| Co-op Members
Since its founding, the National Farmers Union (NFU) has advocated for and utilized the co-operative business model as a tool for empowering producers, building economies of scale while reinforcing family farming and developing rural communities. In fact, the NFU was instrumental in the passage of legislation that allowed producers to organize in co-ops and thereby strengthen their position in the marketplace.
In 2010, the Board of Directors of the New England Farmers Union (NEFU) agreed to seek partnerships with food co-ops in New England as a key strategy for building the organization and developing its membership base. Shortly after that decision, the Neighboring Food Co-operative Association (NFCA) joined NEFU as an affiliate member and the NFCA’s executive director, Erbin Crowell, joined NEFU’s Board of Directors. The NFCA sees partnership with NEFU as a way to support collaboration among consumers and producers in our regional food system in areas of education, policy advocacy and food system development. A shared commitment to co-operative enterprise provides additional common ground for working together.
As part of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association affiliation with NEFU, member food co-ops receive a discount on organizational membership ($100/year). Individual members of NFCA food co-op can also join NEFU at a discounted rate of $25/year. Download a membership form here to join. The effectiveness of this strategy has been demonstrated in the number of NFCA member co-ops that have joined NEFU as organizational members since 2010:
- Dorchester Community Food Co-op, Boston, MA.
- Brattleboro Food Co-op, Brattleboro, VT.
- City Market/Onion River Co-op, Burlington, VT.
- Elm City Market, New Haven, CT.
- Franklin Community Co-op, Greenfield and Shelburne Falls, MA.
- Hunger Mountain Co-op, Montpelier, VT.
- Littleton Food Co-op, Littleton, NH.
- Middlebury Natural Foods C-op, Middlebury, VT.
- Old Creamery Cooperative, Cummington, MA.
- River Valley Market, Northampton, MA.
- The Co-op Food Stores, Hanover and Lebanon, NH.
- Upper Valley Food Co-op, White River Junction, VT.
- Wild Oats Market, Williamstown, MA.
- Willimantic Food Co-op, Willimantic, CT.
In addition, reduced membership dues have been extended to individual co-op members who join the Farmers Union as a strategy for building individual membership. A similar model could be applied to other co-ops and co-op associations.
One food co-op, Belfast Food Co-op, Belfast, Maine has also joined NEFU. It is not part of the NFCA family.
Since the spring of 2010, NEFU and the NFCA have accomplished the following together:
- A dairy policy tour with NFU’s chief lobbyist (Brattleboro, Concord, Hanover, Hunger Mountain and Littleton Co-ops);
- A listening tour with a NFU government relations representative (Berkshire, Franklin Community and Willimantic Co-ops);
- Farm bill workshop led by Roger Johnson, NFU President (Hunger Mountain Co-op);
- Presentations by Roger Johnson and Annie Cheatham at regional gathering of the NFCA;
- Profiles of co-ops in NEFU e-newsletter (Belfast, City Market/Onion River, Franklin Community, Wild Oats, Littleton, Berkshire, Concord, the Co-op Food Stores-Hanover/Lebanon, Willimantic);
- Outreach to co-op members to contribute to “Send a Farmer to Washington” campaign (all NFCA members);
- Stipends for four farmers that supply NFCA member co-ops to travel to Washington, D.C., for NFU’s legislative fly-in (Berkshire, Concord, Littleton and Wild Oats Co-ops);
- A successful challenge to harmful co-op legislation in the Vermont Senate (with NFU, the NFCA and the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops);
- Developed educational materials for NFCA members (“Farmers’ Share of the Retail Food Dollar” poster and “Co-operative Enterprise” flyer);
- Provided curriculum content on co-operative enterprise to colleges and universities in our region;
- Hosted events to present members of Congress with Golden Triangle Award, the highest honor NFU bestows on Congressional leaders (Berkshire Co-op – Cong. John Olver and Willimantic Co-op – Cong. Joe Courtney);
- Published articles in NFCA member co-op newsletters showing how NEFU is working to improve federal food and farming policies (Berkshire, Brattleboro, Concord, Franklin Community, Hunger Mountain, River Valley and Wild Oats Co-ops).
- Published an article on our partnership in the national food co-op magazine, Cooperative Grocer;
- Published an article in the December 2011 issue of Farming on the International Year of Co-ops.
Farmer Co-operative Members of NEFU
In addition to NEFU’s relationships with food co-ops, it has members who are part of farmer co-operatives including:
- Organic Valley / CROPP Co-op members throughout New England;
- Members of Our Family Farms (Pioneer Valley Milk Marketing Co-op);
- Members of Cabot Creamery Co-op/Agri-Mark; and
- St. Albans Co-operative Creamery;
- The Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association; and
- Greenfield Farmers Co-operative Exchange.
Other Co-Operative Members of NEFU
NEFU also has members that are co-ops from other areas of the economy and organizations that support co-op development:
- Equal Exchange (Worker co-op and Fair Trade Organization);
- Acadia Insurance Group (mutual company);
- Farm Credit East (Farmer Co-op);
- Yankee Farm Credit (Farmer Co-op);
- Concord Co-op Market, Concord, NH (Food co-op);
- Cooperative Development Institute (Non-profit); and
- Cooperative Fund of New England (Non-profit);
THE BUSINESS COOPERATIVE MODEL: Ocean Spray – a cooperative effort
One of NEFU’s affiliate members, Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association supports the business cooperative model. Jeff LaFleur, Executive Director of Cape Od Cranberry Growers’ Association stated, “New markets have expanded in Europe, Australia and New Zealand,” LaFleur added. “Ten to 15 years ago, only about 10 percent of the crop was exported. Today, 30 percent is exported. That’s a big growth in particular for companies like Ocean Spray who have required that all Massachusetts growers produce their fruits to international standards.” To read more click here.