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

We've Graduated from Summer Co-op Academy 2017!


The circle is a universal symbol. It can signify unity, wholeness, infinity, integrity, timelessness, earthly cycles, protection and inclusion, among other divine meanings.

At this year’s Summer Co-op Academy, which brought together 20 young people from various walks of life, the circle was how we began and how we ended, where we told our stories, where we had hard conversations and challenged each other, and where we affirmed our commitment to growing ourselves and our co-ops.

Organized in a circle, we set our Collective Altar...

Everyone offered something of personal, cultural or spiritual significance to the altar, which stayed there for the entire week.

Shared our stories...

Dorian (CoFED Racial Justice Fellow) leads us through a story quilting workshop. Everyone creates a patch that tells a story about where their community and journey. As we go around the circle to share our story, Dorian collects each patch to make a quilt next to our Collective Altar. 
Dorian (CoFED Racial Justice Fellow) leads us through a story quilting workshop. Everyone creates a patch that tells a story about their community and journey. As we go around the circle and share our stories, Dorian collects each patch to make a quilt next to our Collective Altar.

Built power for our co-ops...

"P-O-W-E-R, we got the power because we do it like this!" Briana (Maryland Food Collective) shows us that she’s got the power after we learned how to do the Power Circle from Irving (Ignite NC).

Created unity across our various identities and struggles...

From left to right: Enlylh (Spelman College), Malikia (Howard University alum), Hnin (CoFED Co-Director), and Eva (Spelman College). With our collective timeline of resistance in the background, Hnin and Gio (Earthfoods Cafe, not pictured) show the group how to do the Unity Clap, which Filipino and Mexican farmworkers of United Farm Workers used to organize across language barriers. Before the final clap, you say “Isang Bagsak!”, which means “together we rise, together we fall.”

And celebrated the entire process!

On the last day, we formed a large circle under a tree and next to the French Broad River, the third oldest river in the world. We have our Water Ceremony, Graduation and Appreciation Circle. Later that evening, we have an Open Mic to close out the Academy!

Throughout our week together, which participants described as... 

"Complex, vulnerable, powerful and well worth it."
"Incredible. Unforgettable. Transformative. Powerful."
"Good! Really learned more about coops and feel pretty empowered."
"Amazing! I loved the setting and the majority of the folks involved are great contacts to have. I feel like we built family."
"Dope AF.”

We toured Three Rivers Market, the only food co-op in Tennessee…

Jacqueline Arthur (Three Rivers Market) gives a tour of the co-op and its green architecture.

Taught each other about the 7 Cooperative Principles...

Visited the Birdhouse Community Center in Knoxville to meet and eat with community members...

Our cohort in front of the Birdhouse. We are joined on the right by Adam Hughes (Statewide Organizing for Community Empowerment) and Bryan Alexander (Birdhouse Community Center) and in the front by young Sage (Our Community Organization).

Heard from amazing speakers about Indigenous, Black Agrarian and cooperative resistance...

Top left: Katie LeBlanc (Real Food Challenge) shares stories of resistance against corporate colonization in Appalachia. Top right: Our Co-ops for Justice Panel featuring Brianna Knisley (Appalachian Voices), Jessica Davis (Knoxville Housing Co-op), Jacqueline Arthur (Three Rivers Market Co-op), and cohort members Lee (Maryland Food Collective) and Brennan (People’s Market). Bottom left: Our roundtable discussion about local issues with Adam Hughes (Statewide Organizing for Community Empowerment). Bottom: Tracy McCurty (Black Belt Justice Center) gives a Powerpoint about Southern Black agrarian resistance.

CRUSHED Financial Planning...

Anna (CoFED Co-Director) leads a workshop about financial planning, focusing on skills participants need to grow their co-ops into strong businesses. 

Created Business Model Canvases for our co-ops...

Yesenia (Fresno Community College), our youngest participant and recent high school graduate, fills out the Business Model Canvas for a fresh foods co-op in her community.

And had fun too!


From left to right: Malikia (Howard University Alum), Khdir (Delaware State University), Enlylh (Spelman College), and Terrence (Philadelphia). We had fun drumming and dancing at our campfire, where we were joined by some New Economy Coalition staff and Lou Murrey (Stay Together Appalachian Youth)!


From left to right: Danny (UC Riverside), Malikia and Tawndy (Howard University alum), Khdir (Delaware State), Dominique and Dorian (CoFED Fellows). Every year, we play “the yarn game”. This year we used yarn made by Nueva Vida, a women’s cooperative in Mexico. One person holds the ball of yarn, names something they learned, and then throws the ball of yarn to someone else while holding onto the string of yarn. We do this until we build a web of learning and connections with everyone in the circle.


From left to right: Gio (Earthfoods Cafe), Dominique (CoFED Racial Justice Fellow), and Ally (Loaded Ladle) swimming in Fort Dickerson Quarry.


We thank the Highlander Center for hosting us, all the Cohort members and guest speakers for joining us, and all our sponsors (listed below) for making this year’s Summer Co-op Academy possible!

We’ve all graduated from the Academy, but our work never ends - just like a circle. To support this year’s cohort in making their visions come alive, please donate to CoFED’s *new* Technical Assistance Fund. We are raising $15,000 to provide up to 150 hours of technical assistance in business planning and additional co-op leadership development opportunities to qualifying Summer Co-op Academy graduates. 

Give $5, $50, or $500 today, and trust that your gift will come full circle!


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