Category: P6 News

What is P6? Learn more!

What does it mean if I buy bananas with a P6 label on them? 

As a customer, when you make the decision to buy a P6 banana, it means that the people producing your bananas are paid a fair price for their product. It means the farmers have had a voice in the decisions made by the cooperative that they belong to. It means that those farmers are able to stay on their land, instead of working on someone else’s plantation. It means that any profit earned from the $1.19 per pound that you spent to buy those bananas is going to go to community efforts like buying medicine for the farmers’ children, or opening schools, instead of to enriching a corporation.

That’s from the great profile that Twin Cities area blog Tootie and Dotes wrote explaining the P6 program, completely with beautiful pictures. Check it out!

Viroqua Food Co-op is Regenerative

Our own Viroqua Food Co-op was profiled by the Field Guide for a Regenerative Economy. The profile focuses heavily on their P6 program.

Since joining the P6 Cooperative Trade Movement, VFC has made more deliberate decisions about how it sources its products. At the same time, some of the transition has happened naturally as the P6 branding helps call out local or cooperatively produced goods. “A lot of times when we have a non-P6 product on the shelf alongside a P6 product the customers will make the decision to buy the P6 product and the other will fade away,” Bjorn says. “About 96 percent of our produce is certified organic—much of it is from far away, especially the fruit.” When we spoke to Bjorn in early July, at the beginning of local produce season, 36 percent of sales in the produce department were P6 products. “This percentage will increase as we get more and more local products in our store,” Bjorn reports.

Read the whole article over at their website.

Supporting Small While Getting Bigger: P6 In The Eastside Expansion

Luna and Priya with the P6 mission

This picture shows Luna McIntyre and Priya Niskode-Backos of Eastside Food Co-op (EFC), standing in front of the P6 vision statement. The statement is printed around their vestibule, so that every customer who comes into the store has the opportunity to learn what P6 means. As EFC grows, Luna and Priya are considering how to keep the message of P6 at the forefront of customers’ minds.

Since community members worked to establish and open EFC in the early 2000s, they have been serving up tasty food, with an emphasis on local options, to the Northeast Minneapolis community. At this point, there are more customers than they have room for, so the store is expanding. They recently met their goal of raising over $1 million in owner investments for expansion and are eager to break ground soon. Members say they want more of what Eastside has to offer, and a big part of what Eastside has to offer is a commitment to small, local, and cooperative producers.

P6 banner at Eastside Food Co-op

EFC joined P6 in 2013 to deepen their commitment to small producers, everywhere. EFC sees “small” as the primary criteria: they support small producers who are have local ownership (within 250 miles) or cooperative values, or both. I spoke with Luna McIntyre about what the P6 program means to her and the impact she sees it having on customers and the food system.

Luna and Bananas at Eastside Food Co-op

Luna! Why does P6 matter to you personally?

As a consumer, I really appreciate the tangible implications of buying a P6 item. I know that my consumer dollars are going directly to support the farmers and producers of the foods I purchase which has a positive impact on their lives. As Eastside Food Co-op’s Marketing and Membership Coordinator, I also enjoy engaging with our customers and sharing the stories of P6 farmers. One recent example is the Equal Exchange’s Grow Together cashews program. Did you see the video about how cashews are grown? If you didn’t, I highly recommend it, because it adds a human element to your food and the supply chain. You learn about the history, the people and understand why P6 products are worth every penny! In addition, since P6 teaches you about the supply chain it closes the gap and transforms the grocery story into a farmers market.

How do you think P6 supports customers?

We see P6 as an added value member benefit program.  Keeping track of changes in the supply chain and current food issues can be challenging for consumers. Eastside Food Co-op is constantly researching new and current P6 producers to ensure they are positively representing food justice, equity and the quality our consumers are craving. In addition to carrying P6 products, the designation gives us a chance to celebrate the best quality foods and supply chain practices.

What has Eastside Food Co-op done up to this point to support P6?

When we launched the program in 2013, we hosted a launch party where we invited a number of our geographically local producers to come into the store and meet and greet our customers. This event was focused on getting customers to come in, put faces to the brand names, shake hands with the farmers, and to know that those producers are represented here at Eastside all the time.

