By Erbin Crowell, Neighboring Food Co-op Association
Every October, co-ops across the country celebrate Co-op Month. And this year we have something special to talk about. You may have heard that the United Nations recently declared 2012 the “International Year of Co-ops,” recognizing the unique role that co-ops play in communities around the world. It felt like such an opportunity that we’ve begun the celebrations early, adopting the theme for next year’s events — Co-operative Enterprises Build a Better World — as the slogan for Co-op Month as well.
As a member of your local food co-op, you know what a difference co-operation makes. At a time when people are searching for alternatives, our grocery stores are inspiring and successful examples of community ownership, economic democracy and sustainable food systems. Reflecting the values of our members, food co-ops have been pioneers in natural, organic and fairly traded products, and are leaders in the movement to support local farmers and producers.
And we are not alone. The International Co-operative Alliance estimates that around the world more than 1 billion people are members of co-ops. In the U.S., nearly 30,000 co-operatives help people from all walks of life to help themselves and their neighbors. From food co-ops to farmer co-ops, worker co-ops to credit unions, housing co-ops to healthcare, and insurance to energy and utilities, our businesses share basic values, including democracy, solidarity and social responsibility. And by working together, we can create a viable alternative to business as usual; one that truly puts people and community before profits.
As part of this year’s Co-op Month celebrations, the members of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) are working to raise awareness about how co-operative enterprises build a better world across our economy. For example, on the shelves of our store, you’ll find “Go Co-op” tags that let you know about products supplied by other co-ops. You’ll also find a “Go Co-op!” card that describes some of the co-operatives that are active in our region and ways that you can learn more about them.
As an association of food co-ops with a combined membership of more than 90,000 people, the NFCA is guided by a shared vision for a more just, sustainable and co-operative economy in our region and beyond. And together with other co-ops and their members, we are building a better world.
Erbin Crowell serves as Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, a network of more than 20 food co-ops — including yours! — in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. For more information and a map of member food co-ops, please visit www.nfca.coop.