P6 Producer: Roots In Bloom

This article about Roots in Bloom by Andrew of Ozark Natural Foods originally appeared on their website

roots in bloomOnce upon a time you could find Mee McGill sitting at the Owner Services Desk, smiling wide at everyone who walked through the door. Mee has since moved on to become the Assistant Wellness Manager, but you can still see her throughout the store with her signature smile and perpetual cheer.

In addition to her position at ONF, she and her husband own and operate Roots in Bloom Farm, a Certified Naturally Grown farm and homestead nestled in the Boston Mountains in West Fork, AR. Roots in Bloom is an off-grid, sustainable teaching farm dedicated to providing naturally grown food and wellness products to the community and world. Roots in Bloom is passionate about healthy values, nutritious food, sustainability, and helping others in need. They provide Certified Naturally Grown produce and herbs to ONF, in addition to local nurseries and through community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs. They also offer workshops, DIY kits, and other value-added products such as all-natural bug sprays, healing salves, and sunscreen. We sell many of Roots in Bloom’s products at ONF, and I can personally attest that their products work very well. I was duly impressed with her bug spray when I went for a hike one day back in mid-summer. RIB sunscreen is also recommended for protecting your sensitive skin against the sun’s harmful UV rays. We will also soon be carrying their Baby Bum Heal diaper rash cream, in addition to an all-natural ConChest rub to battle the nasty congestion one gets during cold and flu season. One of their most exciting products is their Sustainable Lifeline DIY Tincture Kits. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at making your own tinctures, then these are for you.

roots in bloom

In addition to her work at ONF and Roots in Bloom, Mee is also a doula, a medical assistant, CNA, and Master Herbalist. According to Mee, “I am a mother of two wonderful young women who I provided home education to for several years. Following this stage of my life, I felt it was time to expand my skills and offer assistance to the community who supported my choice to home school. I followed my dream and received my certification as a Master Herbalist. I was so interested in the things that I learned that I wanted to further my education in the medical field. I felt this would give me a better understanding of “conventional” medicine and the differences between that and “alternative” medicine. I received my nurse assistant certification and became a medical assistant as well. After spending some time figuring out where I wanted to aim my focus, I went back to work for the natural food co-op in my area and began the development of this farm. I have become more passionate about natural wellness and healthy food. It is my desire to share the knowledge and abilities I have gained with others. Currently, I offer doula and in-home care services, herbal consultations, workshops which teach about home herbalism, and working hard to develop Roots in Bloom to create a healthier future for my community.”

Roots in Bloom currently has a Crowdfund campaign to purchase a waterwheel that will be used to produce electricity. Any remaining funds will be allocated to improving the wellness aspect of their business. You can also find Roots in Bloom on social media, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. Their website is www.rootsinbloom.weebly.com.

As you can see, Mee is a valuable asset to our food co-op and Fayetteville community, and we are so grateful to have her on our team!

 

Farmer Direct Co-op on the shelves at Viroqua Food Co-op

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.2016-Farmer-Direct-Co-op-Postcard.jpg
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.

Farmer Direct Co-op bulk bins at Viroqua Food Co-op

 

A P6 Fall in Arkansas

The Tour de Farms and the Farmer Appreciation Dinner were cornerstones of Ozark Natural Food’s relationships with their customers and producers before they ever joined P6. Upon launching P6 in fall 2014, the ONF staff re-envisioned these events with a P6 perspective. The new P6 Tour de Farms is bigger and more inclusive, bringing ONF members to breweries and coffee roasters as well as farms, and the P6 Appreciation Dinner is open to all 120 P6 producers who make or grow products for the co-op. Here’s reports from ONF’s Pauline Thiessen about these exciting events.

P6 Tour de Farms

Core Brewery 20115 Tour De FarmsThis past October Ozark Natural Foods hosted its second annual P6 Tour de Farms where owners and guests could tour over 20 participating Principle 6 farms, breweries, coffee roaster shops, a soap business, and one winery and vineyard.  Following the precedent set in its first year, Tour de Farms continues to be the most popular event in terms of owner participation, with over 300 registrants in 2015!  Originally borrowed from New Leaf Market, ONF organized the first set of tours in 2014 as a way for its ownership to connect directly with regional farmers who grow food to sell through the coop.  After the launch of P6, the event grew to include area P6 businesses who sell their value added products through the store.

