Up & Coming

September 14 - 16, 2023




Co-op history is human history. Cooperation has been central to all cultures and societies, and is a source of great strength and power. “The River of Cooperation” represents how each of us, and our co-ops, come together to build toward a stronger, more inclusive future as the tributaries of our individual co-ops and communities join together. What unique perspective, gifts, and talents have you, or will you, bring to the River of Cooperation? Together, we will celebrate our collective strength!

Why attend?

We know that starting a food co-op is an exciting, but sometimes long and complex  journey. Up & Coming provides an opportunity for EDUCATION, INSPIRATION and CONNECTION to fuel your work.

EDUCATION and learning opportunities from experts and practitioners in food co-ops.

INSPIRATION from peers sharing their experiences and their stories.

CONNECTION from forming relationships and opportunities to engage in deep conversations.


What you will get

  • Opportunities to network and connect with your fellow cooperators
  • The chance to learn from co-op development experts, to ask questions, and to dive deep
  • Opportunities throughout the conference to slow down, take a breath and absorb all you’re taking home with you – enjoy some “self care”
  • (Optional) inspirational tours to St. Paul and Minneapolis-area food co-ops

40+ Speakers

42 Sessions

2 Tours

News & Updates

Wow! Our hotel block at the Intercontinental St. Paul has already “SOLD OUT”! We’re thrilled with the high level of interest in the conference this year. We’ve been able to secure two additional hotel blocks at downtown hotels.

If you have not already secured your hotel reservations, you can find additional information below.

Springhill Suites
472 Jackson St., St. Paul

Room rate: $179 + tax
Single, double, triple or quad occupancy
Parking: $25/night +tax
Room block is available 9/13-9/16
The block expires on Aug. 31
Reservations can be made by calling the hotel at 651.224.9700 (mention the Up & Coming Conference group block) or online by clicking this LINK.

DoubleTree by Hilton
411 Minnesota Street, Saint Paul, MN
Room rate: $159 +tax
Parking: $22/night + tax
Room block is available 9/15-9/17
The block expires August 30

Reservations may be made by calling the hotel at 651-291-8800 (Group code: 91Y) or online by clicking this LINK.

For the first time ever, we’re in a city that is home to multiple food co-ops. We’re excited to announce that we have FIVE local food co-op hosts for 2023: Eastside Food Co-op; Mississippi Market; Seward Community Co-op; Valley Natural Foods and TCCP (Twin Cities Co-op Partners).

TOURS: The Up & Coming conference tours have been finalized.

Tour 1 includes: Eastside Food Co-op, Wedge Community Co-op, Valley Natural Foods 

Tour 2 includes: Linden Hills Co-op, Mississippi Market Co-op, Co-op Partners Warehouse

The tours will depart from the InterContinental at 1:00 pm and return by 5:00 pm.

Stops at each location will include a short presentation by staff with plenty of time to ask questions. You’ll also have time to tour the store on your own and shop to your heart’s content.

Seats are still available for both tours. Please contact Deb Trocha at dtrocha@icdc.coop if you’d like to add a tour to your registration. Cost for the tour is $35.00.

Our Local Food Co-op Hosts

The place

St. Paul, MN

The Intercontinental St. Paul Riverfront is perched atop the bluffs of the Mississippi River and is in the heart of downtown, with walking distance to live theater, renowned museums, superb dining, specialty shopping and so much more.

How to Be a Great Employer (and not get sued)

Speaker – LaDonna Sanders Redmond and Valeria Roach

Business ethics, culture, and structure are key to ensure good governance and work environment for employees.  In this session, you will learn the characteristics of a good employer, legal requirements, and policy development to protect the interest of the business.  Attendees will learn how to implement good business practices and become a low-risk Employer.

This session is especially great for stages 2A-open.

The Financials that Boards Need to Understand after Opening

Speaker – Siobain Mitchell

It’s the moment you’ve been working towards all these long years. Your food co-op opens. You’re about to have a whole lot of financial information coming at you. In this session Siobain will cover what the full board is responsible for knowing & understanding, what your Board Officers and/or Board Finance Committee is responsible for, and when to seek outside support.

This session is especially great for stages 2B-open.

Owner Engagement Events - A Peer to Peer Round Table

Speaker – Faye Mack facilitator

Owner engagement events are an important way to build excitement and keep owners and communities engaged during the long mid-development phase before you announce your store location. Come learn about the innovative events thrown by your peers when they were in Stage 2A-2B. Northside Food Co-op, Prairie Food Co-op and SoLA Food Co-op will be on hand to share about their popup grocery offerings, farmers market, and collaborative popup food giveaways. They’ll share details about their events, lessons learned, and the impact the events had during this important stage of development. You’ll rotate around the room, giving you the opportunity to have small group conversations with each presenting co-op, ask questions, and engage in dynamic discussions with peers, all while picking up tips and ideas to bring home.