Checkout screen at EFCAbout three years ago we upgraded our point of sale (POS) system and one feature that we really like is our ability to track P6 sales numbers throughout all departments. We are also now able to show customers their total percentage of P6 purchases on the bottom of their receipts. They can also see their total percentage on the register checkout screen as their sale is rung up. Customers frequently tell me how much they enjoy trying the increase the own personal record of P6 items purchased. Essentially, they make a game with themselves to support even more small, local, and cooperative producers!

There’s also P6 signage throughout the current store which includes the vestibule, some large format banners, and shelf-level signs. With expansion our sales floor will be twice as large, which will include more farmer/producer profiles because we will be able to carry more P6 products.

Tell me about the expansion. What’s it going to mean for P6?

With expansion, I’m extremely excited that the produce department is going to double. That means more shelf space for P6 producers! We are currently working to research additional P6 producers so we can prioritize including those products in the near future.

As we grow, we will have greater purchasing power. That means we can buy more product from small farmers, and provide a better revenue stream from them and more affordable pricing for our customers.

Bulk Almonds at EFCRight now, Priya and I are working on rewriting the branding and purchasing policies for the entire store. For the first time we’re putting P6 in those policies, so buyers and other employees in all departments are thinking about P6 when they’re making new product decisions. We’re also really looking forward to expanding sampling at the new store featuring P6 items, and hopefully getting a sampling coordinator someday! There’s a lot of possibilities open right now.

What’s going well, and where can Eastside grow and improve in the P6 program?

Our current P6 sales average about 27% of total store sales, which is very impressive given the size of our store and our restrictive definition of local. One of the main priorities of expansion is making the process of identifying P6 producers and products seamless, and a core part of Eastside’s identity. To achieve this, we are working with our staff to ensure they understand the impact of P6 on our store and our community so they consider it with all the decisions we make on a daily basis.

Where can people find out more about your expansion and your P6 program?

We have a great P6 webpage on our website and are working on getting more P6 information on our social media. To learn more about the expansion, we have fun construction mascot CeCe the Construction Cow. She posts updates to our construction webpage on our website and has a special Twitter account focused on expansion.

Thanks so much for your time! 

Thank you for talking with me! I always love talking about P6.

New P6 Board

p6sticker1We are excited to announce P6’s new Board of Directors! This is our first elected Board of Directors. As a multi-stakeholder co-op, taking new steps towards democratic governance that represents all our members is very exciting. You can read more about our new board members here.

The Only Food Co-op In Tennessee: P6 Reflections from Three Rivers Market

This post is by Loralyn Milcarek, the Merchandising Manager at Three Rivers Market. Loralyn is a new board member for P6.

Bikes parked outside of Three Rivers Market during their launch partyWhen Three Rivers Market first heard about Principle Six, we knew we wanted to participate in the movement.  At the time, we were in the middle of an expansion project, so we waited until we were truly ready to take it on.  We were moving from the old Victorian house that the co-op had operated out of for 30 years, and moving into a new, repurposed building with three times the space of our old location.

Co-op families enjoying the evening.

In August 2013, after we had settled in to our new larger store, we were ready to launch the Principle Six Cooperative Trade Movement in our store.  We kicked it all off by throwing a party at the store for our local community.  We invited local mobile food vendors to set up their food trucks and carts outside of our store, and set up a big tent with family-style tables decorated with locally-grown flowers. It was a festive afternoon, and hundreds gathered with their friends, neighbors, and kinfolk to eat great food and celebrate these locally-owned small businesses.  Inside the store, whether they stepped in to buy some groceries or just take a break from the Knoxville summer heat, co-op members and customers were greeted by new signs and banners that had popped up overnight, emphasizing the values of “small, local, co-op.”  Co-op members received 10% off of their purchases of P6 products all day.  With the launch of the P6 program, our customers were given an easy way to ensure that their purchases were supporting small, local, and/or cooperative farmers and producers, much like buying their dinner directly from the food truck owners outside.

TRM P6 and Local SlippiesPrior to the launch of P6, our co-op had labeled local products on the shelf, and customers sought out these products, to support small, local businesses through their purchases.  P6 added another layer to these values, by helping customers make purchases that will support small, independent farmers and producers on a national and global scale as well.

To us, the 3 criteria of small, local, and co-op refocused our attention on the values we had always held, and make it simpler to highlight these values for our customers.  When we talk about local businesses, we mean small, locally-owned independent businesses.  We’ve always had this degree of smallness included in our local definition.  When we joined P6, all of our local products became P6 products, and they were joined by hundreds of other products, grown or made by small, cooperative farmers and producers.  P6 took our local program to the next level, and helped us educate our customers on how their purchases support small, independent businesses outside of our local community.  

3. TRM Small Local Coop BannersThe cooperative focus of P6 is especially valuable to us, as Three Rivers Market has long been the only food co-op in the great state of Tennessee.  The presence of P6 in our store allows us to always be in conversation about cooperatives, through our store signs and through our website.  It is encouraging to know that, although we have far fewer co-ops in our area than our Midwestern co-op friends, we can still participate in this cooperative trade movement.

Loralyn and Luna.jpg-largeLast month, I attended the P6 Annual Meeting, hosted by Ozark Natural Foods in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  I’ve been connected to the P6 network of co-ops for two years, but this was the first time I was able to meet with all of them in person.  We spent two days in conversations about the cooperative supply chain, expanding distribution of P6 products, supporting P6 producers in our own communities, and telling the P6 story within our stores.  I was encouraged and inspired by the work done by the co-op stores in the Midwest, and Farmer Direct Co-op in Canada.  The Midwest P6 stores were able to connect Farmer Direct Co-op with a regional distributor, to get cooperatively-grown grains and legumes into the bulk bins of cooperatively-owned food stores.

P6 welcomed new member co-ops this year, including Roanoke Natural Foods in Roanoke, Virginia.  I am happy to see that the movement is growing, and to welcome a fellow Southeast co-op to P6.  I look forward to the continued growth of the cooperative trade movement, and I hope that we can join together with other co-ops in our region to create more co-op to co-op connections.

Reflections on P6 Annual Meeting from Ozark Natural Foods







A version of this post by Pauline of Ozark Natural Foods first appeared on their website. Thanks to Pauline and everyone at ONF for all their work to host our Annual Meeting this year!


At the end of May, we had the honor of hosting the Annual National P6 Board of Directors Meeting. Twenty representatives from the growing number of retail and wholesale cooperatives visited Northwest Arkansas to discuss the program, see how the program works in our store, and to vote on the board. This meeting was also historic as we got to elect the first official Board of Directors since the original members voted to become a member owned national cooperative in the spring of last year. We were so excited to host the meeting and meet amazing individuals from member co-ops including Sewards, Viroqua, Roanoke, Maple Valley, Farmer Direct, Three Rivers Market, Eastside, Menomonie, and CROPP, which most of you might know as Organic Valley along with Aaron Reser and Ruby Levine, the national program director and marketing assistant for P6.

The meeting was short and packed full of vibrant discussion on the values and logistics of cooperatively produced and distributed food, using the program to tell the story of P6 producers, the challenges and competition facing co-ops, and visions and directions for our new board. The meeting took place at Mt. Sequoyah, where our guests were lodged, and was catered by Ozark Natural Foods. Our northern friends seemed to particularly enjoy our house made biscuits and gravy. [Ed: can confirm.] The group mostly arrived on Wednesday night and started flying out Friday afternoon so their visit was mostly business, reports, intense idea sharing, and presentations. We did get to find time for some Fayetteville fun though! Some of the members along with myself and Ali, our Marketing Manager, met up the first night for a great dinner at Four Corners Kitchen where they got to enjoy all the local foods purchased and prepared in this wonderful new restaurant that is focused on the same thing we are in our kitchen here at ONF, using a menu that is built around seasonal local, and in our case, P6 farm offerings. (Special thanks to CROPP for taking us out!)

