Worker bees create buzz at BreadHive

(Shared by Hannah Scott, Manager, Ohio Cooperative Development Center, OSU South Centers)

GUSTO | By Mark Sommer | Published August 23, 2017 | Updated August 23, 2017

The question is heard often at BreadHive Bakery & Cafe.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked, ‘How do I talk to a manager?’ ” said Emily Stewart, who founded BreadHive with Allison Ewing. “But there’s not one, there’s six, and people change when they realize they’re talking to an owner.

“It’s usually followed by, ‘How old are you?’ ”

BreadHive is a worker cooperative-owned business. It began as a wholesale distributor in a storefront in April 2015 on the West Side at 123 Baynes St. A cafe followed in June 2016 at 402 Connecticut St.

Read more…

Worker-owned Cooperatives Create Jobs in Rural America

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

Job growth in rural America lags behind growth in urban areas, according to USDA publication Rural America at a Glance. Rural areas have difficulty attracting firms, especially businesses that provide living-wage jobs to residents. Limited infrastructure and workforce challenges are two reasons firms chose urban cities over rural towns (2016).

The worker-owned cooperative model empowers rural Americans to create viable jobs close to home. A worker cooperative is a business that is owned and operated by its employees. Member equity contribution, voting rights and the sharing of profits among members are three characteristics of cooperatives. In a worker-owned cooperative, workers typically make an initial capital investment in order to become a member of the co-op. Membership entitles each worker a vote in company decision-making. Members receive a share of the company’s profits, typically in proportion to the amount of labor he or she contributes to the business.

Worker-owned cooperatives can be viewed as grassroots business organizations because decisions are made from the bottom-up, rather than top-down. Members manage operations, policies, procedures and finances based on the co-op’s Articles of Incorporation, bylaws and operating agreement.

A publication from the Department of Economics at Iowa State University found members of worker-owned cooperatives receive better pay and benefits, greater job security and overall job satisfaction (2011).

Worker-ownership can provide a transition opportunity for business owners seeking to retire. This is especially important in rural America with a large aging population. Half of American business owners retiring within five years have no succession plan for their business (2014).

The value of worker-owned cooperative business extends beyond workers to the larger community. Keeping dollars close to home strengthens the local economy. Businesses that are governed by their workers are more likely to stay in business and provide economic stability to rural areas (2011). As a result, the quality of life in rural America improves over time.


Artz, G. & Younjun, K. 2011. Business Ownership by Workers: Are Worker Cooperatives a Viable Option? (p.20- p.22). Iowa State University. Working Paper No. 11020.

Project Equity. 2014. Case Studies: Business Conversions to Worker Cooperatives. (p.7). Retrieved May 22, 2017 from

USDA Rural Development. 2016. Rural America at a Glance. Retrieved May 22, 2017 from

What does it take to move 35 million pounds of produce? The Food Hub Network finds out.

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

When you think ‘food hub’, a foodbank may not be the first place that comes to mind, but the Mid-Ohio Foodbank engages in several hub activities including the aggregation, distribution and marketing of food products, as part of its mission to feed hungry families and create sustainable communities. Like many food hubs, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank aims to increase consumption of fresh food, improve access and strengthen the local and regional food system.

The Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network recently visited the Mid-Ohio Foodbank to experience firsthand how the Foodbank efficiently and effectively aggregates and redistributes fresh food. Director of Food Resource Development Mike Frank shared how his team will distribute 35 million pounds of fresh food in 2017. The Mid-Ohio Foodbank sources food from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food manufacturers, local produce growers, community organizations and Ohio food businesses. They work with 650 agency partners to distribute food in 20 Ohio counties.

Mike guided Food Hub Network members through the 205,000 square foot facility which includes a gigantic dry storage warehouse, expansive cooler and drive-through freezer!

Volunteers were hard at work in an area designated for sorting food. Like many food hubs and local food co-ops in Ohio and West Virginia, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank relies on volunteers for daily operations. Volunteers check the integrity of each food item to ensure safety was not compromised during donation and transit.

