Building a democratic economy rooted in community.


For more information: Larry Dansinger, 207-525-7776, [email protected]

      Or contact individuals listed for specific groups and events—see below



October is Co-op Month, in Maine and throughout the country. Each October, cooperatives all across the country celebrate the role, accomplishments and contributions of our nation’s cooperatives. It is sponsored by Cooperative Maine in the state of Maine.

To celebrate it, Cooperative Maine has helped to organize and is promoting a number of events about cooperatives and credit unions in October under the 2014 national theme of “The Co-op Connection.” Co-op Month is a series of events throughout the country to make cooperatives more visible in their contributions to local economies and to the country. See http://

Cooperative Maine is a network of co-op advocates around the state, promoting support for existing cooperatives and encouraging the creation of new ones. These can be consumer (such as co-op food stores), producer (farmer or craft), worker (such as Local Sprouts Cafe), housing (several in Maine and now the purchase of mobile home parks by tenants), electric (including Eastern Maine Electric Co-op), and credit unions, all members of the Maine Credit Union League, with over 150 locations around the state.

The annual celebrations play a key role in promoting cooperatives to co-op members, the public, and policy makers. Through a combination of media outreach, member education, and interaction with policy makers, co-op month events help raise the visibility of cooperatives as a way of creating democratic workplaces.

Research shows that when consumers know a business is a cooperative or credit union (which are financial cooperatives), they are more likely to do business with it. And with consumer trust in co-ops topping investor-owned companies, promoting a business as a cooperative is a win-win proposition..

Cooperative Maine is an organization that has emerged over the past 6 years to connect, strengthen and support cooperatives and their allies across the state. It believes that cooperatives are powerful and effective tools in creating a more sustainable, equitable and democratic economy rooted in community in Maine.  The purpose of Cooperative Maine is to increase the visibility of the cooperative model as an economic development strategy for Maine communities, to support existing and the formation of new cooperatives in their work, and to encourage a “democratic economy rooted in community.”

This year (2014) has seen the growth of several exciting new cooperative ventures in Maine. Among those are the opening of or planned opening of new cooperative food stores in Fort Kent, Brooks, Houlton, Gardiner, and Portland. Food distributor Crown of Maine Organic became a worker-owned co-op. CLEAN, a new worker cooperative doing home and commercial cleaning, has formed in the Portland area.

Finally, Island Employee Cooperative Inc. made local, regional, state and national headlines when 62 employees of three retail stores in Deer Isle and Stonington became worker-owners of their cooperative businesses. When employees of Burnt Cove Market, V & S Variety, and The Galley took over ownership from long time owners Vern and Sandra Seile, they became the twelfth largest worker cooperative in the U.S. The co-op was formed with help from Rob Brown of the Cooperative Development Institute, a New-England wide group dedicated to promoting cooperative ownership of businesses, housing, and other economic entities.

Here are a few facts about the national cooperative movement and its impact on the US economy:

* Almost 30,000 cooperatives operate in every sector of the US economy, generating 2 million jobs, annual sales of $650-700 billion, and with assets of over $3 trillion.

* About 233 million people are served by insurance companies owned by or affiliated with co-ops.

* Agricultural co-ops include the majority of all US farmers, providing 250,000 jobs and annual wages of $8 billion.

*More than 50,000 families in the US use cooperative day care facilities.

* About 7,500 credit unions, which are financial cooperatives, have about 91 million members and $750 Billion in assets.

*And electric cooperatives serve 42 million customers nationwide.

Several new cooperatives have formed or opened in Maine during 2014. Food stores in Brooks (Marsh River Cooperative), Fort Kent (Market Street Cooperative) and Houlton (The County Co-op and Farm Store) have all opened their doors in recent months. Each is seeking more members, and all food co-op stores in Maine place an emphasis on high quality, locally produced food. All buy some or much of their food, especially produce, some grains, dairy, meat, and other products, from local farmers and small, Maine-based businesses. They each contribute significantly more to the Maine economy than food stores that get most of their products from outside the state. Also, the Portland Food Co-op and theGardiner Food Co-op and Café are both expected to open later in 2014 or 2015. That will bring the total of storefront food cooperatives in Maine to eleven.