The next night was our turn and it was our delight to be able to take our guests and cooperative advocates out to dinner at Green House Grill with 2 of our own P6 producers, Tessa and Scott from White River Creamery and Mee McGill from Roots in Bloom. They, along with Genevieve Villines from Villines Family Farm, took time off their extremely busy farms to be a part of a workshop exercise and tell their story to the board and member representatives. Joining us for dinner, owner and operator Jerrmy Gawthrop, took time out to speak to members about the concept behind his restaurants and the driving force of locally sourced ingredients. A particularly moving moment for me was being able to share a meal with the people who both produced and prepared our ingredients and dishes while in the company of those who have done so much work on local and cooperative food systems. It is one of those times where I can literally see our food and cooperative movements strengthening, all over some goat cheese.


After a half day of meeting on Friday and lunch at our store, they listened to a presentation of the P6 program in our store and then got to tour Appleseeds Garden next door where Farm Manager Cale stayed in town to go over the non-profit’s operations and crops. The biggest take away for me was gaining the understanding that P6 is not just a marketing campaign, in the words of Eric from CROPP, P6 is a supply-chain program. It deals with how food actually moves around our country from farmer to store to consumer and farm to wholesale avenues and distribution. This is what coops are seeking to take on to make the food that we have worked over the past 40 years just to provide to our communities through retail stores. We are now working together as a group to move that food from farmer to you in a way that further benefits the communities who have made a co-op. Cooperatives address the unique needs of the communities they are in and we have learned a lot from each other. I’m excited to be in a store that does this for my community and for us now to be a part of this larger network that is constantly geared at strengthening each of its members. We are especially thankful to the entire board, staff, members, producers, and chefs who took the time to make this amazing event occur. Go co-op, go local, go P6!

Imagining Cooperative Supply Chains at the P6 Annual Meeting

P6 Group photo.jpg-largeLast week in Fayetteville, Arkansas, 20 representatives from our rapidly-growing ranks of P6 cooperatives met to discuss what the future of a cooperative supply chain will be. We were joined by the three new farmer co-ops that have joined P6 in 2015: Maple Valley, Organic Valley/Organic Prairie, and Farmer Direct. These farmers collaborated with folks from the 8 retail food co-op members of P6, including our two newest members, Menomonie Market Food Co-op and Roanoke Natural Foods, to get serious about what co-op to co-op to co-op trade will mean for our food system.

In addition to our co-op farmer members, we were able to talk with three farmers whose products get the P6 designation at Ozark Natural Foods, our host for the meeting. Farmers Mee, Tessa, and Genevieve told us how the P6 program has made a difference for their businesses. Genevieve and Pauline, the fresh manager at ONF, both told a story about how Genevieve was able to provide for her family without competing with other farmers in the area by asking Pauline what no one else was growing for the co-op. Genevieve’s farm then grew butternut squash, filling a niche the co-op hadn’t been able to supply before. Genevieve told us, “It was great to be a local farmer, but it’s been tremendous to be a P6 farmer and be a part of a national movement.”

Farmer Mee.jpg-largeMee is an employee at ONF as well as a P6 producer, so she has many different opportunities to interact with the program. Mee told her story, explaining how the P6 program gave her a clear venue to tell customers about the value of her wellness products. She said that she never got any interaction with her website until P6 launched, at which point she started hearing from people who wanted to know more about her business. Farmer Tessa runs the first cheese producing farm, and the only goat cheese producing farm, in Northwest Arkansas. She told us about how Ozark Natural Foods and the P6 program supported her farm through some difficult times, leading to growth in her business and sustained access to delicious local goat cheese for the region.

Jason presentation.jpg-largeOur facilitators led us in a conversation about how to support new co-ops in joining P6 and building cooperative supply chains. We heard presentations from Eric Newman of Organic Valley/Organic Prairie, who told us about the challenges and opportunities of being an 1,800 member organic farmer cooperative. Cecil Wright of Maple Valley shared his experience as a maple farmer and as the leader of an established, but smaller, multi-stakeholder cooperative of organic maple farmers and the people who support their efforts and buy their products. Finally Jason Freeman of Farmer Direct Co-op, an all-organic, all-domestic fair trade certified co-op in Canada that produces grains and beans and is just breaking into the American market with the help of P6.

