The movement to increase market access for small farmers and build on cooperative supply chains recently enrolled three more food co-ops. Our neighbors-to-the-north, Viroqua Food Co-op, Tennessee’s Three River’s Co-op, and Eastside Co-op in Minneapolis have recently joined us in more deeply engaging fellow cooperators and consumers through P6: The Cooperative Trade Movement.
Along with Willy Street Co-op, having another Wisconsin community like Viroqua participating in P6 will benefit the farms we share and give cooperators added ability to shop with more awareness at either location. Several other food cooperatives across the country have expressed interest in joining P6 and, as the organizational structure of the movement is further developed, we will work with them to integrate P6 into their stores.

Equal Exchange, us, and the five other cooperatives—Bloomingfoods Co-op (Bloomington, IN); Brattleboro Food Co-op (Brattleboro, VT); Community Mercantile (Lawrence, KS); Davis Food Co-op (Davis, CA); and Seward Food Co-op (Minneapolis, MN)—have recently been working to develop a sustainable organizational structure to carry the movement into the future. Equal Exchange, the cooperative that graciously nurtured the P6 idea from its infancy, has provided invaluable leadership and fiscal support, but a shared vision for its final form may see P6 becoming an independent entity.

While sharing our vision for what this movement could mean for local agriculture in the future, the originating members of P6 recognized that no other group was moving in the same direction we were envisioning. After clarifying a unified message that can be applied to each location, we are committed to our farmers and other stakeholders to see that we do all we can to support them and our communities in this way.

Welcoming the three new food co-ops into the movement couldn’t be a better way to start this particular new year, with 2012 being the United Nation’s International Year of Cooperatives (see the article at www.willystreet.coop/article/12269).
Since launching the P6 Movement in October 2010, Willy Street Co-op has also had the privilege of bringing in several more P6 vendors.

P6: The Cooperative Trade Movement was created with many of the same tenets as the International Year of Cooperatives, which is to “[highlight] the contribution of cooperatives to socio-economic development, in particular recognizing their impact on poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration.”

Goals of the International Year of Cooperatives    

  • Increase public awareness about cooperatives and their contributions to socio-economic development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
  • Promote the formation and growth of cooperatives
  • Encourage Governments to establish policies, laws and regulations conducive to the formation, growth and stability of cooperatives

Some would agree that the entire set of seven Cooperative Principles continually act as a compass; when Co-op employees are struggling with decisions for the Co-op, going back to that earnest set of Principles provides a stable base from which to work. By following our guiding Principles, we’re able to keep focused on all the important matters facing the Co-op while continuing to provide excellent service to Owners. Look for more news from the national P6 committee or log on to P6.coop and see for yourself, all of the fun things to do and read about.

P6 Criteria
To emphasize and promote the cooperative way of doing business, P6 represents the sixth principle of cooperatives, which is to cooperate among cooperatives. This is accomplished in many ways, but P6 was created to provide consumers with more information about the foods or products they’re buying.

The symbol ‘P6’ was selected to represent the Movement and products in our store that represent at least 2 of the 3 following criteria:

  1. Small farmer/producer
  2. Local
  3. Co-operative or Non-Profit Organization

If a producer/farmer meets the criteria, their products receive the P6 label or inclusion on the P6 list of products. At Willy Street Co-op, “small farmer/producer” is defined using these guidelines: a.) Independently owned and operated, and b.) Selling direct to store or through a local distributor with a regional distribution area. “Local” is defined as a product grown or produced within a 150-mile radius of the Capitol building or from WI. “Co-op” is defined by cooperative ownership of the business or “Non-Profit Organization,” to benefit our community (Troy Farm, Porchlight, Seed Savers).

International Cooperative Alliance 7 Principles

  • 1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
  • 2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.
  • 3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
  • 4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
  • 5th Principle: Education, Training and Information Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public—particularly young people and opinion leaders—about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
  • 6th Principle: Co-operation among Co-operatives Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
  • 7th Principle: Concern for Community Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.