Building a democratic economy rooted in community.

Co-op Month in October

Many of you probably already know that October is national Co-op Month. There are nearly 40,000 co-ops and credit unions across our country and this is our month to not only celebrate all things co-op, but to also remind our friends, family, neighbors and everyone else of the value that co-ops bring to our communities. This year, the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International has chosen “Co-ops Commit” as the theme for the month, highlighting the many ways that co-ops are committed to their communities.

Is your co-op planning an event for Co-op Month? We’d love to hear about it. If you are planning anything or would be willing to help us coordinate, please email Rob Brown [email protected]

Do you need some help or inspiration? Here are a couple of great resources.

  • The official Co-op Month website has downloadable images for both print and social media, activity ideas, writing samples, and a whole host of other educational and inspirational items.   This is a wonderful resource so please look. Many of the ideas and items aren’t limited to Co-op Month and can be used year-round.

And lastly, just a reminder that we still need a few volunteers to staff the table at the Common Ground Fair.   Please sign up here by Friday, Sept. 8.

4th Annual Principle Six Conference

April 1st 9:30 am-4:30 pm in Augusta, Maine Holocaust and Human Rights Center at the University of Maine Augusta Campus

Hosted by Cooperative Maine and Cooperative Development Institute
How can we build a cooperative economy in Maine?  
Cooperative Maine is turning 10 years old on March 25th.   This year’s Principle Six Conference will be an opportunity for us to reflect on the past 10 years while looking forward to build a stronger network of cooperatives that can help us all meet our needs and fulfill our aspirations.  
The day will feature large group discussions about creating a Maine cooperative business association, sector specific conversations (such as consumer food co-ops, housing, and worker co-ops) on common needs and aspirations, and a block of workshops to expand skills and knowledge. Several entrepreneurs in the cooperative community are active bitcoin traders who have been making profits from it. They will be promoting bitcoin trader apps and softwares to help beginners step into the trading. Advanced traders in the community make it a point to not fall for the bitcoin trader fake apps and softwares that may trap the traders.

Principle Six Agenda

9:30am:Opening and Welcome,
Who’s in the Room

9:45-11:15am: Conversation about a Maine Cooperative Business Association (MCBA)

Reflect on 10 Years of Cooperative Maine
What can MCBA provide for Maine Co-ops?
MCBA Organizing So-Far

11:15am-12pm: Breakout Conversations provide a space for each sector to talk about what your co-op sector needs.  What are some some shared challenges and opportunities?  How could you work together more?  How could a MCBA help your sector?

Potential Breakouts:
Housing Co-ops & ROCS
Food Co-ops
Worker Co-ops

12:15 pm: Lunch

DotMocracy to decide on priorities
1 pm: Report outs from Breakout Conversations1:20pm Next Steps to Creating MCBA
Creating a Steering Committee

2:00pm Break

2:15pm: Workshops:
A: What are viable funding resources for new and expanding cooperatives?-
What are sources of funding and financing for your co-op and how can you prepare to access these funds? Deborah Hawkins, Cooperative Fund of New England

B. Participatory Management, Governance & Ownership-
This workshop will look at how you can develop structures that are participatory, democratic and engaging for your board, management and members in any type of co-op.
Marcel Gagne & Jonah Fertig, Cooperative Development Institute

C. Political Advocacy for Co-ops:
Learn about how to engage in political advocacy for your co-op and the co-op movement. We will specifically look at legislation in Maine and broaden it to explore how we can advocate for co-ops at local and federal levels.
Rob Brown, Jeanee Wright and Doug Clopp, Cooperative Development Institute

3:45pm: Closing


OCTOBER is Co-op Month

For national 2016 CO-OP MONTH events & resources:

For MAINE events, check Cooperative Maine‘s Facebook page!




Common Ground
Country Fair

September 23, 24 & 25, 2016

Gates open at 9:00 am each day.

Vendors open until 6:00 on Friday and Saturday, 5:00 on Sunday.

Fair information

The Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) works for a more cooperative Maine & northeast

Got Co-op Fever?  Is your cooperative spirit strong?  Need solid advice from seasoned cooperative development professionals?   Contact YOUR partner in building a more cooperative Maine & northeast:  Cooperative Development Institute (CDI)


“We are transforming ownership of our economy, so all people can meet their basic needs.

Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) is the source for cooperative business development in the Northeast. Our mission is to build a cooperative economy through the creation and development of successful cooperative enterprises.”

“The whole idea of cooperatives is that we can do more together than on our own.”


