From the Board: Co-ops Look in the Mirror

By Annie Hoy, Board Secretary and Chair of Owner Engagement Committee

Food Co-ops around the nation proudly display signage saying EVERYONE WELCOME. Or they use the slogan, “Anyone can shop. Anyone can join.” But are food co-ops, and other cooperative businesses, walking the walk? 

The double calamity of a pandemic and civil unrest has helped cooperatives in every economic sector see inequities more clearly. They have become a central focus of entire conferences, both internationally and in the food co-op sector specifically. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in relation to the co-op movement is under review and committees have formed in credit unions, housing co-ops, worker co-ops, platform co-ops and of course, food co-ops. It can be uncomfortable work. But getting to liberation is uncomfortable, as many of our brothers and sisters of color have known for centuries. 

The co-op movement’s statement of purpose says that co-ops are jointly owned by the people who use their services. There are universal people-centered principles like concern for community, autonomy and independence. Co-ops are democratically controlled, and guided by values like democracy, equality, equity and solidarity, as well as self-help and self-responsibility. But if you graded co-ops on diversity, equity and inclusion, you might find that the movement has an uncomfortable problem. 

Jessica Gordon Nembhard, in her keynote address at October’s international Co-op IMPACT conference, began her speech with a mythbusting question: Co-ops can’t be racist, right? She then noted the small number of black, brown and indigenous bodies in the room. She described how co-op development materials never mention the rich history of black or indigenous co-ops across time. She challenged us to recognize the ways we might perpetuate institutional racism, or what we do if we see racist microagressions and exclusion in our co-ops. She urged co-op leaders to rely on Principle 6, Cooperation among Cooperatives, to create a solidarity economy that practices social justice, no matter what sector of the co-op economy you represent. 

In the food co-op sector, and at Ashland Food Co-op, we are engaging in conversations about what community means and who is part of that community. Is everybody really welcome? And if not, how can we address that?

More Co-op News

May Day Community Block Party

Photography by Chelsea Whitney Art

On May 1st, several Southern Oregon businesses came together for a block party to provide a space to gather as a community after a rough spell due to the pandemic and fires. The May Day Block Party was hosted on Main St in Phoenix, where the scent of food trucks mingled with artisan goods such as local cheeses, locally farmed flowers, and even fresh-baked pastries.

May Change for Good Recipient: Rogue Valley Farm to School

May's Change for Good Recipient is

Rogue Valley Farm to School

Rogue Valley Farm to School educates children about our food system through hands-on farm and garden programs, and by increasing local foods in school meals.

"We inspire an appreciation of local agriculture that improves the economy and environment of our community and the health of its members." 

A Visit with Rolling Hills

Visit Rolling Hills Farm and learn more about owner Dave Belzberg, who the Ashland Food Co-op is so honored to partner with for more than thirty five years.

A Visit with Magnolia Farms




Visit Magnolia Farms and learn more about owner Elissa Thau, who the Ashland Food Co-op is so honored to partner with for more than twenty years.

A Visit with Emerald Hills

Visit the Emerald Hills Ranch and learn more about this fourth generation ranching family that the Ashland Food Co-op is so proud to partner with for more than twenty years.

A Conversation with Katie Falkenberg, Photographer and Filmmaker

Katie Falkenberg's photography and filmmaking has taken her all over the world, and lucky for us - she's been calling the Rogue Valley home for a couple years now. Exquisitely and harmoniously capturing the world around her, she is documenting not only through the lens but also through her peaceful and loving spirit. Katie reached out to us in hopes of collaborating after falling in love with the co-op soon after moving here.

January Change for Good Recipient: Rogue Valley Mentoring

Since 2005, Rogue Valley Mentoring (formerly the Rose Circle Mentoring Network) has trained over 500 adults who have mentored over 2,000 youth in our valley; letting young people know that they are not alone. A caring and compassionate ear shows them that they matter, and they they are experts of their own experience.

Rogue Valley Mentoring Circle

Coronavirus Preparedness at the Co-op

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The Ashland Food Co-op acknowledges and shares our community’s concerns about protecting against the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The safety and health of staff and customers is a top priority for the Co-op.

Shopping Safely & Efficiently


As coronavirus cases increase in Jackson County, the Co-op is taking extra precautions to protect shoppers and employees. 

To ensure social distancing in the store, the number of persons allowed in the store at once has been reduced to 50% capacity. Understandably, this may lead to a short wait outside of the store, but please be assured the line moves quickly.

In order to keep the wait as short as possible, here are a few steps you can take to help out: