By Denise Glover
We are so lucky to live in a region with so many food co-ops!
The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), which the BFC helped found, is a cooperative federation that represents over 173,000 members and $425M in collective revenue.
There are 59 member and associate member cooperatives and two new start-ups hailing from New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.
The NFCA helps us all work together toward a shared vision of a thriving cooperative economy rooted in a healthy, just, and sustainable food system and a vibrant community of cooperative enterprises.
The NFCA, working with other organizations, provides support for cooperatives on both a regional and national level.
Recently, four members of our Board, along with our General Manager, Lee Bradford, attended the NFCA Annual Meeting in Greenfield.
Participants had an opportunity to choose a discussion topic and have a conversation with a small group of participants.
Jerelyn chose “How We Differentiate.” Her group acknowledged that as more mainstream retailers adopt the products and messaging that used to be unique to food co-ops, we need to find effective strategies to leverage our strengths and differentiate ourselves from our competitors.
There was agreement among participants representing a number of different co-ops that it is a deep commitment to community that sets us apart. Her group shared examples that ranged from nurturing and deepening relationships with local farmers to using restorative justice in response to shoplifting.
I brought home an expanded perspective on how co-ops can help and support each other and how the NFCA can help to foster supportive relationships.
I feel energized and enthusiastic about continuing our work with the BFC Board of Directors on pivoting to address issues facing us, such as food insecurity and climate change, and how to help the BFC be a resource for all people in our community. I was particularly inspired by hearing about many other co-ops moving towards sustainability and addressing climate change.
Jerelyn was particularly inspired by the keynote speaker, Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern. First elected to Congress in 1996, he currently serves as a senior member of the House Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations.
He spoke about a new farm bill and urged us to pay close attention as it gets developed. He spoke about his efforts to address hunger in our communities and the important role that food co-ops play in helping to build a more just, sustainable, and inclusive food system and economy.
Congressman McGovern referenced the recent White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Our very own Marketing Manager Amy Crawford attended that conference!
Other small group discussions included topics such as Policy Advocacy; Building Community among Directors; Food System Development; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; Co-op Education & Training; Co-op Identity Consultation; Food Security Initiative; and Employee Recruitment, Retention & Development.
We are fortunate to have the NFCA as a resource, and it is a reminder that one of the seven cooperative principles that guide our work is Cooperation among Cooperatives.
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.