Doug Clopp, Director of Communications
Cooperative Development Institute
Burligton, VT — January 24, 2020 — Sounding in uplifting news for the winter season, the United States Department of Agriculture recently announced that it will award three federal grants to support the work of the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI), the Northeast’s Center for cooperative business education, training and technical assistance.
The Institute will receive a Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) of $ 200,000, a grant of $ 175,000 for Socially Disadvantaged Groups (SDGG) and, in collaboration with Cultivating Community who was the lead applicant, a grant of 45,000 USDA Grant Treaty 2501 $.
The main objective of the Institute is to improve the economic situation of rural areas in the Northeast through the development of cooperative enterprises. Doug Clopp, director of development and communications at the Institute, stressed the importance of the scale and reach of the Center in the region, which recent USDA grants will help support. “CDI is distinguished by its ability to provide technical assistance services to cooperative enterprises in seven states: VT, NH, ME, NY, CT, MA, RI,” Clopp explained, “and we support organizations in all business sectors: food, agriculture, fishing, forestry, housing, social services, purchasing, retail, wholesale, communications, health, software, energy, arts, etc. We also serve all categories of members: producers, consumers, workers, business owners, landowners, fishermen and multi-stakeholder cooperatives. It is a very broad and expansive impact of which we are very proud.
Since its founding in 1994, CDI’s technical assistance has supported the development of 153 new cooperatives and mutual enterprises and supported the creation of 746 new jobs, while helping to retain 693 others.
Thanks to CDI’s USDA RCDG Award, Expanding Rural Economic Opportunity Through Cooperative Development, CDI will be able to continue to effectively serve rural areas of the Northeast by working with eligible communities in the six New England states and New York.
In the state of Vermont, CDI was recently able to support A Perfect Seed, a new multi-stakeholder cooperative based in Putney that focuses on importing and selling ancient quinoa from Bolivia. The technical assistance, training and support offered to Perfect Seed were made possible through RCDG funding from CDI.
Tamara Stenn, founding member and chair of the board, shared details of her experience: “The staff at CDI did an incredible job meeting me in person and sharing their expertise as we began to plan what our cooperative, A Perfect Seed, would and do. It was my first time working with cooperatives and I had a lot of questions. CDI was great in showing me real examples of different models and approaches. Their encouragement and concrete know-how helped make the formation of our cooperative more positive, anchored and coherent.
Worker-members of Morrisville Food Co-operative (MoCo), another Vermont company supported by CDI’s Rural Co-operative Development Grant in Green Mountain State, offered their own testimonials about their experience working with Institute: “CDI staff went above and beyond to understand and respond to our needs,” they said, “Our success has been their priority. Since its creation, MoCo has grown to serve more than 1,000 households in the Lamoille valley.
In addition to these cooperative food systems achievements, VT Resident Communities (VT-ROC), which are part of CDI’s Rural Cooperative Development Program, have also achieved a series of recent positive results. Throughout 2019, CDI helped four state-owned prefabricated housing estates become Resident-Owned Co-operatives (ROCs). Westbury Park in Colchester, Sunset Lake Cooperative in Hinesburg, Lakeview Cooperative in Shelburne and St. George Community Cooperative in St. George each received technical assistance from CDI and ultimately made the transition to resident co-op ownership.
Before the transition to resident ownership, “most of the people who lived in the park owned their homes, but rented the land,” said Sandra Jarvis, resident and secretary of St. George’s Co-op, and before co-op buying managed land by residents, “many of those who lived in the park were worried about any increase in their spending.”
“There are 56 houses in Hinesburg Park and 120 in St. George Park,” said Lisa Hodgkins, longtime St. George Park resident and co-op treasurer. “Some houses have five or more people living there. There are a lot of residents here who have fixed incomes, who are retired, widowed, widowed, disabled. A co-op is a chance to form a more democratic community, ”said Hodgkins,“ No one knows better than the residents what needs to be addressed. “
Speaking about her work with Vermont park residents, Julia Curry, one of the VT-ROC specialists who assisted the parks during their transition, shared her own perspective. “It’s amazing to work with people who are so dedicated to their communities,” said Curry. “With the high cost of housing in Chittenden County, the ability to preserve and buy the land was a big deal or a break for all of these households now that they own their parks. CDI was really proud to advise them and hopes that more parks will convert to co-op ownership in the future.
Since fall 2019, VT ROC has worked with several prefabricated housing communities and helped 920 housing units become homeowners.
In other areas of the Northeast such as upstate New York, Ward Lumber, Inc., a family-owned 4th generation lumber and building materials company that operates stores in Jay and Malone, is one of the companies that will also be supported in their transition to work ownership as a result of USDA grant support.
Paul Mintz, a longtime employee of the Ward Lumber Pro sales team at Jay store, shared his experience working with the Institute: “The CDI has been instrumental in guiding our business throughout. of the process of conversion into a worker cooperative. To say that they helped us navigate these uncertain waters is an understatement; without them I’m not sure we would have ever understood why we wanted to leave shore.
To date, the Cooperative Development Institute has provided education and training programs to approximately 14,150 people across the Northeast. Thanks in part to the support of recent USDA grants, this impact will continue to grow and expand significantly.
Morrisville Food Cooperative (MoCo)
Resident owners of the new St. George Cooperative
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The Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) is the Northeast’s center for education, training and technical assistance in cooperative affairs. CDI is an independent center, a 501 (c) 3 founded in 1994 by cooperative leaders from all industrial sectors to work with the people of the Northeast to create cooperative businesses and networks that develop a thriving rural economy. and equitable with healthy, robust and sustainable rural communities. . Although our focus is rural and regional, we contribute to innovative economic and community development strategies at national and global levels.
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