We spent the rest of that day discussing how our cooperative trade LaDonna and Jan postits.jpg-largemovement can connect all the links in this chain. These conversations ranged from small ideas, like creating marketing packets for national farmer cooperatives that all our retail members can access, to huge ideas, like expanding cooperative distribution chains across the country, helping small farmers create co-ops, and expanding markets for small and cooperative farmers of color. We’re extremely excited to pick up these ideas and see where they take us next!

Our first board election took place in the days leading up to the Annual Meeting, and the results were announced at the meeting. This is the first time our leadership has been elected, following the great work of our founding Board. We’re taking the next steps in building a democratic organization! Our new board members are Loralyn Howard of Three Rivers Market, Bjorn Bergman of Viroqua Food Co-op, Cecil Wright of Maple Valley Co-op, Eric Newman of Organic Valley/Organic Prairie, Nick Seeberger of Seward Community Co-op, and Jeff Jewel of Bloomingfoods.

On Friday afternoon, the staff of Ozark Natural Foods took us on a tour of their store and told us aboSampling at ONF.jpg-largeut their P6 programming. As we walked in, staff members in P6 shirts offered us a new P6 kale salad with all P6 ingredients. We heard a presentation from Pauline, the ONF Fresh Manager, about the store’s efforts to bring the P6 program to life. Inspired by her experience working with Genevieve, Pauline developed a website for telling farmers about what fruits and vegetables are needed, so they can grow specifically for needs the co-op has. We heard about ONF’s P6 Tour de Farms, which is expanding this year to include producers, and to invite 500 community members, over the 250 who came last year. Thanks so much to Ozark Natural Foods to for hosting this event and helping all of us build the cooperative trade movement!

If you’d like to hear more about our Annual Meeting, check out our Twitter page, which has more detailed information and pictures.

Small Business Week Idea: Rooster Roster

P6 will be posting every day this week in honor of Small Business Week. Today we’re featuring an idea for supporting small businesses from P6 member Three Rivers Market.

threeriversThe Rooster Roster is bringing the spirit of P6 beyond the co-op! Three Rivers Market in Knoxville TN knows that supporting small, local, and cooperative businesses is a core value of their members. To support their members in sending all their dollars to good places, Three Rivers has started the Rooster Roster, a list of small, local, cooperative, and independent businesses in. Knoxville. I spoke with Emily Bryant about the program.

Where did you get the idea for the Rooster Roster?

Our Rooster Roster was inspired by our friends from Wheatsville Food Co-op.  We created the Rooster Roster to support local businesses, connecting member business-owners with each other and the community.   We also wanted to position Three Rivers Market as an information center and offer the additional benefit of our Rooster Roster as part of our membership.

How does the Rooster Roster relate to P6?

Businesses on the Rooster Roster must be small and local, a key element of P6.

What are you doing to promote the Rooster Roster?

We maintain a Rooster Roster page on our website, choosing a different local business each week to promote on our Facebook page and website. In these posts we encourage folks to join the co-op and promote their businesses with us!

P6 featured on the Field Guide for a Regenerative Economy

P6 is honored to be featured this month at the Field Guide for a Regenerative Economy. The Field Guide tells the stories of businesses that meet their principles for building an economy that rebuilds itself and supports building holistic wealth, nurturing both entrepreneurialism, and collaboration. An excerpt from their interview with our own Aaron Reser:

Some changes in purchasing habits begin to happen quickly when new P6 members sign on to the branding program; others take more time.  In some cases new suppliers can be picked up quickly and there are a lot of examples where stores have really been able to increase P6 sales dramatically by changing purchasing polices and working closely with buyers.  But, Aaron explains, “some of the work we are doing is long-term and involves slow steps towards shifting to the cooperative economy.”

