Thank you to our friends at the National Cooperative Business Association for profiling our co-op! NCBA is turning 100 this year and they are profiling co-ops from all around the world in their NCBA100 series. Check out their story about P6!
The P6 team was excited to host the Annual Meeting in the P6 home base of Minneapolis, welcoming peers from near and far. The newest P6 members, Moscow Food Co-op of Moscow, ID, and The Good Earth Food Co-op of St. Cloud, MN, joined for the first time. The meeting took place on May 19th and 20th.
The conference began with tours of the new Seward Co-op Friendship Store and of the newly remodeled Eastside Food Co-op. Attendees had tons of questions about the tools these P6 experts use to promote small, local, and cooperative products.
After the store tours, we held a celebratory dinner at the Seward Co-op Creamery Cafe. In addition to recognizing all the great work P6 members have done this year, the dinner served as an opportunity to welcome non-P6 member co-op representatives interested to learn more about P6. The Creamery Cafe staff did a great job highlighting P6 producers, with special focus on our P6 wholesale members.
On Friday, with the help of expert facilitators from Growthworks, Inc., we put our heads together to plan for the growth of the P6 movement. This packed day of activities allowed members to brainstorm for improvements at their own co-ops and share best practices. Additionally, we collected perspectives about the best way the P6 national team can meet collective goals.
Many thanks to the P6 producers who donated product to help make a successful meeting: Maple Valley Co-op, Farmer Direct Co-op, Organic Valley, WiscoPop!, Peace Coffee, Seafood Producers Co-op, and Equal Exchange. Thank you for supporting the movement!
When Seward Co-op helped create P6, we were looking for a way to help clarify for staff throughout the organization the products that meet our highest values from the perspective of “who’s making this food?” and how the answer to that question aligns with the mission or ends of the co-op. As a policy governance co-op, we are an ends-driven organization. The decision to participate was made through a lot of conversation – it couldn’t just be me as the General Manager, or just the marketing department. P6 takes on a life of its own in terms of helping employees at all levels, but especially front-line employees, make informed and quick decisions to direct customers towards products that meet their values. We’ve heard over the years that customers are upset about the consolidation in the natural foods industry. P6 is a quick and easy way that frontline employees can direct customers to products that are not corporate owned. It also helps employees that make product selection decisions. It helps us prioritize our decisions about which products get what space on the shelves.
As we’ve continued to grow with the opening of the second store and the café and the production facility, P6 has made it possible to transfer our co-op’s values to our new staff. It is a really simple and powerful. By focusing on three criteria—small, local, and cooperative—employees grasp our competitive advantage quickly and fully.
I think P6 needs to live throughout the whole co-op. I’ve seen co-ops try to implement it purely as a marketing program, and it doesn’t work so well. There’s a depth to P6. It’s very nuanced. For it to be fully successful, everyone needs to understand what the story is. It takes training and it takes resources upfront, but once P6 is in place, it really helps take the co-op and the whole economy in the direction we want to see. From my perspective as the General Manager, it’s accomplishing our goals of better communicating with our customers about the story behind the products we’re selling.
P6 connects the work we’re doing here at Seward with an international set of principles. Based on the 6th Cooperative Principle—Cooperation among Cooperatives. By having local as a primary criteria, P6 also fulfills the 7th principle, which is Concern for Community. It goes all the way from the macro level to the micro level. What we’ve seen here at Seward Co-op is that it provides a lot of meaning to our staff. Stocking products on a shelf can be mundane. P6 connects this everyday work into a vision for the whole organization within the context of the international cooperative principles. It also ties back to the historical founding purpose of natural foods co-ops in being a vehicle for social change.
P6 functions for us as an alignment tool. Our co-op has become a larger employer with nearly 400 employees. It is too big at this point for me as a General Manager to connect with individual employees and have deep conversations about our values as a business. Having P6 at Seward allows for the values, the ends, and the co-op principles to be more transparent and to manifest these in the organization in a way that’s more powerful than we ever anticipated. P6 helps our employees at every level tie into the larger meaning of their work.
This post by Bjorn Bergman originally appeared on the Viroqua Food Co-op website. A longer profile of Farmer Direct Co-op, the newest P6 member, is coming soon.
A small, but revolutionary change took place in our bulk section this year. When it comes to bulk grains, beans, lentils and seeds, we have struggled to find reliable P6 producers to supply our Co-op. Needless to say, it was with great excitement this past spring when the National P6 Office set up a call to introduce P6 retail co-ops (including VFC) to Farmer Direct Co-op, a producer of organic bulk grains, beans, lentils and seeds. After a few more months of working out distribution logistics, this summer we got our first shipment of organic bulk steel cut oats, green lentils, French lentils, small red beans and golden flax seed from Farmer Direct Co-op.
At the national level, this is a huge victory for Principle Six – as a movement! From the beginning of its creation, P6 had a vision of creating more “Producer Co-op-to-Food Co-op” trade relationships. This connection with Farmer Direct is the first time we have seen one of those “co-op to co-op” relationships evolve and result in new P6 products being stocked at the VFC. A big P6 Win!