Ozark Pasture Beef 2015 Tour De FarmsUp from 8 stops to 21 stops in its second year, the event was organized into 6 different teams, or suggested routes.  The stops were clustered in Fayetteville, AR where the co-op is located, and around neighboring towns that ranged from 10-70 miles away from the store with average driving time at 1 hour to locations in surrounding counties. One route went to the neighboring sister city, Springdale; another south of Fayetteville; 2 routes spread out east around rural Huntsville and the historic city of Eureka Springs; and the furthest one away took attendees to a different growing region outside of the Ozark hills that is referred to as the River Valley. The closing event was held at the educational farm to school garden in the lot adjacent to the coop with tours of both Ozark Natural Foods and our organic chicken and livestock feedstore, Ozark Natural Feeds.

Plentygood Farm 2015 Tour De FarmsOn the tour, farms promote two-hour tour windows, while businesses arranged for group tours at specific times so each team could easily organize in terms of a suggested driving route. Registrants receive a “passport” containing all of this information, as well as addresses and maps, prior to the start of the tour weekend. This year folks could start signing up a month before the event and come back to the store to pick up their passports two weeks early.  People who visited 9 or more of the 21 stops could return their stamped passports to the store and be entered to win one of 2 shopping sprees or a Farm and Garden giveaway valued at $100. Each stop has fun things including organized tours, prepared samples of food from the farm, refreshments provided from the coop,  various demonstrations like How to Build a Cold Frame or No-Till Farming, and farms and businesses are encouraged to have their product available for purchase.

Ugly Bunny 2015 Tour De FarmsThe event is free, open to the public, and paid for by ONF’s Farmer Committee with a budget under the store’s Marketing and Outreach department.  ONF started the Farmer Committee over 7 years ago with the aim of providing additional support to farmers actively growing produce for the coop.  The Farmer Committee is a volunteer group of owners, farmers, and staff of ONF dedicated to educating and supporting local farmers and encouraging the transition to organic farming practices by offering resources and assistance.  The committee also envisions a vibrant network of local organic food producers that increases the availability of organic food for the Northwest Arkansas community.
Saddlebock Brewery 2015 Tour De FarmsAfter just one year, the tour became popular enough that both farmers and owners were already looking forward to 2015.  ONF is planning to continue the annual tour in 2016. Last year we averaged over 40 attendees per stop and this year, with more stops, the average was in the mid-twenties. Based on feedback from our first year, we added the suggested routes and posted directions on the website for some of the harder-to-find stops.

White River Creamery 2015 Tour De FarmsThe New Leaf farm tour has grown to over 1,400 participants with over 40 stops and offered workshops.  We are excited to see our P6 Tour de Farms grow as a regional event that connects people with the farmers who grow their food at their community coop.  P6 events like the tour have already created positive results. We had owners come back to the store just to buy Spence’s chicken because they got to go to Across the Creek farm and understand just how much effort it takes an Iraq war vet to raise pasture poultry on non-GMO feed on a land trust in south Fayetteville, and our community wants to support family farms like that.  You can see that understanding and awareness grow in a tangible way when folks can share food from the farm with the farmer who grew it, right after a personal farm tour.  To me, that is P6 in action, that is the importance of the cooperative business model.

 

P6 Appreciation Dinner

DSC_0127This past December, Ozark Natural Foods celebrated and took a chance to say thanks to all of the store’s P6 producers at our 6th Annual P6 Appreciation Dinner in Fayetteville, AR. Invitations were given to all 120 P6 farms and businesses that work to produce and add value to food for the co-op. Over 90 producers were able to make it to the dinner held at the Garden Room on Thursday, December 3rd.