The Foodbank adheres to the same food safety standards and implements similar safety precautions as food hub businesses. All 650 partner agencies must be trained in proper food storage and safe food handling.

To learn more about the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, including how to volunteer or become a partner agency visit

The Ohio Cooperative Development Center and OSU Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Developmental Economics prepare the next generation of cooperative leaders

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

Agricultural cooperatives have demonstrated steady growth and stable financial performance in recent years. They make strong contributions to the U.S. economy and create new employment opportunities for college graduates with degrees in agriculture. In 2015 there were 2,047 agricultural cooperatives in the United States, with a net income of $7 billion dollars and 136,300 full-time employees (USDA, SR79 Agricultural Cooperative Statistics).

The Ohio State University has a long history of supporting cooperative education, including a long-offered undergraduate agricultural economics course that focuses specifically on the cooperative model. The Ohio Cooperative Development Center (OCDC) collaborates with Dr. Tom Worley and Dr. David Hahn of The Ohio State University Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Developmental Economics (AEDE) to facilitate components of the course. AEDE 3141 develops students’ understanding of the cooperative business model and cooperative principles as they relate to the organization and management of agribusinesses.

OCDC works with teams of students to develop cooperative leadership multi-media projects. First, students choose a cooperative topic of interest on which to focus their project. Students may choose topics like the unique aspects of managing a co-op compared to investor-owned firms; the concept of the patronage refund and its role in the cooperative business model; or the roles and responsibilities of co-op members in the success of their business. Next, OCDC and course instructors are available to connect students with current cooperative managers, directors, or officers who share operational knowledge and real-world experience of the topic. Students interview the cooperative leader and compile interviews and background materials to create a 3-5 minute multimedia presentation.

Students complete AEDE 3141 with a comprehensive understanding of agricultural cooperatives from coursework, lectures, and face-to-face discussions with cooperative leaders. The multimedia project helps students build skills in digital production and fosters meaningful connections with industry leaders.

“Access to engaging cooperative education materials for developers of new cooperatives, stakeholders of existing cooperatives, and students of cooperatives is one of the major challenges OCDC faces when providing education and technical assistance to the public and start-up cooperatives,” said Program Manager Hannah Scott. The benefit of the student multi-media projects reaches far beyond their personal learning, providing public education in an accessible and engaging format.

The Center showcases students’ multimedia projects on the Ohio Cooperative Development Center’s website and utilizes students’ videos in OCDC’s cooperative education and outreach efforts. Past student projects can be viewed at

The center also plans to feature student projects in OCDC’s upcoming online training, Co-op Mastery: Beyond Cooperatives 101. The training will be housed in the public access version of Canvas, The Ohio State University’s online learning management system. The course will be available to the public in 2018.

Reference: Agricultural Cooperative Statistics SR79, 2015, USDA Rural Development. Retrieved April 10, 2017 from

How REI’s Co-op Retail Model Helps Its Bottom Line

(Shared by Hannah Scott, Manager, Ohio Cooperative Development Center, OSU South Centers)

Managing a cooperative is different. In the co-op model, managers work with a board elected from and by the membership and they manage a business for the benefit of their members, among other unique characteristics. Check out the article linked here from The Atlantic to learn about how the co-op model makes REI different.

How REI’s Co-op Retail Model Helps Its Bottom Line
An interview with the company’s CEO, Jerry Stritzke
David McNew / Reuters
March 21, 2017

Muddy boots and big dreams: Students at Ohio Valley work cooperatively

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

Before the bell rings, students at the Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center in Adams County, Ohio check the aquaculture tanks, unload greenhouse bedding plants and discuss a recent livestock trailer purchase they will use to haul cattle, goats and hogs to market.

The hardworking high school juniors and seniors operate eight farm enterprises: cattle, hogs, small ruminants, aquaculture, soybeans, corn, tobacco, and greenhouse production. The students are involved in every aspect of farm operation: business planning, financials, production, decision-making and day-to-day management, all of which is carried out with guidance from agriculture business instructor Mr. Luke Rhonemus.