One of the oldest food cooperatives in Maine is the Belfast Food Cooperative. A brief summary of how it operates from staff member Chris Grigsby: “The Belfast Cooperative is a member-owned and controlled entity established in 1976.  With beginnings as a buying club, the Co-op quickly gained popularity offering items that couldn’t be found in the conventional grocers, specifically the option to buy in bulk.  After outgrowing two storefronts, the Co-op moved to our current location in 1993.  The membership total is just over 3,600, and yearly sales average $7.5 million. We employ roughly 75 people, and give back to the community in a variety of ways.

“Cooperative Principle #7, Concern for Community, led us to develop and implement a low-income discount program, CORE (Cooperative Ownership Reaching Everyone) in the fall of 2013.  To date, we have given over $15,000 in discounts to families in need of a little extra help.  We also have developed a nonprofit collection tool called “Round Up for Community”, where the shoppers are given the option to “round up” to the nearest whole dollar or amount of their choice to go to a designated area nonprofit.  To date, Co-op customers and owners have distributed $16,000 to 35 area organizations.

“The Co-op strives to be a leader in the local foods movement, and we proudly track our local products through the point of sale and publicize the sales figures.  25% of our sales are local products (considered grown or produced in the State of Maine), totaling nearly $2 million.  In addition to this commitment, we offer outreach and educational programming to our community.  We host many films, lectures, and tours, as well as cooking in the classroom programs and partnerships with area hospitals and school systems to promote healthy eating habits.” A presentation sponsored by the co-op will take place on October 13 (see calendar below).

In addition to the burgeoning of food cooperatives in Maine, a second housing cooperative is forming in the Lewiston-Auburn area. The Raise-Op Housing Cooperative is following on the success of its predecessor, the Faire Bande a Part Housing Cooperative.  As housing conditions in Lewiston-Auburn continue to result in fires, lead poisonings, and other unsafe conditions for many tenants, cooperative housing is regarded as one empowering way for residents to take back control of their living conditions.  The Raise-Op has a mission to provide affordable, community-controlled housing to a diverse population of members, and hopes to own and operate its first property starting in 2015. It’s official website:

A new kind of worker cooperative, one offering professional cleaning services to homes and businesses in southern Maine, is CLEAN (Cooperative Labor for Economic Access Naturally). CLEAN’s motto is “a worker-owned cooperative; we go beyond green to maintain the dignity and integrity or the environment and our workers.” It is offering a Co-op Month special of $20 off a first cleaning. For more information about CLEAN and its services, call (207) 200-6330 or [email protected].

Other businesses are also recognizing the special benefits and values of cooperatives. As an example, the Sunrise Guide is offering cooperatives that list their services in the 2015 Guide a special ten percent discount through its deadline of October 10. The 2013 Guide also included an article about the unique benefits of buying products made by or sold by co-ops (“the co-op advantage.”) For more about the Sunrise Guide and its special support for cooperatives, contact publisher Heather Chandler [email protected].

Below is a partial list of some of the events and activities sponsored by and involving Maine cooperatives during the month of October (and into the first half of November). In addition, Cooperative Maine will be submitting op-ed articles to various local and regional newspapers in Maine, featuring various aspects of cooperative development.


For more information about all events, contact: Larry Dansinger, Cooperative Maine, (207) 525-7776or [email protected].

Throughout October: Cabot Cheese Celebrates Co-ops in October.
Month-long benefit for Cooperative Fermentation at Cabot Cheese Annex , at 163 Commercial Street, Portland.  There will be a “Co-optail,”5-7pm and raffle on October 29 at the store that will benefit Cooperative Fermentation and Maine Co-op Development programs.  The Co-optail Hour will feature Cabot’s Award Winning Cheeses, local beer from Allagash and Fermented Foods from Cooperative Fermentation.

October 6-9: International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec. Members of the Market Street Cooperative in Fort Kent are raising funds to send one or more co-op members to the conference. For more information, contact Stacy Martin at the co-op, [email protected] or (207) 231-5065.

October 8: “Creating Cooperatives in Our Communities,”
, 7:30pm at the Engine in Biddeford, 265 Main Street #103, Biddeford. Contact Jonah Fertig, Cooperative Fermentation, (207) 615-9970 This will be the first workshop in a series called Sustain Biddeford which is being organized by Engine and Heart of Biddeford.