In addition to the branding strategy, P6 continually seeks ways to nurture a vibrant sharing network among its members.  While P6 does not provide direct financing in support of supply chain development, it sees its role as providing a knowledge network of members who can develop such financial supports, a network where one coop can learn from another’s experiences or participate in another’s funding program.

Read the full article here.

P6 Update from Ozark Natural Foods

We are very excited to bring you this blog post from our newest retail member, Ozark Natural Foods. This post is by Gary Rettberg, the Communications Coordinator at ONF.

Moore Produce peppersWe started our P6 program back in August 2014 here at Ozark Natural Foods, and we haven’t looked back! P6 has been a great tool for informing our Owners and engaging with these small, local, and/or cooperative businesses. We currently have about 1,140 P6 products in the store and several P6 vendors. Many of these vendors are local to our store. This allows us to cultivate relationships with the actual producers, which in turn helps us to understand exactly where our food and goods are coming from. It’s about having a deeper connection to the products you purchase. We have found that often products will be labeled as “organic” or “all natural” but may not have the best sustainable practices or quality ingredients that the label suggests. Having the P6 program helps to ensure our producers are honest with their products and keeps our standards of quality high.

As some of you might know, our Co-op will be facing some tough competition in our area. In mid-March Natural Grocers opened a store on our street a few miles down the road. In addition, Whole Foods will be opening a store in September even closer to us. We expect some loss in sales, but believe we can strongly weather the storm. This competition gives us a chance to get back to our roots. The foundations of the entire cooperative movement in essence are these small, local, and/or cooperative P6 producers. While our competition may carry some local or cooperative based products, our focus will be on helping to develop our local food system. We won’t just be another store for these producers to sell in. We will engage them and the local community. We will aid them in creating an independent, sustainable, fully functioning local food system. This may seem like a huge endeavor to undertake, but this is our commitment. It is an important and worthwhile one as global and national food systems become increasingly unreliable and even at times dangerous. Local food systems are the future and your Co-op is on the forefront of something very exciting.

chick saleWe have had the pleasure of getting to work with absolutely amazing local farmers and producers. Recently, P6 producer Villines Family Farm worked with us to orchestrate our 2nd annual Baby Chick Sale. Genevieve and her family brought us 300 baby chicks! Through our owner’s we were able find every single one a happy forever home. Working together with Villines Family Farm helped us to innovate and try new ideas. They helped us to push ourselves as a coop and I’m sure we helped push their production! Collaboration with these P6 producers is a fundamental necessity for the success of the P6 program.

Chicken and babies from Villines Farm in Arkansas. Picture from Ozark Natural Foods.

Like with any big project this process has not been without challenges. We know that it will take time to familiarize our guests and owners with the P6 signs in the store. Most people are used to regular industry buzz words like, “organic”, “natural”, “local”, and “sustainability”. These labels can be vague and can be very unclear when it comes to the actual ingredients of a product. The great thing about the P6 program is that it is a clearly defined label. P6 uses 3 criteria: small, local, co-op to help customers think through where their dollar goes when they purchase a product. A product receives the P6 label when it meets at least two of the three criteria. We have educated our staff about P6 and they in turn educate our customers. At its core, the P6 program is really all about education and telling the stories of the amazing P6 producers in our store.

Producers at Ozark Natural Foods Shindig 1P6 producers at Ozark Natural Foods Shindig 2

As a Co-op it is our responsibility to be the liaison between consumers and producers. P6 is about supporting small producers both locally and internationally. It’s important to think where your coffee is coming from, and where your carrots are coming from! Locally, we facilitate this relationship by educating and also holding events in which our P6 producers are able to come and engage with consumers. April 11th & 12th was our last Owner Appreciation Weekend, and during this weekend we had our first ever P6 Shindig! This “Shindig” included a meet and greet of 12 of our local P6 producers. We want the consumer to know their producer and know where their food is coming from. A lot of Co-ops around the nation have been doing P6 events and it has been very encouraging to see all the great results. This fall during our Annual Owner’s Meeting will have a very similar set-up as the P6 Shindig inside the store. Educating our owners and guests is a vital part of perpetuating a sustainable local food system. So let’s engage our community of Northwest Arkansas and get to work!