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50th anniversary conference celebrates cooperatives

Gathered in Atlanta for the annual Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) conference, over 400 managers, staff, board members, trainers, and other allies from over 100 cooperatives and associations met for three intensive days of training and education workshops, inspiring speakers, tours of local co-ops and landmarks, and still found time to partay!

Local host Sevananda provided outstanding support for the numerous events and meals. Conference planner Ann Hoyt, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Urban Cooperative Initiative, put together another outstanding gathering and educational program, with support from the other major sponsor, National Cooperative Business Association. Many other cooperative funds, associations, and businesses also made significant financial contributions. At the conference itself, a fund-raising auction by attendees raised more than $19,000 for the Howard Bowers Fund, which provides grants for further co-op education and training.

Keynote speakers ranged over wide territory: Peter Couchman, head of Midcounties Co-operative in the U.K., offered insights from a major rebranding of a consolidated cooperative that provides several kinds of services besides grocery. David Pearce Snyder, editor of the Futurist magazine, vividly described trends in technical communications as well as demographics. Bernice Johnson Reagon gave a moving and challenging address, sung and spoken, on deep themes, from death and our connection with past and future generations, to greed and forgiveness, to the joy of community.

Award winners
The following Cooperative Milestones were noted:

New co-ops: Basics Cooperative, founded 2005 in Janesville, Wis.; and Chatham Marketplace, opened 2006 in Pittsboro, N.C.

Six co-ops that opened stores in 1981 celebrated 25 years of service: Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington, Mass.; Common Market in Frederick, Md.; Questa Co-op, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Three Rivers/Knoxville Community Food Co-op in Knoxville, Tenn.; Whole Foods Co-op in Erie, Pa.; and Wild Oats Co-op in Williamstown, Mass.

Seventy years and going strong: Hanover Consumer Co-op serves the greater Hanover, New Hampshire region.

Ninety years of leadership: Our national association—founded as the Cooperative League of the USA and now called the National Cooperative Business Association—continues to link all types of coops and to promote them domestically and internationally.

The Cooperative Innovation award went to Davis Food Co-op for its “Carrots in the Classroom” program, led by Julie Cross, which continues to expand its food education and outreach to school children.

The Cooperative Service award was presented to Michelle Schry, manager of People’s Food Co-op in La Crosse, Wis., for her strong leadership at that store, among co-op managers in the region, and on the board of their national association.

The Cooperative Board Leadership award was given to two directors: Bob Noble, the past board president of Weavers Way, where he provided longstanding leadership and exemplary efforts in overcoming a recent crisis at that coop; and to Bentley Lein, president of the board at People’s Food Co-op in LaCrosse, Wis., and a leader of efforts to involve co-op boards and managers in joint business planning.

The Cooperative Excellence award recognized the accomplishments of Whole Foods Co-op in Duluth, Minn., which last November opened a beautiful, “green design” store more than three times its former size. Led by general manager Sharon Murphy, the co-op created more than 50 new jobs, and sales are exceeding projections.

2007 plans
Each year, in a three-year cycle from East to Central to West, this unique event rotates to another city—where the national food co-op community and its closest allies again challenge and celebrate each other’s cooperative vision and practice.


Dave Gutknecht is editor of Cooperative Grocer ([email protected]).

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