2016 Austin Miller Co-op Hero Awards

Call for nominations

Here in the Valley, it's easy to take our vibrant co-op community for granted. But it takes committed individuals and organizations to support people in need, champion a sustainable environment, and develop a strong food system that contributes to the local economy.

The Austin Miller Co-op Hero Awards strive to recognize those people and organizations that nurture and sustain our co-op and our community. Created in 2009 by River Valley Co-op, the Austin Miller Co-op Hero Awards recognize: 1) an individual, 2) a non-profit organization and 3) a business in the Pioneer Valley that support and strengthen  River Valley Co-op cooperative values and that embody the cooperative principal Support for Community.

Individual and Business Award winners will receive $500. The non-profit award winner will recieve $500 and the proceeds from food sales at our annual Strawberry Ice Cream Social on June 23. 

Do you know an individual, organization, of business you'd like to nominate for this year's award?

Co-op owners and staff can submit their nominations to the board of directors at BOD@rivervalley.coop by Wednesday, April 13, 2016. Provide specific examples of how this individual, non-profit, or business has promoted cooperative values and/or principles. Be sure to include::

  • Your name
  • Your co-op number
  • Your email address/ phone number
  • Nominee and their affiliation with River Valley co-op (co-op owner, vendor, supporting business or non-profit)
  • Nominee contact information
  • Category: individual, non-profit organization, business
  • Detailed explanation of how your nominee has supported River Valley Co-op and promoted cooperative values and principles

Join us in nominating a new batch of co-op heroes for the 2016 awards! And remember the deadline for nominations is Wednesday, April 13. For more information visit our website.


Austin Miller was awarded the first annual Co-op Hero Award during our cooperative’s celebration of the first birthday of our store on April 30th, 2009, for extraordinary support from a co-op member-owner. Austin tirelessly and passionately championed the dreams of our membership for a locally grown food co-op in Northampton.

Austin was a founding co-op member-owner whose career was devoted to serving people in Western Massachusetts by supporting community development projects that provided low income housing, shelter for victims of domestic violence, and food for the hungry. Austin specialized in securing financing for projects that directly benefited people in need and strengthened our communities. Austin was the financial consultant who secured the financing agreements between River Valley Co-op and the banks that provided the mortgage for our co-op start-up project in Northampton.

Our community lost a good friend when Austin passed away on October 30th, 2009.

Past winners:


Individual: Andrea Ayvazian

Non-Profit: Gardening the Community

Business: Apex Orchards


Individual: Mary Shanley Koeber

Non-Profit: Common Capital

Business: Our Family Farms


Individual: Lynn Benander, Co-op Power

Non-profit: Seeds of Solidarity

Business: UMassFive College Federal CU


Individual: Elizabeth (Apple) Ahearn

Non-profit: Community Involved in
Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)

Business: Pedal People


Individual: David Gowler

Non-profit: Western MA Food Bank

Business: Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives


Individual: Austin Miller

Non-profit: Greenfields Market 

Business: Bart’s Homemade Ice Cream