This session is especially great for stages 1-2B.

Engagement beyond the Computer

Speaker – Rachel DB

Join community creative and marketing professional Rachel Dominguez-Benner for an interactive session introducing advanced techniques to engage your people in spreading your food co-op’s message and reach beyond the computer. After a short, upbeat presentation by Rachel DB, participants will work to choose and unfold one technique to take back with you, ready for action. Be prepared for talking to others, no wrong answers in brainstorming, the delight of creative cross-pollination, and prizes. 

This session is especially great for all.

Gem City Market: 5 Stories about the co-op

Speaker – Mark Goehring, amaha sellassie, Dennis Hanley, Anthony Goodwin

Many things attract people to food co-ops and there are many stories that can be told about them. In fact, there are so many ways to talk about a food co-op that sometimes the notion of selling groceries can get left behind. From an organizational leadership perspective, it can be helpful to have a handful of stories to focus people’s attention on priorities, trends, or purpose, and, for food co-ops, it might be helpful if some of them were about selling groceries!

So, what if we played with this idea? You can have five stories about the co-op, and three of them have to be about selling groceries.

This session will feature amaha sellassie, board president of Gem City Market; Dennis Hanley, Columinate manager on contract and IGM at Gem City Market; and Anthony Goodwin of NCG Development Co-op, who will share stories about Gem City Market (with many of them about selling groceries!) Time will be provided for attendees to apply the 5 and 3 story principle to their own co-op.

This session is especially great for all.

Capital Stack Case Study: How Three Different Co-ops Pieced together Their Funding

Speaker – Lela Klien and Maggie Cohn

With banks and lenders changing how they manage risk, and construction costs increasing, there is no longer a “standard” way to build a co-op capital stack. Panelists will walk participants through three capital stack examples from recently opened co-ops in both low-income/low-access communities and middle class communities. Cooperator and lender panelists will share their perspective on the current state of co-op financing, including lending, philanthropy, membership equity and other creative tools.

This session is especially great for stages 2A-2B.

"Food Desert" Diaries: Dispatches from the Northside of Wilmington, NC

Speaker – seven roots and Cierra Washington

Together with their local city and county governments as well as scores of local organizations, community members and volunteers, Northside Food Co-op is building a co-op grocery store in Wilmington, NC. Collectively, they are creating a promise of food equity in a historically marginalized Black neighborhood, and pioneering a model for private-public partnership in co-op development. 

This session is especially great for all.

Detroit People's Food Co-op - A 10 year Journey

Speaker – Vernon Oakes, Lanay Gilbert-Williams, Malik Yakini

The fight for justice and equality is embedded in Detroit’s history, but organized efforts for food justice is fairly new to Detroit. The Detroit People’s Food Co-op began it’s journey almost a decade ago and is due to open its doors near the end of 2023. How did it all begin? How has it developed? What has worked and what has not? These topics and more will be discussed in this session.

This session is especially great for all.

Regaining Momentum During and Post Pandemic – Hudson Grocery Cooperative

Speaker – Joe Rouleau and Sarah Atkins

Joe Rouleau (Board President) and Sarah Atkins (Treasurer) from Hudson Grocery Cooperative share their story and how they were able to get unstuck during a pandemic.   HGC started in 2012 and had 5 good years reaching its first 500 members.  Things started to slow down and 3 years later they were only at ~600 owners.  Experiencing lots of board turnover and push back even from within their community, had them at the edge as 2020 winded down.   By late 2020,  they were able to add new talent to their board and already started working on new strategies and initiatives.  By the end of 2021, they had largest year in history followed by 2022 their 2nd largest.  There were still some challenges along the way however they push through with a net increase of ~50% new owners in 2 years (over 940 by May 2023).  Their board is full with a wide range of skills and have re-engaged within their community and owners.   They are working on securing a site, drafting business plan and launching a capital campaign.  If this sounds familiar?, please join them to hear their stories and participate in a dynamic conversation.  

This session is especially great for stages 2A-2B.

The Food Shed Co-op Difference: Capital Campaign Success

Speaker – Katie Novak

Doug Close, Food Shed Co-op Board member joins Katie Novak, of Katie Novak Cooperative Coaching to delve into an inspiring case study of the successful Food Shed Co-op $1.7 million dollar capital campaign. Discover the innovations that Food Shed Co-op employed alongside tried and true practices that consistently get results. In this session, Katie and Doug will take you on a journey through the Food Shed Co-op Capital Campaign highlighting their strategies, challenges, and triumphs. 

