Exploring linkages between Consumer Food Co-operatives and Domestic Fair Trade in the United States
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems / Volume 29 / Issue 02 / June 2014, pp 151-160, Cambridge University Press 2013
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Consumer Food Co-operatives (co-ops) have provided consumers an alternative to corporate supermarkets and big-box stores since the 1960s. Producers seeking broader marketing opportunities often turn to co-ops. This study examines how, within alternative food networks (AFNs), co-ops play a role in the emergence of the Domestic Fair Trade (DFT) movement in the USA. The DFT movement is based on the idea that family farms and small- to mid-sized farms in the global north are facing many of the same pressures as producers in the global south. The Domestic Fair Trade Association (DFTA) in the USA is the umbrella organization for a variety of stakeholders. The DFTA seeks to ‘support family-scale farming, to reinforce farmer-led initiatives such as farmer co-operatives, and to bring these groups together with mission-based traders, retailers and concerned consumers to contribute to the movement for sustainable agriculture in North America’1. This study assessed five co-ops (through interviews and document analysis) to determine their experiences with integrating DFT into their business practices. The research reveals that DFT concepts are important to co-operative decision-makers, but they are faced with challenges when it comes to actually integrating DFT into their business model. Insight into stakeholder perceptions and professional-level DFT activities, indicates that co-ops will be a key factor in determining whether the DFT movement will succeed in the USA.