CoFED partners with young people of color from poor and working-class backgrounds to build food and land co-ops.

Meet CoFED's 2019 Racial Justice Fellows

While white tech bros continue to receive billions of dollars in venture capital to build apps we don't need, Black visionaries are systematically denied the resources to build the community-owned, regenerative food economies we do need. CoFED's Racial Justice Fellowship offers a meaningful stipend, leadership coaching, political education and technical assistance for Black and other cooperators of color doing the work that matters most: growing food, feeding our communities, and keeping us in harmony with the Earth. 

Meet Dallas and Kriss, this year's Racial Justice Fellows! Here's who they are and how they're transforming systemic injustice to feed their communities in their own words. 


These Cooperators are Telling a Better Story

For far too long, co-ops have been coopted by (mostly white and wealthier) folx who champion cooperatives as a better business strategy within capitalism, with little regard for racial or economic equity. Our first ever all-POC Summer Co-op Academy cohort is telling a better story -- one where cooperation is who we are and how we work together to meet all our communities' needs.

Last year, CoFED announced our new mission to center young folx of color as the cooperative leaders we need to grow a cooperative food economy. This year, for the first time ever, every extraordinary person selected to join our Summer Co-op Academy is a person of color (POC) advancing food, land, and racial justice! Expanding beyond traditional food co-ops, they are innovating a range of cooperative solutions to meet broad community needs for health and healing, joy and justice, wealth and well-being. Let the beauty of that fact sink in...

Meet the cooperators from this year's cohort who are telling a new story about the future of co-ops.


You could be our new Education Director! We're hiring.

This position has since been filled since this blog was posted. 


People of color, women, immigrants, people with disabilities, working class and LGBTQ people are strongly encouraged to apply.

Title: Education Director

Salary Range: $60,000-$65,000

Employment Type: Full-time exempt


  • 19 paid static holidays + 2 paid floating holidays

  • 10 paid vacation days accrued in your 1st year

  • Health insurance plans are provided through our fiscal sponsor. CoFED will pay monthly premiums of bronze plans or the same dollar amount towards a more expensive plan. Coverage will start the first day of the month following the first 30 days of employment.

Location: Remote with 15% travel domestically (roughly a few days each month)

Start Date: March 25, 2019

To Apply: Email cover letter, resume, and 1 work sample (of your choice) to with subject line “Education Director” by Feb 15, 2019. PDFs required.

About CoFED: CoFED partners with young people of color to practice cooperative values and economics through food and land. Our goal is to build the next generation of diverse leaders living in deeper connection with mother earth and each other. Our priority over the next two years is to develop a powerful national network of young cooperators of color leading across multiple sectors -- building sustainable, democratically-controlled food enterprises, ecosystems, and economies that place people and planet above profit.

CoFED is a national, fiscally sponsored project of Inquiring Systems, Inc. We currently have 2 full-time workers and 1 part-time worker, plus a dedicated Board of Advisors.

About the Position: The Education Director position is for you if you are a results-driven self-starter and excited about creating meaningful learning experiences that build young people of color’s confidence, knowledge, and skills to lead a cooperative food economy. Qualified applicants will thrive in a remote, mostly digital, and impact-driven work environment.


Harvesting Lessons from Our 2018 Racial Justice Fellowship

In June of this year, we announced our 2018 Racial Justice Fellows with tremendous hope for the cooperative visions of food and land justice about to born. We were excited for the dreams created, the seeds planted, and the growth that would result. We began with three Fellows: Merelis, Jazmin, and avery. We ended with two after parting ways with avery and the Gangstas to Growers project; their work is incredible, and we wish them the best. Now that the Fellowships have wrapped up, we invite y’all to reflect with us and harvest our lessons learned. Here are our top 5 stories/lessons from our 2018 Racial Justice Fellowship:

1. Connect in person. Your spirit will thank you.

The world we live in is deeply unjust. If you feel like you’re alone in moving towards love and liberation, reach out! You are not alone. This Fellowship brings together young cooperators of color across the U.S. who might not otherwise have the chance to connect with one another. As Fellows, not only did Merelis and Jazmin connection with their communities - as well as to each other and to us - but also with folks who were interested in building relationships based on showing up, committing to the process, and visioning together. There were some beautiful results, and some difficult trials. But as we leveraged our resources towards local community impact and coalition-building, our journey of solidarity with Merelis and Jazmin continued to encourage and feed us.