This session is especially great for stages 2A-2B.

Telling a Story That Moves Mountains

Speaker – Darnell Adams

Organizational level storytelling that builds powerful startups with huge community support that get funded. How do co-op startups craft and tell the stories that will lead to success? Let’s look at examples of co-ops whose powerful stories are moving their communities to action and securing support from funders. Get ready to work on your co-op’s story and leave with concrete techniques that you can use right away.

This session is especially great for stages 1-2B.

Community Organizing Tools for Engagement & Beyond

Speaker – Tamah Yisrael

Community organizing is the center of movement building and a critical tool in building out membership and supporter bases.  More and more communities are also looking to cooperatives as a way of creating economic centers and space for organizing. These elements are necessary for viable and supportive ecosystems that meet the needs of the communities cooperatives serve.  This workshop focuses on these objectives for the cooperatives and lifts out the tools, practices, and strategies that help build up participation and ownership interests.  

 Participants will identify collectively what community organizing tools are being used at our co-ops, and which ones we are not yet using. We will also create space to learn from one another’s work and what we can add to our co-op’s work to build our cooperative movement in our communities. We will also discuss how to engage in existing movements and other organizing efforts to create relational value for the community.

This session is designed to support the co-op in thinking about what value it is creating for the community and supporting the co-op beyond the scope of being just another retail store.

This session is especially great for all.

Getting Things Done: Accountability Basics for Startups

Speaker – Jade Barker

To create a strong foundation for your co-op startup, it’s crucial to learn and practice the basics of accountability.  Strong accountability systems can mean the difference between a wildly successful startup that empowers its members or an organization that saps its members’ energy and withers away. Don’t make your volunteers slog through the confusion created by having little or no accountability. Perhaps your startup has plenty of good ideas, but little follow-through. Or you are great at getting some things done, but not others. What does it take to be accountable? Come learn the basics of accountability, assess your co-operative’s strengths and weaknesses, and walk away with the tools you need to be accountability superstars. Participants will be introduced to Policy Governance®, a system used by Board’s worldwide to maintain accountability in their organizations, and how you can use a simplified version to kickstart your co-op’s accountability journey.

This session is especially great for stages 1-2B.

Embodied Co-op Leadership

Speaker – Bonnie Hudspeth and Darnell Adams

As co-op organizers, we are leaders in our communities with the ability to build inclusive movements. We go to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion trainings, read books, listen to podcasts, and yet we may still be stuck when it comes to shifting our behaviors.  There’s information we know in our minds, and sometimes contradictory things we feel in our bodies. 

This community conversation will explore how White co-op organizers can become mindful of our bodies in those moments of conflict and fear. What are the tools we can use for grounding and so we keep moving forward instead of freezing, fighting, or fleeing so we can address and not perpetuate white supremacy in the cooperative movement? Come ready to engage and play!

This session is especially great for all.

Understanding and Using Your Pro Forma

Speaker -Don Moffitt and Sarah Lebherz

When we produce your first pro forma it’s intended to be a tool, an interactive file that you can use to explore the financial feasibility of your co-op. We’ll share a sample, talk with you about what it is and how it works, why you need it, how you can you use it. We’ll show you the inputs and the outcomes, along with key indicators of feasibility. We’ll share our experience and insights and tackle your questions. 

This session is especially great for stages 1-2B.

Market Feasibility and Its Role in Your Co-op's Feasibility

Speaker – JQ Hannah

No matter what stage of organizing you are in, you’ve likely heard the term “market study” said a lot and are aware it plays a critical role in your co-op’s business feasibility. This one type of study not only decides if your co-op has market feasibility but also plays a huge role in two of the three other areas of feasibility for your co-op as well:  financial and site. We’ll dig into what a market study is, what it can and cannot tell you, how it is utilized in feasibility, and how you can leverage it in your organizing to gain owners and local support. We’ll also touch on the questions of market study accuracy, market study providers used by startups, the question of cultural competency in market study research, and more. 

This session is especially great for stages 1-2A.

“Locking Down a Site: Nuts, Bolts, and Stories”

Speaker – John Guerra, Anthony Goodwin, Don Moffitt, Malik Yakini, Kathy Nash

This session will explore moving from a feasible site to beginning negotiations on the site—what skills and competencies do you need at the table, what’s your role in negotiating, and what to expect as you negotiate a lease or purchase.  We’ll discuss these topics with both consultants and co-operators who have been through the process, to discuss preparation and lessons learned from their site searches and negotiations.

This session is especially great for stages 2A-2B.

