Huzzah! Mary Aiken and Peg Potter celebrating cooperatives at the CCMA conference in Philadelphia PA.

Mary Aiken and Peg Potter, East Aurora Cooperative Market board president and Mini Market manager, respectively, have just returned from the 2012 CCMA conference in Philadelphia, thanks to scholarships received from the Howard Bowers fund. CCMA (Consumer Cooperative Management Association) is a 3 day annual gathering of several hundred co-op managers, directors, educators and consultants from across the country (and beyond).

Mary and Peg attended 5 workshops each, covering topics such as the startup process as viewed by a successful recently-opened co-op, board development and effectiveness, organizational self-awareness, leadership, and co-op food establishments as a potential solution to the problem of food deserts.

Keynote speakers Michael Sansolo and Dr. Marion Nestle each gave compelling presentations. Michael Sansolo offered suggestions as to how co-ops can better situate themselves for success and impact, even in this challenging economic climate. Dr. Nestle recommended that in order to improve our food systems and to provide healthier food, that we vote with our forks, that we get involved in supporting truth in labeling and that we support legislation in the Farm Bill which would strengthen small farms, particularly those who produce fruits and vegetables.

One of the highlights of the conference took place on Friday afternoon when a strong contingent of cooperators, placards in hand, marched to the Liberty Bell and listened to Ben Franklin read the Declaration of Rights for America’s Food Cooperatives, in honor of the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives (IYC).

In addition to the wealth of information provided during the workshops and by the keynote speakers, the “real magic” of the event was the building and strengthening of relationships with our fellow cooperators across the country. Information, experiences, ideas and resources were shared.

We look forward to putting into practice all that we learned and also look forward to the 2013 CCMA conference which will take place in Austin, Texas.

Go Co-op and Huzzah!