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Grant Highlight: Small & Strong Conference

With support from the Howard Bowers Fund, 73 representatives from small and start-up cooperatives met to discuss strategies for nurturing successful food cooperatives in small, rural communities. The Fifth Annual Small and Strong Conference, held in Bloomington, MN in October, was a one day event targeted at food cooperatives with less than $3 million in sales.  

The conference emphasizes peer-based learning and support. In addition to tracks on store operations and governance, this year's program included a track on store conversions targeted at economic developers and community members interested in converting rural groceries to cooperatively-owned enterprises. 

“Large food co-ops are found predominantly in urban areas, while smaller food co-ops are found in rural areas. Even though small, these food co-ops are a vital presence in their communities” said Thomas Guettler, Cooperative Housing Technical Assistant, Northcountry Cooperative Foundation. “The Small and Strong Conference provides these rural start-ups and existing food co-ops with training and peer support activities, webinars, and one-on-one consultation that help them to thrive.”

Northcountry Cooperative Foundation hosts the annual Small and Strong Conference with support from Cooperative Development Services, University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, Columinate, Food Co-op Initiative and Shared Capital Cooperative.

About the Howard Bowers Fund

Supported by the food cooperative community and guided by the fifth and sixth cooperative principles to promote education, training, and cooperation among cooperatives, the Howard Bowers Fund invests in the professional growth and development of food cooperative staff and board members with bi-annual grants and scholarships. The Fund provides training and education grants and scholarships to professional conferences for food cooperatives, sponsorship of education conferences for food cooperative boards and staff, and development of educational materials relevant to food cooperatives. Applications for the 2020 spring grant cycle must be submitted by February 15, 2020 by visiting

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