#UnlearningWithCoFED No.9 - Indigenous People's Day

Happy Indigenous People’s Day! Today, we celebrate as resistance.

We have much to resist: Brett Kavanaugh, a white man and attempted rapist who has a track record of gutting indigenous rights, environmental protections, and voting rights for people of color, was recently sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice [1]. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the only Republican to not vote yes on his confirmation, comes from a state with the highest number of reported rapes in the U.S., where just last month a white man was given a free pass after pleading guilty to kidnapping, strangling, and sexually assaulting a Native Alaskan woman [2]. And Columbus Day is still a federally recognized holiday that honors another white man who did not “discover” America and whose atrocious legacy instead includes colonization, enslaving, raping, and killing hundreds of thousands of indigenous people (namely the Taíno) and initiating the African slave trade [3, 4].

We have even more to celebrate. This 9th installment of our #UnlearningWithCoFED series is about Indigenous People’s Day— a holiday that honors Indigenous peoples and cultures and was created to replace Columbus Day.


Practicing Resilience at the 2018 Summer Co-op Academy!

In these times, it’s important to know who your people are. At the 2018 Summer Co-op Academy (SCA), held in the historic South on the still-living land of the Occoneechee people, stewarded by the incredible Earthseed Land Cooperative, this year’s cohort of powerful, visionary young people created community with each other.



As we gathered around a love for food, culture, and cooperation, we practiced building liberated relationships with each other, asking questions about conflict resolution, accountability. We also talked about our people, those who brought us here, the ones who keep us going, and the ones we are building a future for.

We envisioned just, joyful, cooperative futures that center abundance -- for our communities of color, working-class communities, and marginalized communities, across the US and the Global South.


Here's what the 2018 SCA Cohort had to say about their experiences:

As SCA was winding down in Durham, not too far away in Charlottesville and Washington, D.C., a 'Unite the Right' rally was just getting started. Counter-protests turned up in a big way, coming from the city and out of state to shut down the white supremacists who attempted to demonstrate their “right” to inflict pain and fear upon anyone not like them. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, Ni Uno Mas, local residents, and more, created community and held space across time and distance to stand together for racial and economic justice. Our communities have always done this. We have always joined forces when necessary and come together in cooperation to protect ourselves and each other. Earthseed Land Cooperative holds this truth as well, and held us in it, tending to land with histories of pain, struggle and triumph, farther back than can ever be known. The stories of Black folks, Brown folks, Indigenous folks, immigrant communities, and other communities of color are layered together with pain and power. The communities that hold those stories have always been resilient.

This year’s SCA cohort of cooperators are all about resilience. From the Central Valley of California to Halifax, Nova Scotia, co-ops are working to build community, hold each other down, and lift up the most marginalized. Fabian and Yesenia are re-centering healthy food in the Central Valley of California, where farmworkers are being exploited and water poisoned. Flower Power is stepping into the Green Rush, reclaiming a whitewashed industry used to criminalize Black and Brown folks for generations. avery is centering young Black folks in Atlanta as they move to create community wealth and their own liberation.

There are so many examples of the ways that our coming together can bring us more abundance than we ever thought possible. As we came together at the 2018 SCA, we brought our people with us -- in vision, in community, and in action. And in our commitment to building together, we created something radically beautiful.

If you are excited to build something beautiful with us, consider donating $5 a month to provide ongoing support to our 2018 cohort!