With the introduction of Farmer Direct Co-op bulk foods at VFC, we wanted to take some time to share with you why we are so excited about carrying their products.
Farmer Direct Co-op started in 2002 when Jason Freeman (current General Manager) and three organic hempseed farmers formed the business as a way to create more crop price transparency for organic family farmers on the Canadian prairies. The Co-op quickly became popular and more farmers started to join.Today, the co-op is owned by 60 family farms located throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada.
As Farmer Direct Co-op sales have grown, they became interested in establishing a process and certification for assuring fair crop prices to its farmer-owners. This led them to Domestic Fair Trade Certification (a.k.a. fairDeal). Domestic Fair Trade Certification assures that organic farmers receive fair prices for their crops and that farm workers receive a living wage. In 2010, they became the first food business in North America to receive Domestic Fair Trade Certification.
Farmer Direct Co-op is the only company in North America to combine all three attributes of farmer ownership, domestic fair trade, and organics – all under one brand. When you purchase Farmer Direct Co-op products from our bulk section, you are supporting 60 organic family farms, as well as 11 employees. To learn more about Farmer Direct Co-op, check out their website.
Next time you pass through our bulk section, look for and support Farmer Direct Co-op by purchasing their fantastic P6 grains, beans, lentils and seeds.
In 2014, Equal Exchange convened six grocery co-ops, including Seward Co-op and Eastside Food Co-op, to create the Grow Together Fund to support a cashew growing co-op in El Salvador called Aprainores. These co-ops donated approximately $5,000 each to Aprainores in a special coop-to-coop development fund project. The money was used to help them start a Revolving Loan Fund to give low-interest credit to their members to tide them over until the harvest. Because much of Central America experienced a severe drought last summer which destroyed their corn and other subsistence crops, farmers were particularly hard hit. This fund helped the farmers buy food for their families and work on their own farms, rather than have to hire themselves out as day laborers on other farms. Equal Exchange also donated funds to help improve productivity through the planting of additional trees, and technical assistance enabling 15 new farmers to join the coop, and additional acreage to be converted to organic production.
Here’s a report from the farm on their progress, thanks to the Grow Together Fund:
We would like to briefly mention how Equal Exchange has helped us to improve our cooperative!!
We started working with Equal Exchange in 2013. Since then, we have been so blessed with their support and we have increased our technical and productive capabilities.
On behalf of our cashew farmers, and workers, we thank you and wish that you keep growing and supporting small farmers, not only us, but also all the small producers who really need support to produce the food of the world.
Congratulations to Aprainores on their progress!
We are pleased to announce our new P6 National Director, Allison Hermes! Allison has been supporting the cooperative and organic food movement since 2010. Most recently, as Marketing Programs Manager, Allison has had her hand in just about every Organic Valley branded campaign. Prior to this position, she was hired to coordinate Organic Valley farm tours educating retail buyers, non-profit organizations, and consumers on the environmental and economic benefits of the cooperative business model and organic farming. Prior to her CROPP career, she attained her master’s degree across the sea at the University of London. In addition to hitting the books, she also volunteered with the Fair Trade Foundation and added chocolate to her resume with an internship at Divine Chocolate. Both experiences fueled her interest in the field of marketing and contributing to a sustainable food system.
We are sad to announce that our National Director, Aaron Reser, is moving on to a new position. We are seeking a new National Director to fill this crucial role in our organization. Read the job posting below and send in your application by November 15 if interested.
Principle Six (P6) – Co-operative Trade Movement is a multi-stakeholder co-operative, comprised of retail and wholesale co-op members, working together to build economic relationships rooted in the values of co-operation. P6 promotes small farmers/ producers, co-operative businesses, and local farmers/ producers to consumers in retail co-ops. Currently there are ten co-operatives participating in the movement.
P6 is looking for an energetic person who will lead the co-op as we build membership and refine our operations. The ideal candidate will have a demonstrated history of success in facilitating diverse interests in support of a shared vision, exceptional communication skills, and a passion for co-operatives. This is a full-time position working out of Seward Co-op in Minneapolis, MN.
The P6 National Director is the first point of contact for current and prospective P6 member co-ops and is responsible for all day-to-day management, coordination, implementation, and promotion of the P6 Program.
Compensation: DOE, with excellent benefits including health, dental, PTO, and 401k
A full draft job description is available here, but is subject to change.
To apply, please e-mail cover letter, resume, and salary requirements to Nick Seeberger, P6 Board President at firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday, November 15th, 2015. You may also email Nick with questions about this position.
This post comes from Equal Exchange’s website.
As Vandana Shiva explains in her new book, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis, the solution to climate change lies not only in our ability to exercise our collective will to immediately reduce the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that we emit INTO the air, but in our willingness to support, and thereby benefit from, the regenerative capacity of small-scale, organic agriculture to actually pull existing CO2 out of the air – back into the soil.
Equal Exchange now joins an emerging movement of farmers, scientists, researchers, and activists who advocate this new perspective to combat climate change.