Nailing Site Selection: More than Parking, Receiving, and Trash

Speaker – the seven roots team

The place your co-op calls home will have dramatic impact on the life and viability of your fledgling business. This session will cover site search, feasibility, and selection, with a focus on feasibility. 

What should these processes look like? Do they overlap? How to search for the right kind of site? How to decide if a site is feasible? What about multiple sites? We’ll explore these questions and more. 

Site feasibility will tell your board the pros, cons and doability of a potential store site so you don’t have to be a grocery pro to evaluate your options. Empower your board to sleep like babies!

This session is especially great for stages 2A-2B.

Capital Stacks: the Nitty Gritty of Piecing together the Money to Build Your Co-op

Speaker – Lela Klein

With banks and lenders changing how they manage risk, and construction costs increasing, recently opened cooperatives have had to get creative to put together the equity and financing needed to build and open their store. Different kinds of co-ops and communities present different opportunities and risks, meaning there isn’t one right way to build your capital stack.  This workshop will delve into descriptions, tips, and pitfalls of the most commonly used sources of capital for cooperatives, including lending, grants, donations, member equity and loans, and public finance tools.

This session is especially great for stages 2A-2B.

Finding and Keeping Your Greatest Asset - Your GM!

Speaker – Jeanie Wells and Mark Mulchahy

You’ve dreamed…You’ve planned…You’ve raised capital…You’ve secured a site…You’ve drawn up plans… You’ve created a timeline…Now you’ve got to hire a GM.

Join Jeanie Wells and Mark Mulcahy in reviewing the current landscape in the world of GM hiring – including its challenges and obstacles, available resources for support, and what to look for to find the best fit for your co-op, your mission, and your values.

In this workshop Jeanie and Mark will tap into their years of experience as retailers, GMs and consultants, working in a wide variety of co-op formats, locations, sizes and models, to help you find the clearest path to success.

Participants will leave with: 

Best practices for finding and hiring your GM

A broad understanding of the current landscape your GM will need to navigate and lead in in today’s marketplace

A framework to assess new GM’s strengths and gaps, and guidance on using resources to help new GM develop skills and fill gaps

Strategies to set the right tone and build a strong working relationship with GM from the outset 

Moving your board through transition – from planning to performance and profitability

A thorough list of resources available to start-ups

This session is especially great for stages 2B-3.

Searching for Financial Feasibility

Speaker – Don Moffit and Sarah Lebherz

Stage 2A is all about feasibility—will the vision you have work? This workshop focuses on increasing your understanding of financial feasibility. We’ll talk about what it means, how to assess it, what impacts it. Your co-op will be financially sustainable if you can identify a path that’s feasible—and then operate the co-op accordingly. We’ll share our experience and insights, tackle your questions and do it interactively.

This session is especially great for stages 1-2A.

How to be a Startup Board Superstar: What is the board? What does it do? What is it in charge of?

Speaker – Joel Koposchke 

Your board is already up and running – so why attend this session? Just like buildings need a solid foundation and world class musicians or athletes revisit fundamentals to maximize performance, this session will cover the critical fundamentals in a fun and engaging way. Whether you’re brand new or coming in for a tune-up, if your board is operating at less than 100% efficiency, productivity, and fun, there’s room for improvement. Bring what’s hanging you up, and we’ll tackle the challenges your board is facing.

This session is especially great for all.

Rooting Your Co-op In Community

Speaker – Bonnie Hudspeth 

Co-ops are of the community, for the community, by the community.  But there are so many decisions to make, so many tasks to accomplish: will you ever get your doors open if you ground your co-op’s organizing process in your community? Come for a lively discussion based on “Community Organizing Self-Assessment” to explore various ways you can intentionally root your co-op in your community throughout your development process.

This session is especially great for all.

4 Pillars of Effective Startup Outreach

Speaker – Rachel Dominguez-Benner 

In this foundations session, community creative and communications professional Rachel Dominguez-Benner will bring participants on an exploration of the four pillars of effective startup outreach. All stages welcome – start your outreach on strong foundations with a full picture of the four pillars, or increase the fruitful connections of your outreach efforts by filling in the gaps in your foundational wisdom. Lecture style with visual presentation. 

This session is especially great for all.

Exploring Power and Privilege for Food Co-op Organizers

Speaker – Jamila Medley

This session invites participants to explore ways in which power and privilege are represented in our individual lives and how they impact co-op development efforts. By reflecting on how power and privilege show up in collaborative spaces too, we’ll move towards identifying anti-oppressive values to support co-op development efforts.  

This session is especially great for all.

FCI Town Hall: Could We Serve You Better?

