Erbin Crowell, executive director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, reports on the year's accomplishments.
Erbin Crowell, executive director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, reports on the year’s accomplishments.

Co-operators from food co-ops throughout New England gathered in Greenfield, Mass., this weekend at the fifth Annual Meeting of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA). The NFCA is an affiliate member of New England Farmers Union, and the two organizations have partnered on many projects and programs, including Healthy Food For All, a program that makes it easier for people with low incomes to access locally grown food at their food co-op.

Keynote speaker Judy Ziewacz, a lifelong advocate of the co-operative movement and president and CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA), gave those assembled an update on where co-ops have advanced in recent years. Mayors in cities such as New York and Oakland are investing millions of dollars into support of worker-owned co-ops, she said. In Washington, D.C., the NCBA has forged a bipartisan co-operative business caucus and created an interagency working group on co-op development. It was the NCBA that lobbied for USDA Rural Development to fund co-operative development through its Rural Co-operative Development Grants. This work helps farmers form and strengthen agricultural co-operatives.

Farmers Union has a long history of supporting agricultural co-operatives and appreciates the collaboration with NFCA and its food co-op members. The food co-ops that the NFCA represents have a combined 90,000 members, employ more than 1,700 people, and earn annual revenue of $259 million.

Franklin Community Co-op, a NFCA member and a New England Farmers Union member, also gathered its members in Greenfield, Mass., this weekend for its annual meeting. New England Farmers Union tabled and fielded questions on GMO labeling, local and regional food systems, and support for beginning farmers from consumers interested in how we’re working for a stronger agricultural community.

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