3rd Annual Principle SIX Conference Registration NOW Open ONLINE


You’re invited to the 3rd Annual

Principle Six Conference

Viles Arboretum Conference Center, 153 Hospital St, Augusta, Maine

Saturday, April 30, 2016, 8:30 am – 5 pm

Hosted by:
Cooperative Maine | Cooperative Development InstituteDemocracy at Work Institute

Principle Six brings us together as cooperatives to explore ways that we can support one another, meet our needs together and build a cooperative economy.  This year we will explore our central theme “How do we grow a cooperative ecosystem?”  This theme will be explored through open space discussions in the morning, a keynote address from Joe Marrafino of the Democracy at Work Institute, networking during lunch and workshops in the afternoon.  You will leave with a renewed sense of connection, new skills and a conversation about growing our cooperative movement in Maine.

Register Online


8:30 am - Arrival, register, get ready for prompt beginning at…

9 am - Opening and Open Space Orientation* - Main Room - 20 min.

Using the “Open Space”* meeting philosophy we will explore our Framing Question: “How Can We Grow a Cooperative Ecosystem?”

POSSIBLE topics we might discuss could include:

Young and startup co-ops; Support group: member-workers; Lessons from cooperative crises/closures; Support group: general managers; Staff on a co-op board, good or bad idea?; How can co-ops in Maine work together more effectively? And more…bring your ideas:

9:30 am - Open Space - Session A each space will have a convener. 50 min. +/-

10:30 am - Open Space - Session B each space will have a convener. 50 min. +/-

11:30pm - Open Space ‘Harvest’ – Main Room – reports from Open Space sessions. 30 min.

12:00pm Speaker (in Main Room) – Keynote address by Joe Marrafino, DAWI 30 min.

12:30 pm - Lunch, Main Room, w/networking and informal announcements at end of lunch 75 min.

1:45 pm - Workshop C – please choose from one of four, to help with room allocation. 80 min.

C1 Financing for Co-ops: Gloria LaBrecque, Cooperative Fund of New England

C2 Meeting Facilitation: Jane Haskell, UMaine Cooperative Extensions

C3 Next steps: Maine Cooperative Business Association; Rob Brown, Kate Harris, Cooperative Development Institute

C4 Participatory Management & Leadership Development: Marcel Gagne, Cooperative Development Institute

3:10 pm - Workshop D – please choose from one of four, to help with room allocation. 80 min.

D1 Open Book Financial Management: Joe Marrafino, Democracy at Work Institute

D2 Meeting Facilitation: Rachel Lyn Rumson, Cooperative Design Lab

D3 Marketing Co-ops: Marada Cook, Crown o’ Maine Organic Cooperative

D4 Growing a Cooperative Food System: Jonah Fertig, Cooperative Development Institute, Betsy Garrold, Marsh River Co-op, Mark Sprackland, Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative

4:30 pm - Closing – Main room - “One word/One sentence” comments/reflections, from each person; paper evaluations.       15-20 min.

Register Online

Principle Six is hosted by Cooperative Maine, Cooperative Development Institute and Cooperative Development Institute and sponsored by Cooperative Fund of New England, Equal Exchange and the Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative

*Open Space, The Four Principles:

Whoever comes are the right people

Whatever happens is the only thing that could have

Whenever it starts is the right time

When it’s over, it’s over

Open Space, The Two Engines:

Passion for the issue, bounded by the

Responsibility to search for and find solutions

Open Space, The One Law (or the ‘Law of Two Feet’)

During the course of the meeting, any person who finds him or herself in a situation where they are neither  learning nor contributing, must use their two feet and go to some more productive place.

Cooperative Maine’s 9th Anniversary is March 25, 2016

On March 25, 2016,

Cooperative Maine turned 9 years old!

A blast from the past!

Here’s what happened at our first meeting:

On Sunday, March 25, 2007 more than two dozen people from around Maine, representing nearly every sector of cooperative enterprise met in Augusta to discuss the potential for strengthening their local economies and communities through greater cooperative business development in the state. They focused on three areas: defining the group’s mission; what the nature (structure) of this group should be, and its connection to other groups; and identifying possible initial goals as well as strategies for achieving them. By day’s end, the group had agreement on a general mission, a place and tentative date for the next meeting (June in Belfast) and had approved the registry of a web site.


There was general agreement that everyone in the room was committed to seeing increased cooperative development in Maine. (The group was given the International Co-operative Alliance’s definition of a cooperative: “An autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.”) Repeated emphasis was placed on building local/regional reliance among co-ops and between co-ops and other stakeholders.

Structure and Funding

Some think a new non-profit or co-op might serve this end more effectively and others would like to look at existing organizations we might become part of. A development subcommittee will keep this discussion moving forward. While some feel reluctant to start fundraising until this work is further along, there appeared to be agreement that we should raise some funds right away to pay someone to coordinate this effort and to do at least some of the “grunt work” that will arise from that (as well perhaps as to enlist the help of volunteers).

