Cooperatives Help Sustain Communities

Cooperatives have always been a great source of economic growth in all parts of the world, in both rural and urban areas.  According to the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International, their are four major areas in which cooperative economic growth can help development, build, sustain and grow in virtually any environment.

1.   Flexibility– Cooperatives are created specially to meet the needs of the members they serve, and because of this are able to have a more flexible nature to adapt and thrive in communities of all types and sizes, tailoring their products and services to meet the needs of the areas they serve.  Rural communities are known to have a shortage of people and jobs, but agriculture tends to thrive in these areas.  Farmers can join together to form cooperatives to assist each other with common expenses.

2.  Circulate Money– in both rural and urban areas where for-profit businesses are common, money doesn’t always circulate properly.  Traditional businesses see money spend in the business stay in the hands of the business owner, where a cooperative will keep the money circulating within the business, hiring new employees or lowering prices.

3.   Create Jobs– Job creation is always a positive and uplifting sign in communities.  There are many types of cooperatives, like worker co-ops and producer co-ops that work to create more and better job security as they allow employees to have a vote and decision-making power.

4.   Strengthen the Community– Co-ops are created with one thing in mind, to serve their members and the communities.  In turn, they provide jobs, products and services, and help distribute wealth, all while teaching the community leadership and professional skills to help further develop and continue the momentum and movement.

Encourage the cooperative movement in your community by learning more.  Visit our web page and stay connected to what is happening with The Ohio State University CFAES Center for Cooperatives.

Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience Day Held at OSU South Centers

The OSU Center for Cooperatives team hosted 34 FFA students from Peebles High School and Ohio Valley Career Technical Center on Friday, March 31, 2023, for the Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience Day held at OSU South Centers.  The Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience is an educational program that provides high school students in the Appalachian region an opportunity to learn about the cooperative business model and careers in agricultural, while developing leadership skills.

The event kicked off with a welcome from OSU South Centers Director, Dr. Tom Worley, who provided students with details about the uniqueness of South Centers and the opportunities it brings to the southern Ohio region, as well as numerous jobs.  Dr. Worley described the many career paths available at the Center, from agricultural, research, and business development just to name a few.

Students began the day with a wagon tour of the farm, where they were able to view strawberries growing in the high tunnel, see how hops are grown, and hear how research is conducted with small fruits.  They were then given a tour and in-depth look at the hatchery, where they were able to learn about how to raise and care for various types of fish and view the Center’s famous sturgeon.

Students then had the opportunity to experience hands-on lab demonstrations of soil testing, with Dr. Rafiq Islam and Dr. Arif Rahman, part of South Centers Soil, Water and Bioenergy Resources team.  They were shown how to field test the soil to estimate quality, active carbons, and nitrogen fertilization, as well as recognizing what the coloration of the soil means.  All students were provided soil test kits they could take home to do their own soil testing.

Small fruits are also a key point of research at South Centers and Dr. Gary Gao and Dr. Dan Remley demonstrated many ways strawberries and oranges provide key sources of information.  Students were taught how to measure natural and artificial sugar levels using fresh oranges and orange juice, as well as how to extract DNA from strawberries.  Caydence from Peebles said, “The Strawberry DNA and the color machine activity was very interesting to me, in our group we looked at the color of the strawberry compared to the sugar content of each; the darker the strawberry the higher the sugar content, which makes sense that there is more sugar as the strawberry ripens.”

Microgreens was another fun lab activity students enjoyed, and was taught by Research Assistant, Ryan Slaughter.  Microgreens are becoming a very popular, healthy, easy, and enjoyable way to grow delicious greens from virtually anywhere in a very small area or limited amount of space.  The greens can be grown in small plastic containers, similar to restaurant takeout containers, and placed in a window.  Students were provided, potting soil mix, the opportunity to select from lettuce or kale seeds and were then able to plant their seeds with information about providing care and the growth of their microgreens.

A very popular point of interest for the day was visiting the aquaponics lab.  Research Associate, Thom Harker, gave students a first-hand account of what running an aquaponics system looks like, and provided detailed information about care of the fish and their importance in the growth process for the crops.  Both students and teachers were very interested in receiving information on how they can develop their own aquaponics systems at their schools.

During lunch, students had the opportunity to hear from several cooperative business leaders as they provided details about their cooperative, job opportunities available and the education and/or skills set needed to perform those jobs.  Companies represented were South Central Power, Farm Credit Mid-America, Atomic Credit Union, Adams Rural Electric Cooperative, and Dairy Farmers of America. Following lunch, students were able to engage one-on-one with each of the business leaders while visiting their tables during the Co-op Career Fair.  Company representatives not only offered students information and potential job opportunities, but offered help with resume building and even offered a mock interview to one lucky student.

Students also had the opportunity to speak to a representative from Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute from Wooster, OH, who painted a picture of ag campus life for students possibly interested in pursuing a degree in agricultural sciences.  There are a number of programs available across all animal species in ag business, marketing, engineering and many others.

Peebles High School ag teacher, Becky Minton, had this to say about the day, “the YCLE event was wonderful!! My students not only had the opportunity to tour the research facilities and hear about the research that is currently happening at OSU South Centers but received a hands-on learning opportunity as well.  Students participated in Strawberry DNA extraction, color & sugar testing of fruits, understanding soil testing, aquaponics and the importance of proper water quality testing for both fish and plants, and growing their own fodder/microgreens system. Students were able to discuss the importance of Co-ops with industry representatives but also engage in one-on-one conversations with them; my students were able to see local opportunities for job placement in the area of cooperatives. The lunch that was provided was a great addition to the day! I could not have asked for a better day with my students to learn and have fun at the same time; it was truly an enjoyable experience for me as a teacher and for them as students.”

