P6 now based at Seward Coop

In 2010, Seward Co-op launched the Principle Six (P6) Cooperative Trade Movement to highlight products that meet two out of three criteria: local, cooperative/nonprofit, and small farmer/producer. Last summer, Seward took its support for the program a step further by offering to host the national P6 program, now based out of our co-op. We recently sat down with the P6 Central Coordinator, Aaron Reser, to hear an update.

What does it mean that Seward is part of a larger P6 Movement?

P6 was developed to embody Principle Six of the International Cooperative Principles: “Cooperation Among Cooperatives.” All P6 members are cooperatives. Nationally, we all use the P6 logo and share resources and best practices. By working together, we’re able to leverage our purchasing power to strengthen supply chains for small producers and cooperatives, both locally to our respective stores and internationally.

How did the national P6 organization end up at Seward?

Equal Exchange (a worker-owned cooperative bringing us familiar products such as fair-trade coffee and bananas) did amazing work leading the P6 initiative for the first several years, and they were really the visionaries behind P6. As the program evolved, it became apparent that P6 plays out mostly in the cooperative retail stores. There was a natural transition of leadership from Equal Exchange to the cooperative grocery stores. Equal Exchange is still a P6 member and a key player, but the P6 national “office” needed a new home, and Seward stepped up to house the program.

What drew you to P6?

I have worked in the local foods world for the past decade, including many years farming, working in Seward’s Produce department at the old store, and managing the Mill City Farmers Market. In that time I’ve noticed a tremendous surge in the popularity of local, organic, and fair-trade foods; but an unfortunate reality is that this doesn’t always translate to benefits for the source of that food: the farmers and producers. P6 really opens this conversation about ownership and who profits from our purchases.

As a consumer, the more directly we understand the source of our product, including all steps of its journey to us, the more control we can exercise over our purchasing decisions. It is important to me to know that when I buy a product, whether it’s local produce or coffee from afar, a fair percentage of my dollar goes back to the small producers. P6 covers these bases.

Take, for example, the breakfast I had this morning: Birchwood granola with an Equal Exchange banana and Rochdale Farms yogurt and a cup of fair-trade coffee. My dollar makes a difference for these producers, but when you think of my dollar multiplied by all the other customers who bought these products at Seward, the numbers become impressive. When you think of the jobs created and small producers supported, you see the larger impact of my breakfast choices. When you consider the many P6 co-ops involved in the P6 movement, we begin to see systemic change.

I encourage customers to look for the P6 logo on products and use the profiles of featured P6 producers in store and in the “Sprout!” as a way to connect to the sources of their food. P6 is about celebrating the farmers and producers who are creating the type of economy and world in which we believe.

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