Goals and Strategies

Predictably, there were many excellent suggestions. Most could be labeled ‘educational’ and many fell into the ‘networking’ realm as well. These included holding statewide, regional, and/or distance-learning events for co-ops, other stakeholders, and the public; creating an online information clearinghouse, and curriculum and policy development. Other goals: start more co-ops, find funding for development.

Emphasis was placed on self-education as well, including conducting a needs/resources survey of existing Maine co-ops; utilizing resources better to help one another and to foster new co-op development (e.g. through mentoring, information exchange, etc.); surveying co-ops elsewhere for replicable models, best practices, advice and assistance; and connecting with groups/resources other than co-ops, in Maine and beyond, who support or who might support cooperative development.

FORT KENT: Local Food Co-op is Good Economics

Market Street Co-op manager Stacey Martin speaks at her shop in Fort Kent, Oct. 31, 2014. | Photo: BDN

Market Street Co-op manager Stacey Martin speaks at her shop in Fort Kent, Oct. 31, 2014. | Photo: BDN

Local food co-op a good, economic option for those food dollars

Posted Feb. 28, 2016, at 7:38 a.m.
[ See this and many other excellent “Homestead” articles online at ]

FORT KENT, Maine — According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household in this country spends about 13 percent of its annual income on groceries.

For many, making those food dollars stretch as far as possible is a priority that often means hitting sales at large chain or big-box stores.

Stacey Martin, manager of the Market Street Co-op in Fort Kent, believes there is a better, healthier alternative that is just as cost efficient.

“Shopping for local food at your local co-op is absolutely not a luxury,” Martin said. “Co-ops offer plenty of affordable options that are also often healthier than what you might find elsewhere.”

Martin said shopping at a co-op means consumers can participate in “buyers’ clubs” to purchase products at wholesale costs or join forces to buy items in volume, which often means lower prices.

“We can’t compete with [the larger] supermarkets and never will on variety of our goods or on some prices,” she said. “Their prices and selection are based on volume, but we do believe our customers believe in the value of supporting local farmers and producers.”

For her part, Martin said she feeds her family of seven by shopping at the co-op and said it really comes down to priorities and being a savvy shopper.

“I’m not a doctor or lawyer who makes a ton of money,” she said. “But we make it work for our family.”

According to one local economist, the co-op model is rooted in local commerce.

“Instead of a competitive model, you look at it as a community model,” Tony Gauvin, associate professor of electronic commerce at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, said. “If you buy local, your money stays local and supports local individuals. When you look at that competitive model, often the money is spent on items produced outside the community so the money goes outside the community.”

Martin says keeping food buying dollars local helps area farmers.

“Our culture often asks farmers to work at unfairly low wages,” she said. “If you look around [at the co-op] a large part of what we have comes from local farmers, and when people shop here their dollars support those farmers.”

Shopping at the co-op, where the food often is organic, also can have long-term cost and health savings, Martin said.

“If you eat healthy foods you are leading a more healthy lifestyle, and that can reduce your risks for illnesses,” she said. “It’s like health insurance in the form of food.”

Kristin Hartt of Fort Kent is a regular shopper at the local co-op and said the combination of healthy food options and supporting local growers brings her in.

“I have the ability to buy in bulk, buy organic and buy local produce,” she said. “I am supporting a local business that serves great food, meeting friends [and] most importantly, they have espresso.”

It costs $50 per year to join the Market Street Co-Op, but Martin stressed membership is not required to shop there, though members do receive a 10 percent discount on most purchases.

“Belonging to the co-op means you really support those core values of sustainability and community,” Martin said. “We hope everyone will stop in, check us out and join [because] we are here for the community.”

Market Street Co-op is open 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Its Horseshoe Cafe offers a small lunch menu and specialty coffees all day.


SAVE THE DATE - APRIL 30 - 3rd Annual PRINCIPLE SIX Conference

cm-p6-2015 -crop

3rd Annual Principle Six Conference | 2016

Viles Arboretum
153 Hospital Street, Augusta, ME  04330
Saturday, April 30, 2016, 9 am to 4 pm
Principle Six registration will be online, check back here -OR- on home page for the info & link.


The third annual Principle Six conference of Maine cooperatives is scheduled for:

Sat. April 30, 2016 from (approx. 9-4)

(snow date, Sunday, May 1)

In Augusta, at the Viles Conference center, same location as last year, with additional room.

NOW is the time to begin discussing who will attend from YOUR co-op: managers, staff, board, members?

Please tell all to…. “SAVE THE DATE

Stay tuned for more details as we learn them.

Principle Six registration will be online, check back here -OR- on home page for the info & link.

ALSO: Sponsorship from co-ops and organizations, or donations from individuals to the scholarship fund (to assist low-income folks and students to attend) can be in form of a check: “Co-op Maine” and mailed c/o 88 Hart Rd, Northport, ME 04849. Anyone able to donate $100 or more and seeking a tax-deduction, please write check to “ROSC” and add ‘Co-op Maine’ to the memo line.