Speaker – Darnell Adams and Faye Mack co-faciliating

How has the development process and support from Food Co-op Initiative (FCI) served you? Have you felt welcomed into the food co-op community? For the past 15 years, FCI has paved the way for new food co-ops. We are seeking your input on how well FCI and the food co-op development process serves racially, ethnically, and economically diverse communities, and how we can better meet the needs of all. Join Faye Mack, Executive Director of FCI and Darnell Adams, FCI Board Member for this Co-op Community conversation. Let your voice be heard!

This session is especially great for stages 2A-3.

Culturally Competent Board Recruitment and GM hiring

Speaker – LaDonna Sanders Redmond and Seward Board 

In 2023 the Seward Food Co-op embarked on their first GM hiring process in 18 years. Seward is a cooperative that began its equity work 10 years ago. That work began with the operation and increasing cultural competency across the operations. That work had an impact on owners, Seward owners continue to support diversity (race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender) which has created a board that is majority of people of color.  The foundation of that equity work supported the board during the hiring process of the new GM. This workshop session will cover the topics of culturally competent board recruitment and its impact on GM hiring that your startup food co-op can utilize in your future Board recruitment and GM hiring process.

This session is especially great for all.

The Anti-Racist Path:White-Led Start Ups Reimagining Democracy

Speaker – Patrice Lockert Anthony

Co-ops are models for, and paths to, democracy and justice. It’s time to do a deep dive into what it means to be white in America and how it has negatively impacted the cooperative movement. White-led start-up co-ops can shift that impact and bring promise back to what has become “just another grocery store” dynamic. Racism in America is at the top of the list for Urgencies to Resolve (UTR). A food co-op isn’t supposed to just be about building a “happy place” to shop for food. They are to uplift democracy, equity, fairness for all who participate, and bring justice to our communities. Now, we’re going to do this workshop with love and from truth. We need, though, to check any white fragility at the door. This isn’t the workshop where there will be space for fragility…only love, truth, and justice. We’ll spend 5 minutes between the intro and outro. We’ll listen for 15 minutes. We’ll have break out sessions for 30 minutes, and a whole group discussion session for 15 minutes and end with a Q and A for 10 minutes. The Speaker will provide a  *Pre-conference (small) reading packet for those who’d like to dig in a little early.

This session is especially great for all.

Mutual Aid and Our Co-ops

Speaker – LaDonna Sanders Redmond

Just two months after the COVID epidemic began turning our worlds upside down, the police murdered George Floyd in Minneapolis just blocks from the Seward Food Co-op. In response to all of the suffering and struggle around them, the Seward Food Co-op board and staff found themselves as a part of a mutual aid movement that was responding to the moment in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.  As a co-op, the cooperative is led by seven international principals the co-op has always committed to principle seven: caring for the community. However, the shift from cooperatively running a grocery store to supporting direct mutual aid practices is not only about caring it is about actions that support our communities. This practice is not something to be left in 2020 but is a foundation for a future our co-ops must be planning for. In this session, we will explore what mutual aid is, how food co-ops supported other mutual aid projects in 2020, and how these partnerships work so we can create our collective future of liberation using mutual aid and the co-op principles. 

This session is especially great for all.

Trip to George Floyd Square and Black Co-op Fellowship off-site

2:30 – 4:00 Bus tour to George Floyd Square (E 38th St. & Chicago Ave)
4:00 – 5:00 Visit to Seward Community Co-op Friendship Store (317 E 38th St, Minneapolis, MN 55409)
5:00 – 6:30 Black-led co-op fellowship at Pimento Kitchen (2524 Nicollet Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55404)

Building Black Political Power: From Buyers Club to Political Communities

Speaker – Mona Jenkins

Embark on a transformative journey with visionary leader Mona Jenkins, an advocate for Black-led initiatives, as she unveils the confluence of economic empowerment and political engagement in marginalized Black communities. Delve into her groundbreaking work at the Queen Mother’s Market, spotlighting grassroots movements’ potential.

Starting with the innovative Buyers Club model, Mona will demonstrate how this cooperative approach has successfully addressed the pressing issue of food apartheid within neighborhoods. Yet, she delves deeper, addressing challenges like gentrification through strategic negotiations and formal frameworks, safeguarding neighborhoods’ essence.

Drawing from her vast experience, Mona underscores the pivotal role of political empowerment in Black communities. She imparts practical wisdom on expanding the cooperative approach to nurture political cohesion, tapping into collective resources and community sessions to address interconnected concerns spanning healthcare, housing, and education. Don’t miss this opportunity to participate in some regional breakouts catalyzing lasting change and forging resilient political networks through cooperative endeavors.