The dinner started at 5pm with appetizers and donated beer from P6 producer Core Brewing Company.  The guests enjoyed the food trays DSC_0133and lager while a slide show played with pictures of every P6 producer the dinner formally began. The dinner is emceed each year by me, Pauline Thiessen, Fresh Foods Manager and the store’s fresh foods P6 Liaison. I opened with greeting everyone to much applause and introduced the other staff presenters for the evening. Representatives from throughout our store’s P6 program spoke about their experiences working with producers. The store’s prepared foods department catered the event and served made from scratch food like Roasted Lamb & Chicken, Savory Winter Squash Stuffing, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Roots, a Fresh Winter Salad, and Maple Spice Cake, all featuring local ingredients from P6 producers.

DSC_0142We organize the dinner a little differently every year with a different focal point for the event.  We’ve had presenters who’ve created food hubs in their area and other sustainable food systems advocates, we’ve premiered a documentary we produced, we’ve done an awards dinner, and this year we wanted to have a discussion with our producers about competition planning. Between March of 2015 and March of 2016, both Natural Grocers and Whole Foods will have opened their doors less than 3 miles from the co-op.  With direct competitions and other traditional stores stepping up their game on the organic and local foods, our store, like many other co-ops across the country, is noticing the impact. We’ve spent years now doing competition prep planning, had board and owner visioning, staff input, and talked to other coops, and thought we should get some feedback from our producers.  We saw this year’s dinner as an opportunity to have a conversation with our producers about their ideas for thriving in the face of competition and specifically how P6 and the direct vendor relationship can help strengthen our store as well as their businesses.

DSC_0148The competition discussion was led by Mike after short presentations about how P6 works in the different departments and a P6 year review and farmer committee report. Since this was our first full year of being a P6 coop, we really wanted to have staff members talk about the program in action in their different departments, to give the producers an idea of what the staff are doing with P6, its impact, and new aspects of the program that we’ve developed this past year. Debbie spoke about how the cashiers use P6 to engage customers and the store’s New Leaf program, a way that customers can round up their purchases and donate the amount towards a specific need or project from the store’s P6 producers. Zee talked about it from her perspective during nights and weekends and what she was doing to source and promote P6 beer & wine. Mee talked about the tools she developed for tracking crop agreements, shopping P6 in packaged products, and her new liaison position before I presented.

DSC_0150I was excited to review our first full year of P6. We’re doing a lot more P6 events now and I wanted everyone to know how our collective involvement with the national trade movement was impacting our local store. I thanked everyone from the host room and servers to ONF staff and board, and then of course, the producers. Part of the intention of the dinner is to help our producers develop a sense of being a distinct group within our community. We had some really fun things to report, like Mee’s new liaison position, sales data from events like our P6 Shindigs, and the things everyone waits for in the farmer committee report: who our top producer was (Sycamore Bend Farm) and the total dollar amount of fresh foods purchased over the past year.  In 2014 we purchased over $167,000 of local fresh fruits and veggies. This year we sourced over $201,000 of P6 produce and plants!

DSC_0141I think this is due to two things: our new approach with fresh foods and increased participation with P6.  I was completely amazed and so thrilled that the number had increased so much and despite a slump in overall store sales. I think it’s an healthy indication of the resilience of our producers and ours store, and like I told them, it almost brought a tear to my eye.  It’s great to know and be able to share this information.  People can get down after years like this one where torrential rains caused 50-75% crop losses for 3 of our top producers and people are waiting to compare us to Whole Foods. Things like the dinner just lift everyone’s spirits for an evening and remind us all of the bigger picture. Our producers look forward to ‘the dinner’ every year and it’s had a tangibly positive impact on vendor relations, something I view as a core part of P6. With 2015 coming to a close we’re all looking forward to 2016 with crop planning, new tools for P6 vendors created by the staff, and of course, to next year’s dinner.

Update from the Grow Together Fund

IMG_20151201_114003In 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.