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives Annual Meeting 2023

The 2023 National Council of Farmer Cooperatives was recently held in Orlando, Florida from February 8th– February 10th.  This year’s theme was “Strategy and Action: Thriving in a Disruptive Ag Landscape.” The event kicked off with opening remarks from Chuck Connor, President and CEO of National Council of Farmers, Jon Doggett, former CEO National Corn Growers Association, and Hunt Shipman, Principal and Director for Cornerstone Government Affairs.

Keeping with the theme, the group began the discussion with addressing a hot button issue— ‘How do we deal going forward?’ meaning how do we take the various disruptions from the past three years we’ve faced and are continuing to face and plunge forward.  “We have an obligation to turn people’s views around and get back to the times of being able to share the bread,” explained Jon Doggett.  “The political changes are going to come from elected officials in the primary races, and we need to start understanding that.”

The USDA has reported rural America is drastically shrinking, with much fewer farmers in their representative districts.  For example, in the state of Iowa in the 1960’s there were 6 representatives for the state, now there are only 4.  In order to stay relevant today, we must start by telling America what we’re doing for them! Mr. Shipman asked the audience if it’s really enough for America that at the end of the day everyone’s got to eat?  Knowing this is something we worry and think about is not enough to drive a vote, we must continue the dialogue and keep it in the minds of the people for a lengthy period of time.

A very valuable point was articulated by Mr. Doggett, “We can’t educate consumers, we market to them, so what are we doing for them? We must provide the information they’re looking for, as well as advice to navigate co-ops in farming.  We must quit thinking of labeling and bring in new people and perspectives, embracing where we are today.”

The panel concluded their session opener with the importance of making connections and understanding your audience, validating those connections to meet people where they’re at.  Shipman left the group with a very proactive thought, “Don’t try and fit in just to check a box, deal with the core issues that are coming at us, remain engaged at the highest levels and really get involved.”

This is very fitting for each of us.  There will also be a place to get involved and engaged to be proactive.  Let’s take the opportunity to reach out to our friends, neighbors, and colleagues to thrive in disruption.

Unleash the Potential of Cooperative Management Upcoming Online Workshop

As we are aware, cooperatives offer a tremendous amount of opportunities, while opening a door to vast networking and knowledge exchange among their members, stakeholders and even their customers.  Cooperatives agree to a set of principles, the first of which is “voluntary and open membership.” Through this cooperative principle, any individual willing to accept the responsibility of membership and who wishes to use the services of a cooperative are welcome to become a member and should be allowed to voluntarily join the cooperative.  The open membership principle can be contradictive to today’s corporate business practices as firms try to find the “best talent” to compete in their industry. If you or your company are finding yourselves in this situation, consider attending the workshop “Unleash the Potential of Cooperative Management” to gain a better understanding of how the cooperative principle of “voluntary and open membership” can become an advantage for yourself, your business, or your team. You will take away a set of tools to discover the untapped skills that exist within your organization and be able to invite your team members to contribute in new ways.  Please join us for this free workshop on Tuesday, October 18th from 1:00- 2:00 p.m.  To register visit: This course will be taught by Daniella Mostow.

Daniella is the founder of MightWe, a consulting firm that helps teams collaborate better even when the challenges are complex, and solutions are unclear. She leads teams through conversations to gain a deeper understanding of core opportunities and experiment with innovative solutions. MightWe is committed to supporting small businesses and worker cooperatives in order to strengthen local economies and create more opportunities for people to shape their futures.

Get Ready for Co-Op Month- Celebrate the History!

You may be aware that Co-Op Month is celebrated in October, but are you aware of some of the history behind the holiday? Several states across the United States began celebrating the holiday in the mid-1930’s, but it wasn’t until Minnesota declared the month ‘official,’ with a proclamation in 1948, that Co-Op Month was designated in that state.  It would take 16 years to gain national recognition, but in 1964 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Orville Freeman, also a former Minnesota governor, proclaimed October Co-op Month for the entire country.  The first theme of the national celebration of Co-op Month was “Cooperatives: USDA Helps Build a Better America.”

Since that time, co-ops have been excitedly celebrating Co-Op Month each October across the country working together to build, grow and be more resilient in their respective communities.  Many also use it as an opportunity to tell their stories and share the collective impact co-ops have throughout the country.

According to the Cooperative Network, “It is a time for cooperative businesses to reflect on their shared principles and to educate others about the value of belonging to a cooperative.”  Today, we continue to celebrate the over 40,000 cooperatives, that provide more than $25 billion in wages in the United States alone.  It is also estimated that there are 350 million members of cooperatives nationwide, including those members that belong to more than one cooperative.

According to a 2021 report from the USDA, “the largest number of farmer cooperatives are in Minnesota, followed by Texas, North Dakota, California and Wisconsin.  Farm cooperatives did the most business in Iowa ($18.3 billion) followed by Minnesota ($16.2 billion), California, Illinois and Wisconsin.”

This year’s theme, ‘Co-Ops Build Economic Power’ brings to light the power of cooperative business to strengthen the economy.  According to the National Cooperative Business Association, “As businesses face inflation and supply chain challenges, cooperatives provide stability and opportunity. As employees question their role in the economy, cooperatives are creating dignified, empowering jobs with paths to ownership and wealth-building. As communities tire of rhetoric, cooperatives are creating the meaningful diversity and equity at the heart of an inclusive economy.”

Here at The Ohio State University South Centers, Center for Cooperatives, we plan to celebrate Co-Op Month all October long with informative articles and podcasts, information from our partners and much more.  Be sure and follow our Facebook page, as well as our Twitter account so you don’t miss out on how we celebrate!