Why is the co-op including pro-nouns on staff nametags?

Pronouns are a way in which people are referred to in place of their name (e.g. "he" or "she" or "they" or "ze" etc.).

You may have noticed pronouns on some of our co-op staff nametags and linen items. Our goal is to make it easier for everyone to use the correct pronouns when addressing someone. Someone's gender is not always a visible thing, and clear markers like pronouns on nametags can help us all to use the right ones when addressing employees.

We came to agreement on pronouns on nametags after several weekly staff meeting conversations, (including those who may be most affected by gendered assumptions).

We determined that displaying pronouns in this way supports making us more inclusive, supportive and welcoming allies. We decided against requiring everyone to include their pronouns. Those who don't select specific pronouns display “everyone is welcome” on their nametags as an alternative way to participate in showing support for the value of inclusivity.

It can be harmful or distressing to be addressed by the wrong pronouns, even accidentally. Adding pronouns to nametags is a way that we can help to avoid incorrect gender assumptions in addressing co-op staff members, and in helping to make everyone feel safe and welcome. We hope that this will add to the inclusiveness and solidarity we enjoy here at the co-op amongst our employees, our customers, and our vendors.


Check your Mailbox!

Vouchers will be mailed in March of 2018 and owners may redeem them as cash, use them to make purchases at the co-op, or donate them to the nonprofit selected by the Board of Directors.`


Corporations distribute their earnings or profits based on how much each shareholder has invested in the business. In a corporation, investors earn profits on other people’s purchases. In a consumer owned cooperative, the structure for the distribution of earnings is radically different. Co-ops distribute the profits made on your own purchases to you. In a    co-op the shareholders are also the people making purchases from the co-op business they own, and everyone owns just one equal share of the business.

Your purchases (patronage) are the primary funding for operating the co-op. Earnings on your purchases are called Patronage Dividends. Like any business, a co-op needs earnings for reinvestment in the business to maintain the facility and equipment, etc. Consumer co-ops rely heavily on earnings from purchases to ]capitalize their business. Typically up to 80% of the earnings from your purchases are held in your name as retained patronage dividends by the cooperative to fund its capital needs, and 20% is rebated in cash[ to you. This rebate is called a Patronage Dividend Rebate, or sometimes simply a Patronage Rebate. 

This system for reinvesting earnings in the cooperative and rebating a portion to the co-op owners was developed at the start of the cooperative movement that dates back to the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers food co-op in Northern England in 1844. This has been a standard practice for most cooperatives ever since. 

For every one dollar spent at the co-op during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017, 64.5 cents was paid to our suppliers for the products you purchased, 23.5 cents went to personnel costs, 4.6 cents covered the cost of the facility, 1.6 cents to advertising, and 4.6 cents covered other operating expenses. The remaining 1.2 cents is the net income earned before taxes.

The total patronage dividend for the year was $219,000. To support the financial stability of the co-op, 80% ($175,200) is retained as an allocated patronage dividend, which the co-op holds in your name for reinvestment in the co-op. The intrinsic value of our retained patronage lies in the fact that we are in this together for the long haul, and we will all share in the expected future benefits to be derived from managing our resources responsibly.

What is the deadline for redeeming my voucher?

You must take action to redeem your patronage dividend rebate voucher by June 30, 2018 so that the funds will qualify as allocated patronage dividends. If you take no action on your voucher by then, your rebate will automatically be donated to the Co-op Community Fund and the Food Co-op Initiative.

What is the total amount of the patronage dividend rebate?

River Valley Co-op is sharing $43,800 of its earnings for the year ended June 30, 2017 with its owners. $175,200 in additional patronage dividends will be retained for the capital needs of the cooperative.

*How do I qualify?

You must be an owner of River Valley Co-op who made a minimum of $420 in purchases, excluding beer and wine (MA state law requires beer and wine purchases be excluded) between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017.

What method for redeeming the voucher is best for the co-op?

All options keep the $43,800 in circulation in our extended cooperative community–all methods are beneficial.

River Valley Co-op and UFCW Local 1459 Complete Successful Mediation Process

July 3, 2017

(Northampton, MA) Leadership of the UFCW, Local 1459, representing the staff of River Valley Co-op, and the management of River Valley Co-op announce today that they met on Monday, June 26th and Tuesday, June 27th for a successful mediation over issues of interest to both parties. With the use of Interest Based Problem Solving, the two parties reached mutual agreement concerning compensation for shuttle time to and from an offsite staff parking lot, as well as increased wages for the lowest-paid employees at River Valley Co-op. The concerted activity grievance was also successfully resolved. Both the Union and the Co-op have renewed their commitment to moving forward with a mutually supportive working relationship.