We also plan on having an online method of donating soon. Thanks for your patience.

Happy Anniversary, Portland Food Co-op!

Nice article, below, with some strong numbers proving the potential of cooperatives to power Maine’s future food system!  It was a long, long road beginning with the 1st meeting in March of 2006!  Congratulations, Portland!

A ‘ripple of benefits’: Portland Food Co-op celebrates $3 million in sales after first year of retail store

By David Carkhuff | Portland Phoenix | Nov 25, 2015

What a difference a year makes, especially in the life of a grocery cooperative.

Nearly a decade ago, the Portland Food Co-op was little more than a meeting topic among hopeful residents.

But the last year has been a doozy for the cooperative. Its retail grocery store at the base of Munjoy Hill has thrived, member-owners reported, and listeners could almost hear sighs of both relief and gratitude.

“This year, the Portland Food Co-op has exceeded all of our original expectations. … We have almost 3,500 member-owners, and we have exceeded all projections for sales and purchases,” said Portland Food Co-op General Manager John Crane.

Last Thursday, on the one-year anniversary of the opening of the cooperative’s retail store at 290 Congress St., Crane and others celebrated.

Community members have purchased more than $1 million worth of goods and foods grown and produced in Maine, Crane said. In less than a year, the cooperative has more than doubled the number of local farmers and producers involved and gained more than 1,000 additional member-owners, he noted.

The secret to a cooperative’s success is commitment, Crane said.

“It’s really about bringing the people together, it’s that common vision and deciding you want to do it. … It’s the will because there’s no guiding force behind this outside of the people who make up the co-op deciding they want to put in the time and energy,” Crane said.

Three years ago, Crane joined a buying club operating out of a little warehouse, with 400 members.

“We sat around with a space heater under the table thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had a retail store in Portland?’ And two years ago, we announced we were going to do it, last year we opened it. And to me one of the things that makes me the proudest of this venture is this community market really came from the community,” Crane said.

Today, 27 employees work at the co-op, and the business logged more than $3 million in sales this year and invested more than $2 million in Maine’s economy, organizers said.

Katia Holmes, who runs Misty Brook Farm in Albion with her husband, Brendan, recalled selling a little bit of milk at the cooperative in its early days of tentative retail sales. Since then, the organic farm has sold more than 5,000 pounds of vegetables, 1,500 gallons of milk, 1,200 dozen eggs, 450 pounds of meat and 350 pounds of grains through the co-op.

“Over this first year, they have become our number one biggest customer in sales, and I believe that’s because of the diversity of products that they offer,” Katia Holmes said.

Brendan Holmes said the “micro economy” of Albion benefits as well, as the farm has been able to hire locally to meet this Portland-based demand.

Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said the cooperative model is the most locally sourced and focused of any business setup.

“When you spend a dollar here, not only are you supporting this business and everyone who works here, but you’re also supporting all of the other local businesses that the co-op uses … and you’re supporting all of these great food producers in Maine, so when you spend money here, there’s just this great ripple of benefits that goes through the local economy,” Mitchell said.

As an example, Tortilleria Pachanga of Portland logged sales of 20,000 tortillas at the co-op, a success story for one of the member-owners.

The history of the cooperative reaches back nearly 10 years, into a past when the success of such a venture was anything but certain.

A history posted on the cooperative’s website explained, “The momentum for the Portland Food Co-op started in the spring of 2006, in response to the closure of a locally owned natural food grocery store in Portland. In 2006-2007, community leaders organized several community meetings to create a shared vision for access to local food in greater Portland.”

From 2008-2009, a leadership team built the cooperative and created bylaws, articles of incorporation and a member-owner structure, and in 2010 the cooperative kicked off its first member-owner drive, but a retail site remained a goal.

From 2008-2012, the focus on pre-order operations supported growth to over $200,000 in annual sales, the cooperative reported, with 150 member-owners filling monthly work shifts. Yet an organizing effort to start a retail storefront food co-op slowed for several years, until 2012, when leaders revisited the development of a retail space, according to the history.

In the fall of 2013, the Portland Food Co-op began a member-owner drive and fundraising program to reach 2,000 member-owners and $1.6 million needed for opening the retail store. In October 2013, Portland Food Co-op launched the Let’s Open the Doors campaign to sign up 1,000 new member-owners needed to help open the community-owned market in Portland, the cooperative organizers announced. From the launch of the Let’s Open the Doors campaign, new member-owners were signing up every day, and in about three months, the cooperative gained more than 600 member-owners, the group reported.

The Portland Food Co-op announced in January of 2014 that it had signed the lease on the space for its planned storefront location, the former space of Labor Ready, and the store opened in the fall of that year.

For more about the Portland Food Co-op, call 207.805.1599 or visit


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