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The Cooperative Trade Movement

“When going back makes sense, you are going ahead.” -Wendell Berry

What is Principle Six: The Cooperative Trade Movement?
Principle Six: The Cooperative Trade Movement (P6) continues to push us and others to do more than just imagine, but to actively promote and prioritize small-scale farms and locally grown foods. P6, as a symbol, is used to easily identify those foods in the store that speak to the movement’s purpose. It’s been evident in the stores and in conversations with others that there are still questions and confusion about what this movement is trying to accomplish. The following information has been compiled to answer as many questions as possible and to generate greater understanding about the importance of supporting local farming.

Why do we need a movement?
As consumers, our Co-op food dollars are a powerful economic tool! By selecting local, small-scale farmed and produced foods, you are sustaining yourself and the movement in your community and elsewhere in the world.

Who Benefits?
Small-scale farmers are the direct beneficiaries of P6. Whether they live in Viroqua or Uganda, small-scale farmers deserve fair prices for their vital work. Then, a stronger local farming community means more food security and better health for everyone living there. A successful P6 movement would reveal everyone in our communities thriving on vibrant, nutritious foods and a healthy system of people to grow, move and sell it.

“Small-scale farming encourages the farmer to be intimately engaged in all aspects of the production of the farm. This dedication promotes a deep caring for the land, animals, environment, neighbors and community. Our hopes are to leave this farm better than when we started farming it, and that it will continue to provide food, sustenance and a satisfying way of life for the next generation to farm here.” -Diana Kalscheur Murphy, Dreamfarm

What are those requirements?
Every product in our Co-op has been evaluated to determine if it was grown or produced using two of the following three P6 criteria:

  • Small, human-scale farms with farmers who are directly involved in the care of the animals or plants they are growing.

  • Local, which we define as anywhere in Wisconsin or within 150miles of the Capitol building.

  • Cooperatively chartered businesses and not-for-profit organizations are helping to provide a more just system and infrastructure for growing, moving and selling small farm-raised foods.

What is local?
Willy Street Co-op defines local as being anything grown within a 150-mile radius of the Capitol building, or anywhere in the State of Wisconsin. Locally grown or produced foods in our Co-op are commonly highlighted with purple signs throughout the stores. Getting to a deeper shade of purple, we also differentiate foods that are:

  • 100% local

  • Local (all but a tiny amount of ingredients are 100% local—i.e. milk, cheese)

  • Locally Prepared—by locally owned businesses using 50% or more P6 qualifying ingredients.

Why is P6 so confusing?
If you think this is confusing, you’re right, and you’re probably not alone. This movement is geared to re-revolutionize modern agriculture and create real and financial inroads for clean, honest foods, grown sustainably on small-scale farms. It’s also confusing because P6 addresses a complex problem, which in turn, evolved into a complex solution.

Where did this idea come from?
Day one of the movement began with the leaders of Equal Exchange (EE), the Boston-based Fair Trade cooperative that has, over the last few decades, been bringing us quality coffees, chocolates, teas, nuts and fruits direct from small-scale farms in other countries. After gathering their farming stakeholders from around the globe at a conference, farmers were asked how EE could help them get to the next level? Those farmers provided the inspiration for EE and other grocery cooperatives to collaborate on educating American consumers about the importance of supporting real Fair Trade systems.

If P6 represents the 6th Principle (Cooperation Among Co-ops), why do you include non-Co-op vendors?
This is another detail that’s been difficult to convey. Of course, we’d prefer to see the cooperative model for businesses used more frequently, especially where our food systems are concerned. The intent in using Principle 6 (of the International Cooperative Alliance) for this movement recognizes that when grocery cooperatives work together, we can be very powerful in the marketplace. Since the start of modern agriculture, Co-ops were among the first grocery stores to promote and prioritize Fair Trade and local foods. With that knowledge, it’s our goal to band Co-ops together in this movement to promote sustainable farming practices and inform consumers about the importance of their role in the movement along with the benefits.

“The true revolutions, those which transform the destinies of the peoples, are most frequently accomplished so slowly that the historians can hardly point to their beginnings.” - Gustave Le Bon

What is Willy Street Co-op doing to promote the movement?
In addition to working closely with eight other grocery co-ops to develop this, we’ve been planning to take P6 into the future. More grocery co-ops will be joining the collective of cooperatives in the coming year. May 2012 will be our Co-op’s fourth, month-long focus on the P6: Cooperative Trade Movement and the farmers. Since launching the Movement in October of 2010 we’ve held P6 Farm Tours, P6 farmer demos in the stores, a P6 contest, newsletter articles, store signage and staff meetings to discuss the need for, and successes of this movement.

How can I easily recognize P6 products in the store?
During May and October, we’ll try to keep in place a P6 sign under each of the qualifying products.

How can I tell HOW anything qualifies to be included as a P6 item?
The previous shelf tags we were using were good, but we’ve now improved them to give you more information at-a-glance. Now, in addition to the P6 symbol, we’ll be using three symbols to let you know why something qualified to be a part of the movement.

Does Willy Street Co-op visit every local vendor to ensure they qualify for P6?
No, but if they’re selling foods to us, it is verylikely that one or more of us have visited the farm or facilities. When P6 is applied to Fair Trade products, Equal Exchange has been kind enough to vet those sources to ensure they’re using only small-scale farms.

Is everything P6 also organic?
No, not necessarily. While there are a lot of organic P6 products in the store, there are a large number of non-organic food products that we still value highly. We have established relationships with these farmers (Cates Farm, Willow Creek Pork, Ela Orchard, etc.) and although they’re not certified organic, we’ve been to their farms, witnessed first-hand their operations and determined they are farming sustainably. Some of our farmers have deliberately chosen not to become certified organic for various reasons, but their contributions to our Co-op and the environment warrant our approval and support.

Can I find P6 in other stores?
You may be able to find some of the same products that carry the P6 designation in other stores, but the P6: Cooperative Trade Movement is a trademarked function of cooperatives, exclusively.

You can find P6 information in several other co-ops across the U.S. Most recently Viroqua Food Co-op has joined us in supporting the movement, so if you’re traveling in that part of the state, we encourage you to stop in and check out which of their products are P6. Also, Seward Co-op and Eastside Co-ops in Minneapolis are a part of the movement and can offer a wide array of products that qualify for P6 status in their area.

You can also find plenty of P6-qualifiable farmers at one of the many fantastic farmers’ markets in your community.
For more information about Principle Six: The Cooperative Trade Movement please see the many articles on our website at:

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