Jeff Jones, representing UFCW, Local 1459 said of the mediation; "Under the facilitation of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service,(FMCS), River Valley Co-op and the Union Bargaining Committee completed a successful two-day mediation. The long-standing issue of parking has been resolved as well as the role of concerted activity in the workplace. I feel this paves the way for the Co-op to grow and extend further into the community."

"We all felt our community rooting for us to resolve these issues, including our nearly 10,000 co-op owners and their families, our many customers, and the nearly 400 local farmers and food producers we partner with as suppliers. Our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the UFCW Local 1459 includes excellent systems that proved their effectiveness this week for resolving a conflict and improving teamwork between the Union and Coop at the same time. Renewing our commitment to use these systems was central to our success in reaching this resolution for the key people we are both here for; River Valley Co-op's staff. With strengthened teamwork, the collective capacity of our 150+ employees to better serve our co-op owners, customers, vendors and the broader community is also strengthened," said Rochelle Prunty, River Valley Co-op General Manager.

"A successful community cooperative grocery business is key to maintaining and building a vibrant, resilient local food system and locally based economy. The Co-op is proud to stand with the labor movement as a union employer. In the face of increasing corporate consolidation and control of the food system supporting cooperative businesses, other local businesses, and the labor movement are all more important than ever!" said Dorian Gregory, River Valley Co-op Board President.

For more information contact: Jeff Jones Union Representative UFCW Local 1459: (413) 387-9194 (cell); Rochelle Prunty, General Manager River Valley Co-op: (413) 559-7499 (cell)

River Valley Co-op is a consumer-owned cooperative grocery store specializing in fresh local foods located at 330 North King Street, Northampton. Open to Everyone 8AM-10PM.

Co-op 2nd Store Site Search Update

June 12, 2017

We want to let you know that we are continuing to explore locations for a second store. We are prioritizing locations that are close enough to take some pressure off our current store by serving some of our current co-op customer owners but also, far enough away to serve new potential co-op customer owners.

Many of you may remember our current location did not meet all our store site criteria and we passed over it in favor of the pursuit of better retail options repeatedly before we accepted that it was the best realistically feasible option for us. I've often said we found ourselves between a rock and hard place in the site search for our original store and the hard place made the rock look good. 

What made our current location feasible was that 1) absolutely no one else wanted it, 2) it was in the right proximity to a large number of our current and potential co-op owners, 3) there was support for unconventional financing which defrayed the added costs of developing the unconventional site.

As it turned out, even though our current location was not plan A, B, C, or even has been a very good location for launching our cooperative. So good in fact, that we quickly grew to over double what we had anticipated for total sales volume by our 10th year in our 9th year of business. The result is that our current facility does not have the capacity we need to fully serve our community's growing needs as comfortably or as well as we'd like for both customers and staff going forward.

Which brings us back to the second store site search. Working with our real estate broker and second store development team we have found that our two most preferred options are not feasible due to higher than anticipated costs. The commercial real estate market in our area remains on the high end, while competitive conditions for retailers have resulted in pressure to lower development and overhead costs as much as possible.

The result of this real estate/retail business dynamic is that we have turned our focus to seeking out and evaluating some lower rated locations in the commercial real estate market in search of something potentially more affordable in the right general area.   We are also exploring potential co-op friendly development partners that could help support some of the financial load for the co-op to be part of a larger development.

Real estate is a very competitive business so we need to keep the specific location details confidential until we are able to secure an agreement with contingencies.  That agreement will provide security for us to proceed with our due diligence and community fundraising to finalize our arrangements without fear of losing the site to someone who comes along offering a higher price. A site tends to look more enticing to others when they see someone else wants it so we want
ensure we have an agreement with contingencies for final decision-making on a site before discussing it with our co-op owners and publicly.

So far, we've not succeeded in reaching such an agreement on our two preferred sites and we are now actively exploring alternatives. We expect about a 1.5 to 2-year timeline from securing a site to opening.

If you have a great idea for a location please do pass it on to me so that we can confidentially explore the feasibility. We are seeking commercially zoned real estate that is reasonably accessible to a portion of our current customer base as well as strong potential for serving additional customers for whom we are not currently as accessible. You can call email me: or call:
(413) 341.5686.

We have many value-driven goals in our mission that will be positively impacted by successfully expanding our operations to multiple stores. In the meantime, thank you for your ongoing support!


Shire City Herbals and the Free Fire Cider Campaign

January 14, 2017 

Second open letter to our Membership, Shire City Herbals and the Free Fire Cider campaign: 

As of this time, we will be discontinuing the sale of the Fire Cider® made by Shire City Herbals because of the legal action they have taken against community herbalists for using a traditional remedy and term. This decision is not made lightly. 

In our last public statement regarding this issue, back in June of 2015, we did our best to remain neutral, urging Shire City Herbals and all parties involved to find a peaceful and equitable resolution to the conflicts over the trademark issue. A year and a half later, we do not consider Shire City Herbals’ actions to be working in that direction. 