  • Before Equal Exchange started working with us, we were only processing 2800 quintales (100 pound bags) of raw cashew nuts because our land certified as organic was only 163 Manzanas (113 Hectares) (280 acres). This last year we hired an agriculture technician to give follow up to a new group of cashew farmers. These farmers were already producing cashew nuts, but were not organically certified, so we put our efforts toward giving them technical assistance in organic agriculture and we got them certified.IMG_20151201_123255
  • We increased our production of organic cashew nuts from 3000 to 3500 quintales.
  • We increased our annual sales from $350,000 to $425,000; this was because we had more organic cashews available.
  • We increased labor in our factory one month longer than usual (80 people at the processing plant) providing badly needed jobs for women in the area.
  • We added 15 new members in the department of Usulután. We now have 62 members.
  • We have planted 700 new trees (in new areas that represents 10 new hectares) (25 acres).
  • 700 old trees were cut and new seedlings were created by grafting new shoots onto the old trees.IMG_20151201_122537
  • We have created a Revolving Loan Fund to make credit available for farmers. We have available a credit line for small cashew farmers who receive pre-finance to do maintenance work on their cashew farms before the harvest time. This helps them increase productivity of their farm and feed their families while they are waiting for the harvest.

 

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!

 

 

New P6 National Director

Ali on the FarmWe 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. ​

P6 Profile: War Eagle Mill

This post by Mariah from Ozark Natural Foods originally appeared on their website

War Eagle Mill is our local P6 mill located in Rogers and “organic, natural, and non-GMO” are their favorite words! “Our flour comes to you the War Eagle way – stone ground slowly to preserve all the nutrients and the deep, rich taste. Our farmers are committed to maintaining a natural, organic, and non-GMO environment for growing grain, and work hand-in-hand with us to shorten the time between the field, the milling process, and your table.  Since 1832 to today, we remain committed to you and your family’s health. You are our first priority.” Sounds like some good Arkansas family to me!

Let me start by giving a short history of this beautiful place. Sylvanus and Catherine got married at a young age and when they decided it was time to get a place of their own Sylvanus went out west from Tennessee in search of the perfect spot. He found this spot, a beautiful valley next to the War Eagle Creek in Arkansas. Through floods, the Civil War, and many other obstacles, this family has kept the mill going!

We carry a wide variety of their amazing products. In bulk you’ll find brown rice flour, rye flour, unbleached bread flour, wheat bran, and a few others. These are the perfect ingredients for your personal family recipes. In packaged grocery we carry their honey-nut bread mix, hot roll mix, biscuit mix (my personal favorite for a hardy serving of biscuits and gravy), and yellow cornbread mix. You won’t find a more lovely addition to your holiday meals!

War Eagle Mill reminds us of our roots; there’s an Arkansan ready for some homemade and homegrown soul-warming comfort breads in all of us. A mouthful I know, but that’s exactly what you’ll want when you try these rich, local products. I highly recommend that you look up the history of this mill; it’s truly interesting considering that it’s right down the road! This holiday season, fill your family and friends (literally) with the love from War Eagle Mill!

 

New P6 Member: Organic Valley

Ranck_PA_06-15_0645Here at P6, we are honored to welcome a new wholesale member: CROPP Cooperative. CROPP is a farmer co-op, owned by farmer members, and better known to the public as the successful brands they market under, Organic Valley and Organic Prairie. With CROPP’s membership, along with our longstanding policy of giving the P6 label to large co-ops like Organic Valley and Equal Exchange, we wanted to address a question that is often raised. Why do these big, successful businesses get the P6 label? Isn’t P6 all about supporting the small producer? The answer is yes!

P6 is about first and foremost supporting small producers, and in these cases we’re supporting small producers who have cooperatively and democratically organized together. Our organization, the Principle Six Cooperative Trade Movement, has support for cooperative businesses built into our structure. Benson_NY_09-15_16019Cooperatives are democratic institutions, and we believe that self-governance is a key component of the food system we want to see. We know that a farmer co-op like Organic Valley, or a worker co-op buying exclusively from small farmer co-ops like Equal Exchange, puts the best interests of small farmers at the heart of their business model. Many types of businesses make claims that they support small farmers, but their top priority is still making a profit for shareholders, not the farmers themselves. In these business models, control and decision-making power is concentrated at the top of the organization rather than being shared through democratic governance. The large co-ops of small farmers that we label as P6 exist primarily to benefit those farmers. Not just by paying them a better price for their goods, but by giving them the opportunity to be a part of the decision-making process within the business. As a consumer, you can be confident that your food dollars are going to support small family farmers when you buy products from these co-ops.

_DSC4877-minOrganic Valley has been a key supporter of P6 over the years, including funding our videos through their Farmers Advocating For Organics fund. They are an excellent example of cooperative economics in practice, and we are thrilled to have them on board as members. In order to tell the full story of our longtime supporter and newest member, I interviewed Jerry McGeorge, Vice President of Cooperative Affairs at Organic Valley, and his insights are throughout this article, which also draws from Organic Valley’s publications, particularly their farmer-facing co-op website.

In 1988, several small family farmers in Wisconsin started an organic vegetable marketing cooperative they dubbed Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool (CROPP). In July of 1988, they branched off into an organic dairy program with seven farmers who collectively produced 10,000 pounds (about 1,200 gallons) of milk every day. After a year and a half of disappointing sales, CROPP developed the Organic Valley brand and began marketing its own products directly. The cooperative has branched out several times since then with organic eggs in 1993, organic meats under the Organic Prairie label in 1999, and organic soy in 2004. Because the co-op has grown far beyond the Coulee Region, CROPP now stands for “Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools.” These producer pools organize farmers by type of product (dairy, meat, soy, etc) and by region. You can read more about the pool structure here.

DSC00126-min (1)Organic Valley is owned by 1,800 farm families in 34 states, Canada, and Australia. Those farmers elect and make up the board. The organization doesn’t exist to make profits for corporate shareholders; it exists to provide a livelihood for the owners who do the work to produce the milk and other products while meeting consumers’ growing demand for organic food.

Organic Valley’s pioneering “Y In The Road” payment system pays the farmers first, before retaining profits for the business. Organic milk prices can be very volatile, and the crash and boom cycle leads to an unpredictable income for farmers, who may be raising children or planning for retirement. Organic Valley evens out this cycle by planning target prices for each coming year, and has never sold below their target price. This means Organic Valley farmers can predict how much money they will be making in the coming year, and plan for the growth of their business (because all family farmers are small business owners, too!). Organic Valley also supports farmers as they transition into organic farming, which provides a pathway to a higher sale price for farmers that are currently selling conventional products, and expands the number of cows raised organically.

Ranck_PA_06-15_1749This stable pricing model has pioneered a new way of doing business in the organic milk industry. Other brands working with organic dairy farmers have followed suit in terms of offering a consistent price, to keep up with the competitive pricing offered to farmers by Organic Valley. At this point, about 10% of the organic dairy farmers in the country are owners of Organic Valley, and they are still seeking out new owners to meet the demand for Organic Valley products. Organic Valley’s policies don’t only improve life for the farmers they work with directly; they ripple out to the whole industry.


Jerry McGeorge explained that Organic Valley is a national co-op with a regional focus. Dairy is a product with a short shelf-life, so supply-chain concerns are particularly pressing in this industry. The Organic Valley brand is recognizable across the country, but the milk you shelf tags in dairy coolerbuy likely came from the region you live in. The national scope of the co-op also allows farmers to support each other’s variations in production. This is especially important in cases of severe weather conditions. When tornadoes come through the Midwest, or California faces a drought, consumers still want milk. Farmers in different regions are less likely to be impacted by the same environmental factors, so a functional, farmer-owned distribution network builds resiliency.

Speaking of the environment, Organic Valley is committed to environmental sustainability. They are one of the only food companies in the US that sells only certified organic products, which has huge impacts on the ecosystems surrounding the member farms. Organic means that Organic Valley member farms never use antibiotics, toxic pesticides, synthetic hormones, or synthetic fertilizers. The cows raised by Organic Valley farmers are pastured, which produces healthier milk and nourishes the soil. In addition, Organic Valley has installed enough wind power to cover 63% of the energy use at their headquarters, including their 10-story cold storage facility, as well as investing in solar and biodiesel. More information about their sustainability commitment here.

Teague_8376The democratic process at a cooperative isn’t always easy. There can be real differences of opinion between the farmers as they work together to govern their business. In one example, the co-op faced a challenge when some farms started selling raw milk. While some farmers were in favor, due to the possible health benefits and different flavor of raw milk that drive consumer interest, others were concerned about the impacts on the entire brand if one or two people got sick  from raw milk sold by an Organic Valley farmer. Ultimately, the farmers made a decision to not allow raw milk sales from any  of their farms. As Jerry put it, whether or not you agree with that decision, the farmers were able to make it democratically, in a way that ultimately reflected their mutual self-interest.

