Seward Co-op implements P6 sustainability labeling
On Oct. 1, Seward Co-op became one of only six co-operatives nationwide to be a part of Principle 6, a project launched by Equal Exchange that aims to promote local, co-operative and small-scale farmers and producers. The P6 program expands on a typical co-ops "local" or "organic" labeling to incorporate more information about how the foods are produced and processed--and considering those impacts on the health of the community and the environment.
So how do products qualify as P6-worthy and what, specifically, does the label mean? The Hot Dish checked in with the Seward folks to find out.
P6 products have to fit two of these three criteria to get the label:
Local. Local defines a product grown or produced in the five-state region, or having value added in that region.
Cooperative/nonprofit. Co-op is defined by cooperative ownership of the business or nonprofit status.
Small farmer/producer. Small producer is defined using these guidelines:
a. Independently owned and operated, and
b. Selling direct to store or through a local distributor with a regional distribution area. Equal Exchange defines small producers according to the guidelines established by Fairtrade Labeling Organization (www.fairtrade.net) for those international producers organized in co-operatives.
Inside the Seward Co-op, products that can boast two of the three (the five states are Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa and Wisconsin), have the label. Manager on Duty Mark Rusch says that about 38% of what's on the shelves right now passes the P6 test, which is administered by co-op employees. This makes the program different from third-party Fairtrade assignations, as the store is responsible for judging its own inventory. Meanwhile, the logo design, marketing and administration of the larger program is in the hands of Equal Exchange. Seward had to invest in EE initially to be a part of P6, but is now receiving support from them in the roll out of the project.
The nearest co-ops sporting the P6 program are in Wisconsin (Madison), Kansas and California, making Seward the only place in a huge region where consumers can back this initiative. While the labels do replace the local product stickers, not all qualifying items are organic. However, the co-op believes that the P6 marker highlights the combination of values they strive for, whereas the other labels indicate only pieces of the sustainability puzzle.
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