A Cooperative Call to Farms

(Submitted by Ivory Harlow, Program Assistant, Ohio Cooperative Development Center, OSU South Centers)

A growing number of veterans seek careers in agriculture after military service, but starting a farm from scratch isn’t easy. Acquiring the skills, land, infrastructure and equipment to operate a successful farm business can make farming seem like mission impossible.

The Minutemen Farmers’ Cooperative are developing a farmer veteran apprentice training program that will provide education and resources to help service members cultivate post-military careers in Ag.

The Minutemen Farmers’ Cooperative was established in 2015. The Ohio Cooperative Development Center assisted the co-op with formation and business development. Minutemen is structured as a cooperative in Ohio also doing business in West Virginia and a non-profit agricultural training foundation.

Tactical training
The Minutemen incubation training program is 2 to 4 years with a two year apprenticeship program required the first two years and 1 to 2 more years of programming depending on the apprentice’s aspirations. The program plans to partner with various Extension educators to provide online education, and hands-on agricultural experience on a working farm in Jackson County, West Virginia. The training will prepare Minutemen grads to start their own operation or seek professional employment in Ag.

Minutemen’s hands-on training focuses on wholesale production. This differentiates the program from many farmer veteran training programs that focus on direct to consumer sales. The co-op will connect graduates with wholesale outlets to market future farm products. They provide ongoing mentorship and technical support after graduation.

Food fight
“After witnessing so much destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, I wanted to grow something,” an aspiring farmer veteran said.
Another shared, “I’m used to having dirty boots, so farming is a good fit!”

Farmers face many challenges during their daily work. They are called to feed an increasing population with less. They must adapt to changing climate patterns and government policies. Farmer veterans face these challenges with resilience.

Military training teaches individuals to work together to achieve the mission. The Minutemen Farmers’ Cooperative honors the spirit of team work and upholds the military core values of service before self, duty and honor.

For more information, check out the Minutemen Farmers’ Cooperative on Facebook.

Kentucky and Ohio shared-use kitchens are cooking up business

(Submitted by Ivory Harlow, Program Assistant, Ohio Cooperative Development Center, OSU South Centers)

The OSU Ohio Cooperative Development Center (OCDC) and Ohio Direct Marketing Team (ODMT) toured shared-use kitchens in Kentucky and Ohio to learn how community-based commercial kitchens are helping food entrepreneurs build successful local food businesses.

findlay-kitchenRachel DesRochers founded the Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen in Newport in 2013. She opened sister sites: The Coop in Loveland, Ohio (2014) and the Hatchery in Newport, Kentucky (2016).

grass-fed-gourmet-1Rachel’s kitchens provide state inspected, certified production space for foodpreneurs like Grass Fed Gourmet and The Pickled Pig. She helps producers create professional looking products through connections with branding experts. Rachel works with retailers and distributors to place products in local stores.

gratefulgrahamsShe shares lessons learned building her food business, Grateful Grahams, with tenants. Rachel started her healthy cookie company in 2010. Today Grateful Grahams vegan graham cracker cookies are sold in Kroger, Whole Foods, Findlay Market, local natural food stores and cafes throughout Kentucky and Ohio.

inside-findlayNext, OCDC and ODMT visited Findlay Kitchen in Cincinnati. The commercial kitchen offers space and equipment for food production. Director Marianne Hamilton and manager Anthony Berin guide new food businesses to obtain required licenses and comply with food safety laws. Tenants can apply to sell their products at Findlay Market.

incubatorOn the day of the visit, a crew from Brewhaus Bakery Company was hard at work baking small batches of whole grain dog treats. The company provides vocational training to adults with disabilities. Their non-profit mission is a good fit with Findlay Kitchen’s vision to build a strong local economy and community.

The Ohio Cooperative Development Center is eager to assist cooperative food businesses with formation, business and financial planning. The Ohio Direct Marketing Team helps producers prepare and successfully market agricultural products.