#UnlearningWithCoFED -- Reimagining Co-ops

Children are being separated from their parents at the Mexico-U.S. border and kept in cages. The U.S. Supreme Court's Janus decision against union dues is a fatal blow to one of the last remaining mechanisms working-class communities have against unscrupulous employers. Although the State violence implemented by this administration is repugnant and overwhelming, it isn’t new. It is a consequence of the growing power of unchecked white supremacist capitalism that puts money at all costs before humans, animals, and the planet.

At CoFED, we believe that co-ops are both an ancient and visionary way to create new realities and challenge the systemic injustices of a corrupt, colonial, and capitalist State. Especially during what feels like moments of heightened violence and despair, we hope to create space to be energized by all the ways we are already taking care of each other, other creatures, and our planet.

That's why for this #UnlearningWithCoFED post, we’re bringing it back to the basics. What makes a food co-op a co-op?

As a reminder, here’s how we define unlearning: a continuous process of questioning what and how we’ve been taught so that we can learn other ways of knowing, doing, and being that serve our collective liberation and help us dismantle all forms of oppression. Through our #UnlearningWithCoFED emails, we’ll be questioning and learning together how co-ops fit into the larger visions of food, racial, economic, gender and climate justice.

First, a basic definition of a co-op: a farm, business, or other organization that is owned and run jointly by its members, who share the profits or benefits. And a food co-op? If a friend or family member asked you to explain what a 'food co-op' is, you might say something like "a natural foods grocery store" or a "health food store" that is jointly owned by its members. You wouldn't be wrong. For many people, a food co-op is a brick-and-mortar natural foods store, emphasis on the store. But what if we could imagine a different type of food co-op? What if we could envision co-ops that feed people and generate community wealth outside of a traditional brick-and-mortar model? If we unlearn our ideas of what a food co-op is and what it should look like, how might we create more space for other cooperative strategies that nourish us and build community wealth and sovereignty right now?

Although many food co-ops have had lasting success with retail spaces and ownership of land and buildings, we must remember that the purpose of a food co-op is not to own retail space. Moreover, a brick-and-mortar grocery co-op is not the only liberatory way to feed our communities. If we only recognize and support natural foods stores, often disproportionately benefiting white and wealthy communities, as "real co-ops," we are limiting not only our imagination but also our impact. Given rising fascism in the U.S., we must resist the idea that there is only one way to build a food co-op. And we must be clear about the central role that creativity plays in building the solidarity economy. When we embrace creativity and affirm the various ways our communities are already taking care of one another and building shared wealth, we invite more people -- whether they have access to a food retail space or not -- to see themselves as part of a co-op, as cooperators. It is the simple but significant difference between spreading the "Co-op model" (with a capital "C") and building a people's movement for a cooperative, solidarity economy (with a lowercase "c").

Here are some examples of creative co-ops literally thinking outside the box:

1. YES! Magazine: No Price Tags: These Neighbors Built Their Own Economy Without Money

2. YES! Magazine: The Platform Co-op Is Coming for Uber

3. Shareable: How Electricity Cooperatives in the US are Paving the Way for a Renewable Future

As you ponder the above articles and issues raised in this #UnlearningWithCoFED email, keep these questions in mind: 

  • What is one way you are practicing food justice and solidarity with your community right now? How might you reimagine these practices as a co-op?

  • How can you preserve the idea of a food co-op but unlearn its traditional business model?

  • How might the dominance of the internet and the decline of retail create new principles for food co-ops?

  • Are co-ops a sanctuary from capitalism or a foundation to something beyond capitalism? What does that mean?

What other examples of creative co-ops can you think of?




Meet our 2018 Racial Justice Fellows!

We're so excited to introduce you to Merelis, Jazmin, and avery, this year’s Racial Justice Fellows!

