From the Board: Cooperative Principles #5 & #6

by Debi Boen – Board Member & Board Secretary

The cooperative principles are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice. These “seven basic international principles serve as guidelines to provide a democratic structure for co-ops around the world." Let’s continue our discussion of the seven cooperative principles by addressing principles #5 and #6.

5th Principle: Education, Training and Information

Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of cooperation.

Since our inception, education has been part of the Medford Food Co-op’s mission. Last year, the Board of Directors formalized Medford Food Coop’s “10 Year Vision.”

Our ten year vision positions Medford Food Co-op as a community leader in the local food system, cooperative enterprise, nutrition and health education, and employment. We envision continued support and growth of local farms and food producers; an expanded local food distribution system to make affordable local, organic food readily available to all residents of the Rogue Valley; and a strong community donation/grant program to encourage and promote businesses and organizations with compatible goals and ends.

Not only are “nutrition and health education” part of this vision narrative – one can convincingly make the argument that most other parts of the narrative are dependent upon the success of that education. We must educate consumers regarding the importance and widespread availability of local farms and food producers, if we hope to foster continued support and growth in that area. We must educate consumers regarding the health benefits of organic food options. To be able to effectively encourage and promote our vision, we must educate everyone --- first, ourselves, and then, our ownership base -- about area businesses and organizations with compatible goals and ends.

General Manager Anne Carter is active in the Rogue Valley Food System Network, and attends and offers to speak at meetings for such groups as local rotaries, Women Entrepreneurs of Southern Oregon, Southern Oregon Climate Action Now, the City of Medford’s Employee Health Fair, and others. She offers store tours to groups (such as Scout groups), gives healthy snack presentations at local elementary schools, and participates in the “Great Start, Eat Smart” meetings and presentations.

MFC’s educational efforts are not all aimed outward. MFC enjoys robust staff training opportunities, and for each of the last three years your Board of Directors has participated in both local and offsite trainings offered by CDS Consulting Co-op, which specializes in providing training and solutions for cooperatives like ours. The introduction of CDS provides a natural segue to the next cooperative principle.

6th Principle: Cooperation among Cooperatives

Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

CDS Consulting is itself a cooperative; and MFC is also a member of National Co+op Grocers (NCG), a group comprised of independent food co-ops working together. MFC has received assistance from other co-ops, especially during our start-up – and we are pleased to now be in a position to be of assistance to other co-ops. We have received invaluable advice and resources from our connection to both NCG and CDS.

Locally, MFC is active with the Rogue Co-ops, comprised of MFC, Ashland Food Co-op, Grange Co-op, and Rogue Credit Union. Ashland Food Co-op has been of tremendous assistance to us over the years, and Rogue Credit Union and Grange Co-op illustrate the reality that not all cooperatives focus on food. While not all co-ops are the same, all cooperatives can work together, support each other, and promote the local economy – because we truly are stronger together.