Using Civic Engagement Strategies to Grow Membership

Speaker – Jamila Medley & Erin Dale 

In this session, you will learn basic civic engagement strategies to grow membership development. We will define civic engagement, review best practices and create temple civic engagement plans all designed to grow your cooperative’s membership base.

Building the Black Cooperative Muscle: Strategies for Working and Building Together

Speaker – Keyona Hough

Participants will be able to identify common cooperation challenges within the Black community. Learn more about their “cooperative type” and how to use their skills and vulnerability to continue the cooperative movement. Identify how white barbarism has contributed to the ways Black folks cooperate and communicate with each other. This session will dive into challenges, reasons and structures of why Black people have tension when working together. Together we will identify those challenges and create solutions, while identifying our own personal “Cooperative Types”. So often we discuss Black folks’ challenge with cooperation, but never make space to learn and build those cooperative skills. As we build community and cooperatives in our communities, we should understand the critical need to strengthen our “cooperative muscle”, the same as we bulk up in the gym. White barbarism (commonly used as white supremacy) has caused a rippling effect of hyper-independence, fear of each other, mistrust, isolation, and tension within our communities. As Black people continue the cooperative movement, we must become experts and co-creators of how we chose to work together and build cooperation. The more we work together we will see our largest resource is cooperation.

Re-thinking Market Studies

Speaker – Angela Sayles

The Re-thinking Market Studies Session will uncover the key findings of the National Black Food & Justice Alliance (NBFJA) Market Study Project including culturally relevant market study principles, insights, strategies and top recommendations from cooperators.  The project emerged from many conversations within Black-led co-op spaces where participants discussed the need for culturally relevant data that can aid Black owned co-ops to obtain funding from a wider range of public and private sources. Our perspective is that the current market research field is heavily reliant on data that diminishes the impact of Black spending and the demand for localized, community-operated food options in our communities. This session will share more about the project, its progress to date, and encourage engagement and dialogue of session participants.

Cultivating Community Power & Liberation: Black-Led Food Co-ops

Speaker – amaha sellassie & Rae Gomes 

Embark on a transformative journey with Rae Gomes from Central Brooklyn Food Co-op and amaha selassie from Gem City Market as they share the essence of Black food cooperative organizing. Discover how they support community empowerment through consistent base building, shaping marketing distribution, and weaving narratives rooted in revolution and Black Liberation.

Explore core principles, like community engagement strategies and study circles, which foster learning, collective wisdom, and personal liberation. Rae and amaha discuss the application of tools (for us; by us) such as focus groups, surveys, and innovative ideas illustrating how cooperative organizing can shape our communities.

Join this illuminating session to witness the fusion of nourishment, empowerment, and liberation in these Black-led cooperatives. Rae and amaha invite you to engage, learn, and embrace the potent force of community-driven action in shaping a more equitable and just future.

Conference Tours

Tour 1 includes: Eastside Food Co-op, Wedge Community Co-op, Valley Natural Foods 

Tour 2 includes: Linden Hills Co-op, Mississippi Market Co-op, Co-op Partners Warehouse

The tours will depart from the InterContinental at 1:00 pm and return by 5:00 pm.

Stops at each location will include a short presentation by staff with plenty of time to ask questions. You’ll also have time to tour the store on your own and shop to your heart’s content.

Local Food System - cancelled

Due to unanticipated circumstances, this session will not occur.

Welcome Reception by Local Food Co-op Hosts

The Thursday night welcome reception is being hosted by:  Mississippi Market, Eastside Food Co-op, Seward Community Co-op, Valley Natural Foods and TCCP (Wedge Community Co-op, Linden Hills Co-op, Co-op Partners Warehouse).

You are invited to join us at the Urban Growler, 2325 Endicott St, St. Paul, MN. The Urban Growler is the first women-owned microbrewery in Minnesota and was opened in July 2014 by Master Brewer Deb Loch and co-head honcho Jill Pavlak. These two combined their complementary skills and passions to create great beer, food and space for everyone.

Join us for food and drinks, a little bit of fun and maybe an outdoor game or two.

Reception is 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm. Bus transportation to/from the hotel will be provided.

Exploring Power and Privilege for Food Co-op Organizers

Speaker – Jamila Medley, Camille Kerr

This session invites participants to explore ways in which power and privilege are represented in our individual lives and how they impact co-op development efforts. By reflecting on how power and privilege show up in collaborative spaces too, we’ll move towards identifying anti-oppressive values to support co-op development efforts.  

This session is especially great for all.

Site Feasibility, LIVE!

Speaker – seven roots

Play along as seven roots helps one co-op get one step closer to their dream store. We’ll choose one lucky co-op with a site in their sights, and help you walk through site feasibility factors live and in person! Everyone in the room will get a chance to dig in to fun activities related to a different aspect of feasibility. Bring your co-op’s info to compare, contrast, and get insights. 