This year's Fellows, chosen from a competitive pool of 54 applicants across the U.S., embody the vision, values and spirit of our Racial Justice Fellowship, the only Fellowship out there specifically deepening the leadership of young folks of color as they work towards community-centered food systems, racial justice, and our collective liberation. These Fellows exist and create in ways that only they can, radical acts in a world where simply being oneself is a dangerous project. And with the courage to bring their communities with them, they infinitely expand the possibilities for a safe, sustainable, and socially just world.



avery jackson (they/them) is a movement worker using community organizing, rest, research, and gatherings to future build. They hold a B.A. in Sociology from Morehouse College and join the legacy of unsung Gender Non-Conforming Morehouse graduates. With a research background in anti-Black state and economic violence, avery is committed to exploring alternative systems of economy and relationship and doing so by supporting the development of self-sustaining ventures using social enterprise with The Come Up Project's first program Gangstas to Growers. Their commitment to restorative justice, resistance, and truth is intersectional and varied. They have also worked with the Partnership for Southern Equity to bridge the gap between environmental justice and racial equity. As an organizer avery is currently working to protect Black communities from Atlanta’s spike in redevelopment, cultural extraction, and erasure through food and housing cooperatives with ATLisREADY. Rural land ownership, cultivation, and farming is in avery's afro-future. In short, they're just another organizer in a legacy of Black doers sacrificing their privileges for the collective future. For the fellowship, avery will maximize the impact of an existing co-op in Atlanta, the Gangstas to Growers workforce and personal development program. Gangstas to Growers helps move formerly incarcerated and system-involved young Black people into the urban agribusiness industry as an effort to reduce recidivism.

Jazmin Martinez (they/them) is a queer, gender non-conforming, immigrant living in La Villita, Chicago who comes from a lineage of Mexican campesinos. They are currently working on establishing Catatumbo Cooperative Farm along with two amazing co-creators Ireri Unzueta Carrasco and Vivi Moreno. Their background includes organizing with Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD), working with trauma survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, providing support to folks living with HIV, and working with previously incarcerated folks. They also experienced intimate partner abuse which led to an ongoing healing process. Altogether, their current and past work in organizing, working with communities who are systematically marginalized and their own trauma shaped their path towards farming. As they continue on this farming journey, they are committed to creating connections between farming/cooperative work with broader social justice movements and healing to envision and create other possible worlds. For the fellowship, Jazmin will develop a bilingual research-based project that highlights the trajectory and process of their cooperative: where we are right now, how we got here, and where we want to go. An offering in one or more forms: guide, booklet, zine, or even love letter. These English and Spanish offerings would serve as educational tools and resources for those who are interested in starting a worker-owned cooperative based within food economies (specifically but not limited to community supported agriculture). This project is based on the Catatumbo Cooperative Farm which involves Ireri and Vivi and their work, their ideas, their commitment and their love.

Merelis Catalina Ortiz (she/her) is an Afro-Taina Dominican Black wombyn. She is a creative, organizer, chef, and former worker-owner of Woke Foods, a cooperative food business based in New York City. Woke Foods is influenced by the flavors of the Dominican Republic, using food as a tool to leverage political and spiritual power. Merelis is inspired by the resiliency of Black and Brown people. She was born and raised in New York City. Seeing her family with health conditions that were highly related to their lifestyle and environment created by a systematically oppressive society pushed Merelis to do organizing around food and social justice. Merelis recognizes the knowledge and strength that Black and Brown people hold and hopes to be a vessel that reminds her people of this wisdom. She is working towards her own healing, and the healing and building among all people of color by guiding spaces that are accessible in nature, through food, and storytelling. She is a proud Soul Fire Farm Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion alum! Merelis dreams to own land with community and grow her own food on her land. For the fellowship, Merelis will launch the Kelly Street Garden Food Solidarity Program. This program will take place at Kelly Street Community Garden, in the Bronx that provides food and community space to residents of primarily low-income housing. The program is a bilingual offering, an urban food program teaching basic gardening, cooperative principles and food-as-medicine to Black, Indigenous, and Latinx heritage people who live in New York City and are often left out from impactful programs that often take place away from the city.

CoFED's Racial Justice Fellows, avery, Jazmin, and Merelis, are a snapshot not only of the future of our community but also the future of the cooperative movement. We are incredibly humbled to support them in their work, and hope you all do the same!



#UnlearningWithCoFED -- Decolonization

Our latest #UnlearningWithCoFED is about decolonization.

As a reminder, here’s how we define unlearning: a continuous process of questioning what and how we’ve been taught so that we can learn other ways of knowing, doing, and being that serve our collective liberation and help us dismantle all forms of oppression. Through our #UnlearningWithCoFED emails, we’ll be questioning and learning together how co-ops fit into the larger visions of food, racial, economic, gender and climate justice.

So, what is decolonization? Let’s start by sharing some definitions of colonization:

  • the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area.
  • the action of appropriating a place or domain for one's own use.
  • a process by which a central system of power dominates the surrounding land and its components.
  • and/or, as defined in Indian Country Today, “In the context of Indigenous Peoples, colonization has come to mean any kind of external control, and it is used as an expression for the subordination of Indian peoples and their rights since early contact with Europeans. In North America, colonization took the task of subordinating Indigenous Peoples to the political power of Christian European kings. In Spanish colonies, with the appearance of the colonists, the land was immediately considered under the control of the colonizing nations.” [1]

Let's explore how co-ops can serve decolonization, how they haven’t, and decolonization’s larger and fundamental role in the solidarity economy movement in North America. Further, we want to name that decolonization is complex, and its visibility has been built up by generations of indigenous thought, existence, resistance, and activism. To be clear, CoFED’s staff - writing from the positions of both settlers (both white and POC) and mixed settler/Native (POC) -- are not authorities on decolonization. We intend this to be one of many places to think about decolonization’s centrality to economic and racial justice and by no means an end-all-be-all. We also acknowledge that how one approaches decolonization depends on their position and implication in colonization; it will look different for white folx, different POC communities, and native folx, here and globally. 

Some History

For time immemorial, indigenous people lived on Turtle Island -- the original aboriginal name for North America according to some tribes. As documented by a Native scholar and activist, below is a ‘pre-contact’ map of roughly 590 First Nations by their indigenous names, instead of the names given by Europeans.

-Source: Aaron CarapellaSource: Aaron Carapella

Turtle Island was given the name "North America" by a German cartographer after an Italian colonial explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, in 1538. Subsequently, the territories known today as the “United States of America” and "Canada" are the result of invasion and colonization first by European settlers and then by "American" and "Canadian" settlers over a period of centuries. By the close of what U.S. colonizers refer to as the “Indian Wars” in the late 19th century, fewer than 238,000 indigenous people remained, a sharp decline from the estimated 5 million to 15 million living in North America when Columbus landed on various Caribbean islands in 1492 [2]. Today, 5.2 million people in the U.S. identify as Native, and there are 567 federally recognized tribes [2,3].

Co-ops & Decolonization

What do co-ops have to do with decolonization? Consider the fact that 98% of privately-owned land in the U.S. is owned by white settlers of European descent [4]. Or that cooperative business models were used by early colonizers in the U.S. and Canada as a way to claim ownership over land and displace indigenous people, as mentioned in Grassroots Economic Organizing’s webinar: Decolonizing Our Solidarity Economy [5]. 

And if you want to decolonize? For starters, “decolonization” is not a metaphor,' and "those in the dominant society are being asked to avoid using “decolonization” to refer to ideas or actions that do not hold indigenous resistance, sovereignty, land restoration, and other repatriations at the center" [6]. Cooperative economics is sometimes presented as a new or recent movement (it’s not), completely removed from the historical and ongoing reality of indigenous resistance to the colonial and capitalist states we inhabit. For example, as a movement, we often use vague language such as "the commons" or "community-owned wealth" without acknowledging or disrupting how our cooperative strategies, businesses, or organizations might be materially reinforcing colonial relationships to land and people. Furthermore, when we talk about "cooperative economics" or build an "alternative," "new," or  "solidarity" economy -- without centering indigenous sovereignty -- we diminish the possibility of decolonizing.

