Local cooperatives raising awareness of a ‘people-centered’ approach to commerce on International Co-ops Day

  • The produce section of Green Fields Market. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Quabbin Harvest Food Co-op on North Main in Orange joins other area co-ops in celebration International Cooperative Alliance on the first Saturday in July. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • McCusker’s Market employee Carson Shaw fills a customer’s order in Shelburne Falls in April 2020. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/2/2021 5:18:32 PM
Modified: 7/2/2021 5:18:37 PM

Cooperatives are all about community. And today is geared toward celebrating the worldwide community of cooperatives.

The United Nations in 1992 formally recognized International Co-ops Day as the first Saturday in July, joining the International Cooperative Alliance in a celebration established in 1923. And while not all co-ops and credit unions in Franklin County are marking the occasion this July 3, those affiliated with them took the opportunity to praise the co-operative model.

Last year, Gov. Charlie Baker issued a proclamation declaring October to be “Co-op Month” in the state, recognizing that “an estimated 2.5 million member-owners in our state depend on approximately 530 cooperatives to meet a wide variety of needs, goals and aspirations,” and urging citizens to participate in its observance.

The theme of this year’s International Co-ops Day is “Rebuild Better Together,” to highlight the resilience and sustainability of cooperatives’ people-over-profit business model.

After initially being contacted by the Greenfield Recorder, Julie Davis said the Quabbin Harvest Food Co-op’s management team in Orange decided the store will offer members a 10 percent in-store discount on Saturday as well as free coffee and homemade chai tea.

“I think recognition of cooperatives and the cooperative process and principles is important in terms of ownership and access to food,” said Davis, the store manager. “Our co-op here supports the local food system, the local farms, and any attention that cooperatives can bring to local food farmers and food access is vital to the success of these farms.”

“I think in general it’s important to raise awareness of a different way to approach commerce that is people-centered instead of profit-centered,” said Sarah Kanabay, the outreach and communications manager of the Franklin Community Co-op, which operates Green Fields Market in Greenfield and McCusker’s Market in Shelburne Falls. “I think particularly now, as people are seeing the effects of unbridled, unchecked capitalism, people are really interested in what alternative economies look like and I think, especially after COVID, people are interested in supporting systems that support food sovereignty and local food systems and sustainability.”

Kanabay said the Franklin Community Co-op typically focuses on National Co-op Month, which is October. She said a raffle is usually held.

John Calhoun, going on six months as general manager of the Leverett Village Co-op, said there is nothing special planned for International Co-ops Day, but the idea of recognizing and supporting a community is what co-ops are all about.

“Having an International Co-op Day … really creates a really deep and strong sense of solidarity, not just in New England or America but around the whole world,” he said. “And so I think that’s a really special thing to recognize — that co-ops are a part of communities everywhere.”

Co-ops can come in various forms, such as credit unions and art co-ops, like the Shelburne Arts Cooperative. Joanne Gold, one of the roughly 40 artists within a 40-mile radius carried by the co-op, said the store has no special plans for Saturday, but it will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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