To this end, we have joined the growing global Divest-Invest movement of universities, religious organizations, foundations, businesses, NGOs and individuals taking the Divest-Invest pledge to reduce their financial ties to the top 200 fossil fuel companies within the next five years and instead invest their money in climate solutions like the solidarity economy, where our money meets our values. It is imperative that we demonstrate our numbers before the COP21 UN Climate Talks happening in Paris this December.
Secondly, we are committed to raising $100,000 in the next 12 months to support climate change solutions that also build resilience, on the ground at our partner cooperatives. Small farmers are already working to reverse the impacts of climate change, despite suffering most from the damage that has already incurred.
We in the North owe it to them, to ourselves, and to the planet to stand up and take action!
Please join us to create a more just and sustainable food system, economic model, and planet.
Global warming, while a threat to all mankind, is already undermining the lives and livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable populations in the Global South. Our farmer partners are feeling the impact of erratic weather patterns, record-breaking temperatures, and new challenges to agriculture caused by changes in the climate.
We, in the developed countries of the North, are among the greatest culprits responsible for climate change. Our societies contribute the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions, enjoy the benefits of mass consumption and the behemoth fossil fuel industries that drive CO2 emissions from factories, cars, and industrial agriculture. The disparity between those who most benefit from the industries deepening the climate emergency and those who most suffer from the impacts of climate change, and ultimately pay the highest costs, is one of the greatest social injustices on the planet today.
On the bright side, there is increasing evidence that real solutions exist that can not only mitigate climate change by pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere and storing (sequestering) it in the soil, but simultaneously help vulnerable farming communities adapt to a changing climate and strengthen their resilience. The solutions lie in the basics of photosynthesis (a product of which is returning CO2 to the soil, when it isn’t accompanied by petroleum-based fertilizers and chemical pesticides), and in organic agriculture and traditional methods of land management. The very act of growing food organically can reduce CO2 in the atmosphere, build healthier soil, and provide sustainable livelihoods for millions.
Small-scale farmers, our partners among them, are already implementing these techniques and proving their viability; but they fight an uphill battle, for their own survival and for the world’s. We in the North must now step up and find ways to take meaningful action.
The first step in creating lasting solutions to climate change is to stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere; that responsibility lies squarely on northern consumers who account for the vast majority of global emissions. That means ending our reliance on fossil fuels, non-renewable energy, and industrial agriculture.
Divest-Invest Individual is counting pledges from people across the globe, building commitments along the road to Paris and inviting you to take action today. Join Divest-Invest and help Equal Exchange participate in a powerful and determined global grassroots movement demanding an end to the fossil fuel companies’ hold over our economy, our politicians, and our planet. Rather than sign a petition to ask someone else to do something, this pledge invites you to recognize your own personal power to fuel change. Together, thousands of our personal pledges inform and influence the broader power holders, structures, and systems.
The second step is to support the farmers on the frontlines of climate change. They need our support, to develop new strategies to cope with changing weather and climate patterns, to explore and invest in soil rehabilitation strategies that reduce CO2 in the atmosphere, and to strengthen their own resilience and livelihoods. At the same time, they need us to take a stand against non-renewable energy, and those who profit from it.
Please help us to reverse climate change, support small farmers, and build an alternative, solidarity economy by taking action today!
Support small-scale organic farmers and regenerative agriculture by making a tax-deductible contribution to the Small Farmer Resiliency Fund. To donate, click here. You will be redirected to the secure donation page of the website of Hesperian Health Guides (a fiscal sponsor of Equal Exchange’s Climate Justice Initiative.) Please choose the amount of your donation, and then choose the Climate Justice Initiative (Equal Exchange) in the ‘Project Designation’ list.
Here in Minneapolis, shoppers at Seward Co-op have seen a new product on the shelves: WiscoPop! Soda. While it’s certainly enough to be excited about a new P6 soda made with natural ingredients, this one is especially exciting because WiscoPop’s bottling operation was made possible in part with help from a P6 Microloan from the Viroqua Food Co-op. WiscoPop raised $24,000 in a successful Kickstarter campaign in order to move from only being offered on tap to being able to bottle their sodas. Commercial soda bottling plants require certain formulas, which don’t match the high standards WiscoPop had for their product. They set out to get equipment to do their own bottling, and successfully raised the money for the equipment. Where Viroqua Food Co-op came in was by providing a $1,500 microloan to WiscoPop to buy bottles, labels, caps, and boxes in bulk. This allowed them to substantially lower the per-item cost of those materials and start their bottling operation on a good foot. When this no-interest microloan was repaid, the money went back into a fund that the co-op granted out to another P6 producer this past January, Del Sol Chocolate. Thanks to Viroqua Food Co-op for supporting this great business and bringing sustainably-made soda to the Upper Midwest!
Note: this post contains images of a pig being butchered.
Around the Twin Cities, Seward Co-op is known for its extensive and high quality meat and seafood counter. Within Seward Co-op, the meat and seafood department is notable for its extremely high percentage of P6 sales — often over 85%, while the store as a whole sits around 40%. I sat down with butcher Emma Schroeder to talk about how P6 relates to the work of the meat department.
Seward Co-op does whole animal butchery. What is that, and why does it matter? (more…)