(Submitted by Hannah Scott, Manager, Ohio Cooperative Development Center, OSU South Centers)
A farmers’ market can take many forms ranging from an informal gathering of producers, to a non-profit organization, limited liability corporation, or cooperative, among many other possibilities. Below are three reasons to consider a cooperative model of community and/or vendor members for your farmers’ market.
1) Governance by members. Cooperatives are governed by a board of directors elected from the membership. Member-directors can provide a vision for the market that aligns with and prioritizes member needs and wants.
2) Member commitment. In a cooperative, members democratically control the business through the one-member-one-vote principle and, depending on the cooperative, can receive financial returns from the cooperative on the basis of use. These cooperative characteristics can help increase the commitment to the market by vendors or customers who can realize multiple levels of benefits.
3) Increasing community support. Patrons of the market will not only be supporting individual producers when buying at the market, but also the community of members that make up the market cooperative. Markets could share this fact with patrons and the surrounding community to generate greater support!
Is your farmers’ market organized as a cooperative? If so, feel free to share what you see as the benefits of a cooperative structure in the comments below!