Teague_8378Organic Valley is a strategic partner for P6 because of their dedication to and experience in cooperative business growth and supply chain development. The logistics of transporting that milk around the country takes thoughtful planning and a tremendous amount of work. Organic Valley has started a subsidiary business called Organic Logistics. They saw that their costs for shipping product were higher than necessary because they were sending out less than full loads, or shipping product in one direction and paying for the truck to come back empty. Organic Logistics uses Organic Valley’s shipments as an anchor, while providing distribution services for other small, organic businesses. This maximizes the value of the shipments and builds a P6 and organic economy. Jerry emphasized the challenge that distribution poses for small producers who are trying to expand. He highlighted Walmart’s success at figuring out distribution challenges as one reason for their financial success. If we want to build an alternative food system, we need to develop efficient systems for getting healthy, fresh food to people.

The ability to aggregate or “pool” the farm products of several small producers is a key concern for large-scale cooperative businesses. Organic Valley attributes part of its success to its ability to aggregate — that is, bring together the products of many small farmers to a shared product stream, like a milk packager, and to market them collectively. As Jerry put it, there is strength in numbers. Reaching a certain economy of scale allows the co-op to offer farmers the kind of stabilized sale prices mentioned above. Bringing the product together — aggregation — so it can be sent out to a wide range of retailers — distribution — while allowing farmers to retain democratic control of the business is what makes Organic Valley an exemplar of P6’s values.

DSC00130-min (1)Jerry said that Organic Valley hopes to offer a similar stabilizing effect as a member of P6. Jerry, along with Organic Valley’s VP of Sales, Eric Newman, who sits on the P6 board, got interested in P6 through the Viroqua Food Co-op. Viroqua Food Co-op is the closest food co-op for most of the staff at Organic Valley’s La Farge, WI headquarters. At the time VFC was joining P6, Jerry sat on the VFC board. Many people worked to develop a way for farmer co-ops like Organic Valley to plug into P6. As Jerry put it, natural food co-ops are Organic Valley’s oldest and most loyal customers. Finding a way to strengthen the connection between grocery co-ops and all farmer co-ops, including Organic Valley, aligns well with Organic Valley’s commitment to the sixth  cooperative principle.

Organic Valley is a leader in the field of cooperative agriculture. We enthusiastically welcome them into the P6 cooperative and look forward to working with them for many years to come.

P6 Is Seeking a New National Director

p6sticker1We 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.

Overview
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.

Minimum Qualifications

  • Organizational skills, attention to detail, strongly self-directed
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Strong networking and relationship development skills
  • Ability to lead a diverse group and create shared alignment across stakeholders
  • Experience with sales and recruiting
  • Organizational management skills and supervisory experience
  • Experience with organizational budgeting and financial management
  • Familiarity with and/or enthusiasm for the cooperative business model
  • Computer proficiency, experience with Microsoft Office and WebEx or equivalent
  • Ability to travel frequently
  • English proficiency

 

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 nseeberger@seward.coop by Sunday, November 15th, 2015. You may also email Nick with questions about this position.

Equal Exchange Launches New Climate Justice Initiative

This post comes from Equal Exchange’s website.

cji_webheader

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.

Why?
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.

  • At CECOVASA, in Peru, and the Chajul Co-operative in Guatemala, coffee farmers have seen catastrophic losses- up to 75% on some farms – due to “La Roya” (coffee rust); a fungus previously unknown in the highland coffee regions, which has recently migrated to higher elevations due to warmer temperatures and high humidity.
  • At APRAINORES cashew co-operative in El Salvador, 3 days of relentless hurricane-like winds caused farmers to lose 70% of their harvest; subsequent unusually high tides destroyed 100 acres of cashew trees on the Island of Montecristo; the resulting salinity of the soil makes future replanting impossible.
  • At the Potong Tea Garden, a worker-owned, collectively managed tea garden in Darjeeling, extremely low rainfall during the last monsoon season crippled soil rehabilitation and planting projects, and led to losses of nearly five tons on first and second-flush tea.

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.

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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!

 

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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.

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