Mr. Rhonemus has more than 15 years of experience teaching agriculture. He believes cultivating real-world Ag skills in young people will benefit them outside the classroom, as they continue their education and start careers.

Staff from the Ohio Cooperative Development Center visited Ohio Valley to share the cooperative business model with students. Students learned how member-ownership and control makes co-ops different from other business structures. They studied current agricultural cooperatives, and identified agricultural co-op products and services they use on the farm; products like Purina feed and services like Farm Credit Mid-America.

Students learned about the benefits of cooperation: increased volume, reduced costs, spread risk, market access and greater bargaining power. They appreciated how working together helps individual farms achieve big goals, but also debated how to ensure that everyone benefits equitably.

The students were asked to consider how organizing their school farm enterprises as an agricultural cooperative(s) could expand business, create opportunities and increase farm income. FFA groups in other parts of the state have leveraged the co-op model to boost student engagement and agricultural education. “These kids work hard during the school year and summer months. I think a cooperative could offer them a chance to see the pay-off of their hard work,” Mr. Rhonemus said.
Learn more at

Cooperative Models for Meat Marketing

(Shared by Hannah Scott, Manager, Ohio Cooperative Development Center, OSU South Centers)

According to recent research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, over 165,000 farms in the U.S. sold food by direct marketing in 2015. These efforts resulted in approximately $8.7 billion in sales of various products, including beef, poultry, pork, and more. Direct sales of meat represented a large number of farms – in fact, more farms sold beef than any other single product reported.

Direct marketing of meat, through outlets like farm markets, restaurants, and institutions, include a number of challenges for producers. According to focus groups with beef producers in Tennessee, these challenges include large investments of time building clientele and relationships with buyers, issues with logistics like freezer space and delivering product, seasonality or unpredictability of sales volumes, obtaining correct licensing and certifications, and challenges selling the ‘whole hog’ rather than only a few premium cuts, among others.

Cooperatives, which are owned and controlled by user-members who split benefits amongst themselves equitably, may offer some unique ways of facing the challenges with directly marketing meat.

The Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative was formed in southern Ohio as a marketing cooperative for beef producers in a rural area. The individual members of the co-op came together to work with small grocery stores – a market that presented a challenge for individual producers to service. By coordinating and aggregating supply, the producers were able to create a larger and more consistent volume of product for the grocery store shelves.

In New York state, the Adirondack Grazers Cooperative and the Side Hill Farmers Co-op took two different approaches to developing markets for meat producers. The Adirondack Grazers Cooperative was formed for small beef producer members to market meat in nearby urban centers, including through an online grocer. The co-op aggregates member products to meet the needs of these existing markets while also allowing members to share transportation. The co-op has also increased access to a meat processing and reduced processing expenses for members. The Side Hill Farmers Co-op created their own market to sell locally produced meats with a focus on whole animal utilization in a small retail store. The craft butcher shop sells beef, pork, lamb and poultry, including aged, cured, and prepared foods.

In some instances, access to processing is a major hurdle for meat producers. The Island Grown Farmers Co-op in the Pacific Northwest came together in the early 2000’s to address just that problem. The group, along with help from a local development organization, started a mobile processing unit that travels to members’ farms to slaughter their cattle, hogs, lambs, bison, and goats. The co-op further processes the meat while the producers are responsible for marketing. The 50-mile radius covered by the co-op included about 60 members in 2015 who work together to schedule the unit in a way that ensures it is adequately utilized.

Inside the cooperative board room: Seeking procedural excellence

(Shared by Hannah Scott, Manager, Ohio Cooperative Development Center, OSU South Centers)

Posted February 28, 2017
Michigan State University Extension
by Mark Thomas, Michigan State University Extension

Cooperative boards of directors are ultimately responsible for their own financial health. Success can be achieved by understanding the co-op’s mission and respectful discussion at the board level within an agreed upon frame work.

Cooperative (co-op) boards have responsibilities beyond linking with their members, reviewing policies annually, assuring compliance with stated policies and goals, and dreaming of how the future of the co-op will be formalized and realized. Read more