The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

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Principal Six Co-operative Trade Movement

I call on cooperatives as a sales representative for several fair trade companies.  I came across P6 for the first time this February so I found this article in the La Cross Tribune intriguing.

The Principle Six (P6) Co-operative Trade Movement is an initiative created by cooperatives that promotes small farmers/producers, cooperative businesses and local farmers. P6 works by promoting products and producers that meet our highest values, engaging and empowering customers to make purchasing decisions that make our food system more just and sustainable. The Viroqua Food Co-op designates products as P6 when they meet at least two of the three criteria:
  • Local: A product grown or produced within 100 miles of the VFC, or having value added within that radius.
  • Cooperative/nonprofit: Cooperative ownership of the business, nonprofit status or the business sources the majority of their product’s ingredients from cooperatives or nonprofits. Some ESOP’s, Social Ventures, or alternative business models may qualify.
  • Small farmer/producer: Small producer is defined using these guidelines:
  1. Independently owned and operated, and
  2. Selling direct to store or through a regional distributor. Continue reading

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Food For Change – A History of the Cooperative Movement in America

Food For Change is a feature-length documentary film focusing on food co-ops as a force for dynamic social and economic change in American culture. The movie tells the story of the cooperative movement in the U.S. through interviews, rare archival footage, and commentary by the filmmaker and social historians. This is the first film to examine the important historical role played by food co-ops, their pioneering quest for organic foods, and their current efforts to create regional food systems. Additionally, the film shows how the co-op movement strengthens communities where they are located, enhancing local economies and food security. The goal is to educate a wide national audience about the principles of cooperation with a focus on food.

You can learn more about Food For Change here.

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Consumer Cooperative Movement on Iron Range

Cindy Kujala, a staff writer for the Community Information Network, writes about the consumer cooperative movement on the Iron Range in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s:

The consumer cooperative movement on the Range was initially developed almost entirely by Finnish immigrant groups and although second and third generation Americans of other ethnic groups eventually contributed to the movement, it has eventually been almost totally dominated by Finnish Americans.
During the period 1890 through the 1950s, the Range was dominated by three economic activities: mining, logging and agriculture. All three activities saw conditions of economic insecurity due to responses of these activities to general economic conditions as well as seasonal fluctuations and exhaustions of iron ore and forest resources. In addition, conflict between workers and large corporations affect entire communities.
As a producer, the immigrant farmer on the Range market farm produced mainly dairy products and wood products. Local lumber companies or jobbers usually contracted for the forest products and extended credit to buy supplies from the company store.
This practice often resulted in the immigrant farmer being exploited twice: once when he had to sell his products at whatever price the company would give him, and then again when he had to buy at the company store at high prices. As a miner or logger, the early immigrant was also usually given credit at the company store. These stores often had monopolies and the immigrant miners, loggers or farmers had to trade there. High prices were the rule.
As a result of their limited incomes and the above consumer conditions, the immigrant became very conscious of consumer purchasing. The high prices charged by local merchants is one of the most frequently repeated reasons given for starting local cooperatives. Continue reading

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Japanese Cooperatives Play Role in Fukushima Cleanup

Reposted from foodtank:

Cooperatives are the backbone for Japan’s rural economy through their presence in agriculture, fisheries, and even forestry. From rural to urban, farmer to consumer, and junior to elderly, cooperatives play a critical role throughout the Japanese economy. Since 1900, the Japan Agriculture Cooperative Group has been present in every village and nearly 100 percent of farm households join the cooperatives; every rural village has a co-op store and access to co-op financing and co-op insurance.

In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, government officials have plans to remove radioactive materials from farmlands and forests until no radioactive cesium is detected in agricultural, livestock and forestry products. As mentioned in an article by Hrabrin Bachev and Fusao Ito from the Institute of Agricultural Economics, ‘throughout Japan, there are fears of radioactive contamination leaking into the food system, which has caused consumers to reject products.’

The Japan agriculture cooperative group has had a critical role in combating the challenges with the present system of safety inspection and has teamed up with Fukushima University to rebuild consumer confidence in local produce. Together, they have collaborated to launch a Soil Screening Project, which tests the levels of contamination in several different agriculture areas. This has helped farmers keep an eye on the levels of radioactive contamination on their land and produce. Continue reading

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Sustainable, People-Centered Agriculture Lies in Agroecology

Clover and Fescue. Photo: David Bradbeer via

In keeping with the general theme of a new “gift” economy, Colin Tudge and Graham Harvey’s article in the Ecologist focuses on “a sustainable, people-centered agriculture.”

…we are launching our ‘Manifesto for a new agriculture’ at the Oxford Real Farming Conference 2014.
A key theme is ‘agroecology’ – farming that takes its lead from nature. It conceives each farm as a mini-ecosystem, and agriculture as a whole as a key player in the global biosphere.
Physiology is a vital science in agroecology – how plants and animals function – and psychology too in the case of livestock, for farm animals are sentient and to keep them without cruelty we need to understand what keeps them content.
Overall, though, we need ecology – often still seen as a woolly pursuit but in truth the most intricate and the most ‘modern’ of all biological sciences. Continue reading

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A Large Corporate Low Wage Service Sector Makes For a Town Without a Soul

The Emeryville Tattler blog post, A Large Corporate Low Wage Service Sector Makes For a Town Without a Soul, delves into the debate about how to best develop the town.  The Tattler calls for a new paradigm – one that moves away from the “flawed auto-centric model” with “lots of shopping malls and drive-in drive-out lofts (formally condos, now morphing into one bedroom 100% rental projects).”  The author points out that this model “resplendent with fast food franchises and retail chain stores, also brings a plethora of low wage/ no benefits service jobs that seem to be attached at the hip with this brand of development.  So ubiquitous now is this kind of development in Emeryville, minimum wage/ zero benefits service sector jobs have fairly come to be seen as representative of Emeryville and its values by the greater community.” The Tattler states that the town can bring in a new municipal polity by ushering in and developing more businesses based on the cooperative model.

Businesses where the workers themselves own the enterprise represent a different model for how retail stores and other business can be refashioned in Emeryville.  These worker owned businesses offer a living wage and benefits for their workers. They also offer Emeryville residents a moral choice as they comport their daily transactions in the commons.

The most compelling part of the piece is the following comparison between Emeryville’s cooperative, Arizmendi Bakery vs. Panera Bread, your standard corporate chain store:

Arizmendi Bakery vs Panera Bakery
Arizmendi Bakery has operated at 4301 San Pablo Avenue since 2003 after former councilman John Fricke worked to attract the popular cooperative to the newly built Promenade site amid skeptical colleagues on the Council.  The bakery has been extremely popular offering a locally owned counter point to the national chain restaurant  I-HOP also in the Promenade development.
Arizmendi Bakery and Panera Bakery on 40th Street offers us a chance to directly compare the two business models:Arizmendi Bakery (worker owned cooperative model)-
  • pays at least $16 per hour
  • full health insurance and dental coverage for all
  • worker owned and democratically run
  • worker/owners share in year end profits
  • stipends paid for work related purchases
  • five Bay Area locations
  • Emeryville store is independently owned
Panera Bakery (standard Emeryville corporate model)-
  • pays employees $8.06 per hour
  • no benefits
  • stockholder owned and run by CEO and Board of Directors
  • more than 1500 locations across the US and Canada
  • corporate headquarters in St Louis MO
  • Emeryville unit sends its profits to the corporate headquarters

The post goes on to tout the additional benefits of worker owned cooperatives: Continue reading

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Ohio Coops Worth 3.7 Billion

Farming co-ops aggregate and market farm products, supply members with the fertilizer and other things they need in order to farm, and provide financial services.

Local farming co-ops reach into bigger towns, too, by marketing meat, grain, fruits, vegetables, fiber — and even rock salt — produced by or for member farmers to processors, retailers and, ultimately, consumers.

In addition, some of the region’s largest cooperatives that provide nonagricultural services, such as Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. and Buckeye Power Inc., have their roots in the Ohio Farm Bureau.

A co-op’s main financial goal is to be profitable enough to serve its members, unlike a corporation, which aims to make as much profit as possible for its owners.

Though U.S. cooperatives date from 1752, legislation in the 1920s and 1930s helped farmers survive the Depression and encouraged future markets, the U.S. Agriculture Department said.

Ohio was home to 39 marketing co-ops and 18 farming supply and service co-ops in 2007, the latest year for which figures are available, the USDA said. Those co-ops did $3.7 billion worth of business that year.

You can read the full story about Ohio’s Cooperatives here.