We had hoped that by stocking multiple fire cider options and encouraging public discourse we could support everyone. We no longer wish to remain neutral on this issue, and in good conscience now choose to remove Shire City Herbals’ product from our store. 

We appreciate the work Shire City Herbals has done to bring popular attention to this traditional remedy. It is unusual for us to have a local supplier with such a successful and effective product in our Wellness Department, and we were excited and proud to promote them in the past. (see the article in our Winter 2014 member newsletter ) 

The fact remains that the term “fire cider” was not created by Shire City Herbals and had been in use by herbalists all over the country long before they started making their product. Shire City Herbals did not invent this formula. Decades ago, the basic recipe was published with that name, in a book by Rosemary Gladstar. 

Shire City Herbals initially stated that they trademarked the term solely to protect themselves from a larger entity stealing their success and trademarking it for themselves. They do not support the campaign to officially and legally make “fire cider” a generic term, available to all, stating that this is not possible. Instead, Shire City Herbals has brought legal action against three herbalists: Katheryn Langelier, Mary Blue and Nicole Telkes, and has sent intimidating letters to many other small herbal producers using the name “fire cider” to sell their own versions of the folk remedy. This legal action was in part a response to a petition filed with the USPTO by Mary Blue, made as an attempt to revoke the Fire Cider® trademark. 

We know that many others share our dismay over this issue, thanks to feedback we have received over the last few years from co-op owners, customers and the herbal community at large. Thank you for your concern and engagement regarding this issue. We will continue to stock other brands of this remedy and will do our best to help you find one that you like. 


Rochelle Prunty       Marah MacRostie
General Manager      Wellness Department Manager 


Why the Co-op Posted Welcome to Immigrants and Black Lives Matter Yard Signs

The display of these yard signs at the co-op, is an expression of support for people of color, immigrants, and refugees who face an increasing barrage of demeaning, hateful, and threatening messages and actions as a result of racism in our society. It is a way of bringing all kinds of people together to reflect on these issues. Both yard signs are initiatives to stimulate dialogue, inspire reflection, raise awareness, and support the development of a community narrative that brings people together to stand against racism, discrimination, and oppression. These yard signs help build community awareness. With over ten thousand weekly co-op shoppers we can help reach a lot of people while also showing as a community owned business, we stand with people of color, immigrants, and refugees against racism. These signs are an expression of our co-op's values and the role we have in community stewardship as a community owned business.

Co-ops have a long history of combining cooperatively owned business operations with social justice values.  In the 19th century cooperatives were active in the abolitionist movement, and in the 20th-century co-ops were part of the civil rights and sustainable agriculture movements.

Like co-op communities of the 19th and 20th centuries, we have continuing social justice challenges in the 21st century including racism and a rise in discrimination against immigrants and refugees. These are issues that impact our community.  As a community driven business, we care about that. Displaying these yard signs to express our values is one way we are supporting our community in the face of these larger societal issues. 

Black Lives Matter started as a Black dignity campaign, and that is a message we believe all can come together to support. It is also a campaign to raise community awareness of how racism and racial bias impacts many aspects of our society and institutions including law enforcement. It is a campaign against race based violence.  It is a campaign against institutional racism. It is a campaign for communities to come together to reflect on the impacts of racism on our communities all across the country. It is a campaign to bring us together in understanding so that we can all affirm the message that black lives do matter. And it is a campaign to inspire us all to work to undo racism.

We know not everyone has the same perspective on this just like any number of other things. Some have interpreted Black Lives Matter as excluding other people. It was never intended to mean no one else matters or specify that any particular others don't matter and that is not the message we intend. This campaign has also been misconstrued as an anti- police campaign, we reject that interpretation as well. We consider these interpretations not at all in line with the message of the campaign and not the message the co-op is communicating.

The Black Lives Matter sign is intended to be welcoming, affirmative and supportive as is the sign welcoming immigrants and refugees. It is an expression of the co-op's social justice values. Posting these yard signs at the co-op is just one small step to support a healthy community dialogue on these important issues. We know it takes more than a couple yard signs to address racism. We don't intend to imply we have all the answers but we feel a responsibility to be part of the discussion. Our larger goal is to support a narrative leading to a wider common understanding of how racism impacts all of us which we believe will bring people together to address it on all levels: from personal to community to the institutional and public policy level.

Race and Food Co-ops 

River Valley Co-op helped to fund a project with other food co-ops to explore the topic of race in food co-ops.  The purpose is to develop greater understanding of this issue within food co-ops and to create some tools for change. Our own Board Member Jade Barker was one of the leaders on this project. We were excited to see the recently completed result of the first phase of this project.


The first part of the project is starting the conversation with a variety of co-op and social justice leaders as a springboard for engaging food co-op leaders and stakeholders in these important discussions.


You can read more about the project addressing the issue of race in food co-ops here:


Thank you for your support.