Speaking specifically to the relationship between co-ops and decolonization, Jarrett Martineau, an indigenous scholar, says, “if you are talking about cooperative economics, you are not talking about representatives of the state having policy development discussions, but about the relationships between people who live on the same land base. So these lands have [been] usurped and stolen, a foundational point, but today we have a situation where people are living on and sharing these lands, accessing the same water, so we need to look at questions around the ways that all the people who are actually here, living on these lands, can together build alternatives that are more sustainable...Before we start getting to broader cooperative economic systems, we need to figure out the actual terms of living together first, that includes a discussion about economics, but we can’t just [supplant] one system over another without looking to indigenous histories...We can’t individually emancipate ourselves from a capitalist system on either side of this colonial equation.”

Source: Canadian Dimension


To unlearn further about decolonization and co-ops, please read or view the resources below:

1. Webinar -- Decolonizing Our Solidarity Economy from Grassroots Economic Collective

2. Huffington Post -- ‘It’s About Taking Back What’s Ours’: Native Women Reclaim Land, Plot By Plot Fighting against colonization and now gentrification in the Bay Area

3. New York Times -- A Conversation with Native Americans on Race

4. Canadian Dimension -- Cooperatives on Stolen Land? (An interview with a Native person explicitly about co-ops and decolonization in Canada, also talks about pre-colonial models of cooperation that are not "co-ops")


As you engage with the suggested content above, consider the following questions:

1. What tribal land does your co-op, campus, and/or house occupy? What do you know about the tribes who existed there before colonization? What tribes are still active near you?

2. How do we lose as a #solidarityeconomy movement when we leave out decolonization? What do we gain as people committed to economic and racial justice by learning from Indigenous leaders on decolonization?

3. What is one specific way that co-ops can serve decolonization? How could your co-op (real or imagined) implement this practice?

P.S. -- want some extra reading on decolonization? Check out this essay, 'Decolonization is not a Metaphor' [pdf], by Eve Tuck, K. Wayne Yang. 




Apps Due 4/6 for Racial Justice Fellowship & Summer Co-op Academy

What's your wildest dream for advancing anti-oppression and community ownership in the U.S. food system? Build it with our Racial Justice Fellowship and/or skills you’ll learn from our week-long Summer Co-op Academy.

Apply by Friday, April 6th for the:

Our movements for economic and racial justice need your passion and skills! We’re guessing you became part of CoFED's community because you believe that the type of social change needed right now is not going to come from mainstream political institutions or rich, famous people with accumulated power and wealth. You know it’s gotta come from the grassroots… from our communities, collaborating under the leadership of those most directly impacted by the injustices of capitalism, racism, and systemic oppression. And who says you gotta be an activist? You don’t need to be "Twitter famous," win at co-op trivia, or have pre-established 'credibility' on co-ops or food justice to apply. You just need a vision for a better community. Your vision, big or small, is enough validation to apply :)

Alright, but why community-owned food and cooperatives?

  • In 2015, colleges spent over $16 billion dollars on food. Most of that money went into the pockets of mega-corporations that exploit workers, communities, and living ecosystems.
  • Just three corporations control 90 percent of dining service contracts at colleges and universities.
  • In 2015, they pulled in a total of $3.74 billion in profits while 1 in 5 students experienced food insecurity. Community-owned food systems, however, have been a stronghold of community empowerment, self-determination, and economic resiliency. Usually formed in response to a lack of quality food or reasonable prices for such food, CoFED co-ops promote health, wealth, and dignity for all those involved in the food system.

Down to take your next step in the food justice movement? Learn more about our programs and apply by
Friday, April 6th for the:


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