Cooperative Views - from Appalachia to Atlantic Canada

An R. Crumb cartoon from the late 1960s (that is, before 1975...) showed a befuddled citizen wondering, "Is dis a movement?' I was left with the same feeling after last October's co-op conference in the hills of West Virginia. The conference plans had included an ambitious agenda, but many of the announced topics and resource people were absent. About forty people were present.

Impetus for the conference involved several sources, but could be summarized as coming from the publication Coop News Network and the need for sharing ideas and experience among staff and members of food co-ops. Another current is strong desires and concerns around member involvement in co-ops.

In my view, a less recognized issue for many retails is the lack of strong ties to a regional co-op wholesaler providing the feeling and substance of connection with other retailers and cooperators. The free newsprint publication for co-op members is a good idea, but one that needs an improved end product. On the other hand, the proposed new national organization is in my view not happening and not worth pursuing. I see a lack of connection with existing national and regional cooperatives, as well as a disconnection from recent past efforts to maintain a national consumer cooperative organization.

Concerning member involvement, Cooperative Grocer will continue to contribute to debate and the promotion of improved practices. This will be possible with the written assistance of those of you who have exciting, successful membership programs to share. And for being more connected with other retailers, there are some new and exciting retail Cooperative Grocers associations active in three different parts of the Midwest and East (while the Northwest continues to have its annual Provender Alliance conference). These evolving projects will also be covered in Cooperative Grocer in 1994.

The Appalachian gathering, feeling like a throwback to the 1960s, was my last stop before the flight to New Brunswick with other cooperators for a close look at Co-op Atlantic, the subject of this edition's special section. The Canadian system was by contrast a co-op vision and co-op system being realized, and it was impressive and inspiring. Especially evident, once again, was the crucial role of secondary level cooperatives in serving, strengthening and uniting the primary co-ops and their individual member-owners.

U.S. food cooperatives also can be vital and enduring businesses in their communities while promoting mutual commitments with other co-ops. Many of you readers are positioned to help us move toward greater cooperation among cooperatives, particularly in the partnership in services and development between retails and wholes

See other articles from this issue: #050 January - February - 1994