October 10: The Alliance for Democracy is sponsoring a presentation and discussion with Rob Brown and the Island Employee Cooperative about the recent formation of the worker cooperative in Deer Isle/Stonington, 7 PM, Public Library, Blue Hill.  Contact Jan Carpenter, (207) 326-8635 [email protected].

October 11: Introduction to Fermentation,11am at the New School, 38 York St. Kennebunk. Contact Jonah Fertig, Cooperative Fermentation, (207) 615-9970 or

October 12-18: Credit unions in Maine will be celebrating Credit Union Week (October 12-18) and Credit Union Day on Thursday, October 16th.  This will include food, prizes, opportunities for current and potential members to visit credit unions across Maine and learn more about the cooperative structure.  For information on credit unions and the celebration, please visit or contact Jon Paradise, Maine Credit Union League, [email protected].

October 13: “Building a Resilient Local Economy through Worker Cooperatives”
talk and workshop,6:30pm, Belfast Free Library, Belfast. Sponsored by the Belfast Food Cooperative. Contact Kate Harris at the Belfast Co-op, (207) 338-2532 or [email protected]. This presentation will focus on creating more worker cooperatives. Worker cooperatives are growing in Maine and around the country as communities are exploring how to develop rooted businesses that build community wealth.  Recently on Deer Isle, three businesses, including grocery, pharmacy, and variety stores, were converted to worker-ownership preserving over 60 jobs and creating ownership for employees.  In this workshop, Rob Brown, from the Cooperative Development Institute and Jonah Fertig, from Cooperative Fermentation will explore: the ways worker co-ops can provide secession plans for existing business; steps to creating new worker co-ops; worker co-ops in Norway, Spain and New York City; and how more worker co-ops can form in Mid-coast Maine.

October 16: “Cooperatives in our Communities” radio discussion, 7:30pm on WMPG Community Radio’s “Big Talk,” 90.9, 104.1. The schedule is found on Jonah Fertig from Cooperative Fermentation will discuss cooperatives in Maine and how Portland and Maine can grow more cooperatives.  He will also be connecting this talk to New Economy Week, being organized by the New Economy Coalition.

October 18: Village Nursery School’s annual Fall Festival, 10 am-1 pm, 97 Main Street, Yarmouth on Saturday, October 18, with a $5 suggested donation per child. Fun for the entire family! Join us for arts and crafts, music, stories, baked goods & snacks, and many fun fall activities. A silent auction will take place for the adults to get a head start on holiday shopping. The Village Nursery is one of several cooperative child care businesses in Maine.

Late October/Early November: The Gardiner Food Co-op & Café will be sponsoring a showing of the film, “Food for Change” in Gardiner. The Co-op hopes to open later in 2014 or early in 2015. Contact [email protected] or on the web at or on Facebook for location, date, and time.

November 2: “Cooperative Farms and Food Systems” workshop at the Farmer to Farmer Conference, Point Lookout, Northport. Contact MOFGA, (207) 568-4142 or Marada Cook, Jonah Fertig, and Jane Livingston will be presenting at the Annual Farmer to Farmer Conference on Cooperative Farms and Food Systems. Participants will learn about different examples and get an opportunity to start planning cooperatives farms.

November 15: Cooperative Farm Design Day, all day, Common Ground Education Center, Crosby Brook Rd., Unity. Cost for the day is
$20-30 Sliding Scale, with barter and work trades welcome. 
This day-long workshop show participants how to start a farm cooperative.  It will explore ways that farms and farmers cooperate together to access land, share tools and labor, share responsibilities, and to increase their markets.  The workshop will offer a range of information about cooperatives including examples of current farm cooperatives. It will provide a participatory environment where people can work together to design a cooperative farm business. Pre-registration is requested for this program.  
For more information: 
or 207-615-9970.

The Seven Principles of Cooperatives (SOURCE: International Cooperative Alliance):

(1) Membership that is voluntary and open to anyone.

(2) Democratic control by members for all decisions, including one person, one vote.

(3) Member economic participation, including getting paid based on how much work you do for the co-op.

(4) Autonomy and independence: thru member control, not outside, control.

(5) Education, training, and information provided to members, employees, and the public.

(6) Cooperation among cooperatives: they work together rather than competing. An

(7) Concern for community by encouraging local, sustainable development.


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