The Principle Six (P6) Co-operative Trade Movement isn’t only an initiative seen on store shelves at Viroqua Food Co-op. P6 is a national movement that distinguishes co-ops in the marketplace and leverages our collective impact. As national coordinator, I’d like to share what’s happening with P6 beyond the VFC walls.
What’s new with P6?
It’s been an exciting year! P6 was started by Equal Exchange in partnership with consumer co-ops. In the beginning, P6 was housed out of Equal Exchange (MA), and more recently the P6 office has moved to Seward Community Co-op (MN). This support has provided an important incubation period to allow P6 to grow, and now P6 is established enough that we are incorporating as an independent co-op. We filed our paperwork with the State of Minnesota, marking an exciting new stage, incorporating P6 as a multi-stakeholder co-op that will bring consumer co-ops and producer co-ops to the table as we work together toward our shared vision of a fair food system.
As always, P6 nationally has also been focused on helping P6 member stores champion local, co-op and small producers. One way all of the P6 members do this is to connect customers to the producers of their food by telling the story of P6 farmers and producers. You can see these producer stories at VFC and you can find more on the P6 website at: www.p6.coop
2014 Annual Meeting
P6 Annual Meetings are hosted across the country, with most recent meetings held in Austin, TX and Minneapolis, MN. Out of several promising national location options for the 2014 meeting, Viroqua rose to the top. The 2014 P6 Annual Meeting activities were held June 9-11. P6 member co-ops from across the country (TN, AR, MN, IN) met to tour and learn from the work of the VFC. Viroqua Food Co-op (VFC) staff have done an exemplary job of launching and implementing the P6 program.
P6 nationally has high praise for VFC’s creative marketing and professional design work, tools for staff and customer engagement, P6 event organizing, and ability to increase store sales for small, local, cooperative producers through the P6 program. Viroqua was also chosen due to the tremendous number of small farmers and producers in the area, and a community committed to supporting local foods and building a strong local economy.
We just started a project working with Perennial Plate to make a short video about P6 (if you haven’t seen their web documentary series on sustainable eating, it’s definitely worth exploring online). When I started explaining what P6 is to Daniel & Mirra of Perennial Plate, they interrupted me mid-thought to say they know and love the P6 program! There have also been some fantastic short videos of P6 producers made in the Viroqua area by Deann Horack. I encourage customers to look at her Maple Valley and Kickapoo Coffee videos – great stuff! (https://vimeo.com/deannhorack)
One huge boost to our ability to create meaningful producer storytelling came early this year in the form of a large grant from the Organic Valley FAFO Fund (Farmers Advocating for Organics). This fund is made up of contributions from Organic Valley farmers, while a farmer committee chooses grant recipients each year. The Fund’s support of P6 is invaluable to projects that support P6 farmers and producers, as well as to creating tools/resources, which help member stores implement the program. We are so thankful for this support, and love that the fund is farmer-driven.
Who participates in P6, in addition to VFC?
Retail co-ops participating in P6 stretch from Minnesota down to Arkansas: Bloomingfoods (IN), Eastside (MN), Ozark (AR), Seward (MN), Three Rivers (TN), Viroqua (WI) and Willy Street (WI). Equal Exchange has always been a member of P6, and with our recent incorporation as a multi-stakeholder, P6 has a new way of bringing more producer co-ops into the organization. Developing these new retail-producer co-op partnerships is one of the tasks we’re most looking forward to in the near future. Plan to hear more about that next year!
What types of collaboration are happening?
P6 member co-ops had huge success with creative P6 events last year: a P6 Block Party in Knoxville, the P6 Tailgate Party at VFC, and a month-long celebration at Seward who designated it P6 Month. Seward’s idea caught on, and now all of the P6 stores are gearing up for celebrating August 2014 as National P6 Month. Now that we’re all participating in the event, we’ve caught the attention of some of the national cooperative producers who are partnering with P6 stores to offer special promotions or support. Maple Valley, Organic Valley and Equal Exchange have all been enthusiastic about their role in P6 month. For P6 stores in WI and MN, there are also creative opportunities to work with small, regional farmers and producers on planning for P6 Month.
Keep your eyes peeled in August for a variety of P6 events and sales at the VFC!
by Aaron Reser, P6 National Coordinator