Stop by seven roots’ table to enter your co-op to win time in the limelight or attend to learn along the way to inform your co-op’s site search. Bonus: One lucky participant gets a FREE STORE (just kidding, but this session will be a lot of fun!)

This session is especially great for stages 2A-2B.

This Moment in Black Food Co-op Organizing: Empowering Communities, Nourishing Futures

Speaker – Dr. Jasmine Jackson

This engaging presentation will shed light on the transformative efforts of Black-led cooperatives and the groundbreaking work being undertaken by NBFJA, including their latest research project, the Rethinking Market Studies. Participants will have the opportunity to delve into the strategies employed by these cooperatives to foster economic empowerment, food sovereignty, and social justice. As we celebrate and learn from this momentous era in Black food co-op organizing, we invite conference attendees to engage in meaningful discussions, ask questions, and discover ways to actively support and uplift Black-led co-ops in their communities.

This session is especially great for all.

Indigenous Cooperative Food Development

Speaker – Bijiibah Begaye

Indigenous Cooperative Food Development offers a powerful framework for empowering Indigenous communities and nurturing sustainable food systems. Storytelling serves as a powerful medium for transmitting traditional knowledge, preserving cultural heritage, inspiring collective action, and promoting cross-cultural understanding. By recognizing and honoring the role of storytelling, the richness of Indigenous cultures and the importance of Indigenous knowledge can be shared and celebrated, leading to more inclusive and sustainable food systems. By honoring traditional knowledge, cultural practices, and cooperative principles, we can address food security, economic empowerment, and social well-being while preserving cultural heritage. Through the sharing of successful case studies, recognition of challenges, and proposed strategies for the future, this presentation aims to inspire collective action and foster a brighter future where Indigenous communities thrive through their own sustainable food systems.

This session is especially great for all.

Community Oomph: the Fourth Critical Area of Feasibility

Speaker – JQ Hannah

The first three areas of startup food co-op business feasibility map pretty closely to the classic four concepts espoused in all business feasibility;  market, financial, and site feasibility. But the fourth area of feasibility has a very unique co-op specific flavor and, we’d argue, is just as critical to opening a successful co-op grocery store as the other three. This fourth area of feasibility is traditionally known as “organizational capacity,” but in this session we’ll call it “community oomph” – it’s all about the co-op being embraced by the community it will serve so deeply that the co-op is truly is “of” the community, not just “for” the community.  What the heck does that mean? How do we measure if our startup has the magical fourth area of feasibility and does it really matter that much? JQ will share some metrics you can use to measure your startups “community oomph,” how to diagnosis and work to correct issues in these areas of “oomph,” and what the very real repercussions can be if our startups move forward without it.

This session is especially great for stages 1-2B.

Feasibility: the Four Critical Areas for Startups

Speaker – JQ Hannah

Testing and finding feasibility for your startup food co-op as a business is one of the biggest and most challenging responsibilities a startup food co-op organizing team/board must take on. Often, you’ll hear in the business world the phrase “you need a feasibility study”, as if it was one process, one thing. For startup food co-ops, there are four key areas of feasibility that we look at, with the market study only being one of the critical four. In this session, we’ll outline all four areas of feasibility, how they are met, what it means for the board to deem the co-op’s business plan “feasible” (and when to do it), and how feasibility unfolds in each stage of a startup food co-op’s development. We’ll be sharing with you a feasibility survey tool to assess your startup’s progress toward feasibility as well as sample feasibility reports and assessments completed by your peers. And yes, we’ll discuss what to do when you don’t find feasibility in one more areas as well!

This session is especially great for all.

4-in-3: the Startup Food Co-op Organizing Framework

Speaker – JQ Hannah

There is no one way to open a food co-op, every journey to opening day for every co-op will be different. That said, there are resources needed and milestones along the journey that were identified in the early 2000s as nearly universal among startup food co-ops that got to opening day and beyond that were then encoded into what is called the “Four Cornerstones in Three Stages” startup food co-op development “model” as a road map for startup organizers. As startups have continued to open and innovate, we at FCI have come to think of it as a “framework” rather than a “model,” but so much of the original wisdom captured in it speaks directly to our organizing today and still serves as a powerful map for organizing your startup. We invite you in this session to: 1) come learn with us about what is universal about the stages and cornerstones, 2)hear from us what we see evolving in this framework 3) share back to us what is and isn’t useful about the framework and 4) interact with some simple tools we’ve created for making this framework a powerful shared language for your organizing team. 

This session is especially great for all.

Dissecting the Definition of "Healthy"

Speaker – Gabby Davis

After arriving as the Racial Equity & Food Justice Manager of the National Co+op Grocers in January 2022, Gabrielle Davis immediately saw a stark difference in the definition of ‘healthy’ at co-ops versus in other communities she’d worked with. Gabby became very curious about how we all think differently about what it means to ‘eat healthy’ and what ‘healthy foods’ are and can be. In mid-2022, that curiosity led her to ask her social media networks what their idea of ‘eating healthy’ was and what ‘healthy foods’ are. She received an array of responses (over 100) that served as reminders that we may be alienating our co-op members and potential co-op members by unconsciously pushing our own definition of ‘eating healthy’ at our co-ops. In this session, Gabby will educate us on why it is imperative we critically evaluate the messages we are sharing as a co-op and why broadening our definition of “healthy” is core to making everyone truly welcome at our food co-ops. This presentation will provide alternate ideas of what “healthy food” means to people throughout the food co-op industry and beyond, letting us learn directly from these voices and their experiences.    

This session is especially great for all.

Pursuing Grants: Stories from Start-up Co-ops

Speaker – Anne Misak

Grants have gone from a “nice to have” in your co-op’s funding sources to an absolute essential, with only one startup opening in the last three years that did not have grants as part of their capital stack. Luckily, startup food co-ops have quickly adapted to this new reality and are carving the path forward to grant success! Anne Misak, Senior Program Manager for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative at the Reinvestment Fund, will be facilitating and adding her knowledge to this panel session where multiple startup food co-ops that have successfully received grants will share their on-the-ground stories of finding grant sources, winning grants, unsuccessful attempts, and lessons learned. Come learn from your peers about what has worked for them! 

This session is especially great for stages 2A-3.

A Tale of Two Co-ops

Speaker – Katie Novak facilitates

Representatives from Rise Community Market (Cairo, IL) and Southside Food Co-op (Chicago, IL) join Katie Novak of Katie Novak Cooperative Coaching for a facilitated discussion about their organizing experiences. The conversation promises to be an insightful and informative discussion on the differences and similarities in cooperative organizing across population sectors from rural southern Illinois to densely populated Chicago.

This session is especially great for all.

A New Approach to Store Openings

Speaker – Mark Goehring, Wynston Estis, Chris Dilley, Garland McQueen, Dennis Hanley, Luke Schell

Columinate has a Manager on Contract program that can support a food co-op from early in the start up process all the way through store opening. The phases include a consultative relationship very early, followed by Managers on Contract for Project Management, Pre-store opening, Store opening and Post-store opening stages. With this approach the hand off to the co-op’s longterm manager happens in the Post-store opening stage, three months after opening, for example. This approach to store opening changes when to start your GM search process and goes hand in hand with Columinate’s GM Development and Training program for your new GM.  In this session a panel of Managers on Contract will share their perspectives and Columinate will gather feedback on the approach.

This session is great for stages 2A-2B.

Are Food Co-ops a Gentrifying Force?

Speaker – Darnell Adams facilitates; panel is Steve Cooke, Jamila Medley, and Ray Williams

“Gentrification: the process of changing the character of a neighborhood through the influx of more affluent residents and business. This process often causes the displacement of people and businesses that have been there.”

How is gentrification affecting the communities we are organizing in? What are we doing to address it with our co-op/organizing?  Are we actually organizing for the future residents of our communities? Join facilitator Darnell Adams as she leads a conversation with panelist Jamila Medley, Steve Cooke and Raynardo Williams to discuss these questions and more! 

This session is especially great for all.

Offering Food Before the Store: A Peer to Peer Round Table

Speaker – Faye Mack facilitator

Many startup food co-ops connect with their owners and future shoppers, build community, and develop relationships with local vendors by finding innovative ways to offer food before they open their store. Come learn about the creative ways your peers are bringing food to their communities at this round table session. Chicago Market, Little Africa and Market 166 Food Co-ops will be on hand to share their unique programs and lessons learned. You’ll rotate around the room, giving you the opportunity to have small group conversations with each presenting co-op, ask questions, and engage in dynamic discussions with peers, all while picking up tips and ideas to bring home.

This session is especially great for stages 1-2B.

Organizing Your Community through Storytelling

Speaker – Te’Jel Cartwright 

Storytelling is key when it comes to building genuine connections that last. A story can also help you find a tribe that is committed to the same agenda as you. In this session, attendees will find power in themselves and craft their personal story in conjunction with their co-op. Attendees will also learn how to share their story through different platforms to reach different audiences (donors, community members, partners, etc.).

This session is especially great for all.