Happy Holidays from Frontier Co-op
Over the last year our co-op has been doubling down on our mission, and as the year draws to a close, I always like to take the time to reflect on the significant strides we've made together. As member-owners, your support makes all the work that we do possible, allowing us to amplify our impact not only within our local communities but also on a global scale through collaborative efforts with our supply partners. So this holiday season, I’m proud to share with you some of the inspiring work and meaningful impact our co-op has undertaken in the last year.
Through our Well Earth impact sourcing program, we’ve been working with the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Cooperative Development Program (CDP) for the last several years on a series of three projects to drive value-added processing and opportunities back to our sourcing communities in Guatemala, India, and Sri Lanka. Collectively referred to as “SPICE” (Safe Processing in Cooperative Enterprises), these projects have been focused on socioeconomic development in these partner communities around the world; ensuring that they’re able to retain more value locally that can be invested in additional business- and community-building activities at home. As with any international development project, we’ve hit our share of bumps in the road along the way, but it’s been such a wonderful learning experience for our teams, and it’s rewarding to be able to look back at the impact that work is having.
In Guatemala, we helped our long-time partner FEDECOVERA to add food safe steam pasteurization, grinding, and handling processes to their operational capabilities. They are now able to sell ready-to-eat product to international buyers. (You can check out a video summary of this project here.)
In India, we’re working to set up a tea processing facility that will be owned by the primarily women tea farmers in the region. (Watch a video of our most recent trip here.)
In Sri Lanka, we worked with the Small Organic Farmers Association (SOFA), another long-time partner, to improve their cooperative management, improve food safe handling and processing of spices, and adopt good agricultural practices (GAP).
In the coming months we’ll be wrapping up this project and we’ll have some additional stories, photos, and videos to share with you all highlighting the lasting impact of this work.
We’ve also been busy here at home, continuing to expand our Breaking Down Barriers to Employment programs and work collaboratively across sectors to encourage employers to be open minded about their recruitment practices, adopt second chance hiring practices and provide childcare solutions for their employees. We’ve adopted a Savings Match Program to help our employees achieve their financial goals, and we have a new English as a Second Language (ESL) program in development with our local non-profit partners.
Our VP of HR Megan Schulte and I have spent the year on a series of panels and interviews sharing with our industry peers our experiences with these programs and our learnings from along the way. I’ve met so many incredible people working in this space in the last year, and I’ve been so inspired by some of the solutions being implemented in communities across the country. I’m going into 2024 filled with hope that it will be a big year for employers thinking differently about who and how they’re recruiting, and how they support their employees once onboard.
Our co-op received national recognition for both programs in the last year, including most recently by industry publication Progressive Grocer. In November, Frontier Co-op was recognized by Progressive Grocer’s 2023 Impact Awards; once for our partnership with USAID Cooperative Development Program in the category of Ethical Sourcing and Supply Chain Transparency, and again for our Breaking Down Barriers to Employment programs in the category of Workforce Development and Employee Support. This acknowledgement is so meaningful to our teams who work every day to identify and implement creative solutions to address barriers faced by our employees here at home, and our sourcing partners around the world.
None of this would be possible without your continued support of our co-op. Thank you all for your patronage, and for your commitment to supporting our mission to nourish people and planet. I’m looking forward to another year of impact-focused work in 2024.
If you’d like to contribute directly to projects like this, you can donate to the Frontier Co-op Giving Fund or send a check payable to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation at 324 3rd St. SE Cedar Rapids, IA 52401 with “Frontier Co-op Giving Fund” in the memo line, or you can donate directly online by clicking here: