling in your fridge.