Forming a More Inclusive Cooperative History

Coop Month Theme this year is Cooperative Commit: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion https://www.coopmonth.coop/

October is National Co-op Month, a celebration of cooperatives that started in 1964. The month is a time for allied organizations and co-ops to promote cooperative values and advantages. This year’s theme is “Co-ops Commit: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” which supports an important conversation about change and action in the cooperative community.

One step toward making diversity and racial equity not just an intention, but a reality, is forming an inclusive cooperative history. Including African American, Latinx, and Appalachian co-ops in U.S. cooperative history highlights the long tradition of cooperation among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities and creates an accurate understanding of the movement.

Highlighting the importance of including these histories, I selected three case studies from Appalachia, African American, and Latinx cooperatives, each of which show just the fraction of the communities’ cooperative impact.

Appalachian Cooperative Networks Before Rural Electrification

The growth of rural electric cooperatives in the 1930s and 40s brought electricity and technological advancements, such as water pumps and agricultural machines, to much of rural America. Though these coops created an electrical transformation, cooperation was familiar to many rural areas, including Appalachia. From community care to unions, Appalachians had utilized community networks to cooperate for generations.

Before the rural electrification efforts, community members and farmers in the South and Appalachia, according to the Southern Oral History Program, kept telephone networks up and running for rural areas, which was only possible through cooperation. Dema Lyall, a native Appalachian from North Carolina, born in 1918, said, “I don’t remember when we just didn’t have a telephone.” Farmers and residents worked together to provide telephones to local communities, typically working in networks of 8-10 families. In some cases, telephone lines were widely available to areas that would not see any electrification efforts until the early 1940s. The community networks that supported these local telephone lines may have supported cooperatives’ growth over corporations during the Rural Electric Administration’s campaign the 30s and 40s. The cooperative networks established before rural electric coops highlight a much longer history of cooperation in the Appalachia.

 

The Freedom Quilting Bee, Alabama 1960s

By 1967, generations of Black men and women struggled under the sharecropping economic system, where white plantation owners often bonded people to the land through debt and labor. With the Civil Rights Movement, a group of Black craftswomen in Alabama sought to leave sharecropping and generate independent income with an increasingly popular commodity: quilts.

Started by a group of Black women near Selma, Alabama, the Freedom Quilting Bee collectively quilted cloth scraps into usable blankets. They hoped to generate individual income for their sharecropper spouses, families, and themselves. However, as Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard found, these women not only supported their families, but also promoted community economic stability. The Freedom Quilting Bee bought 23 acres of land, provided housing for evicted farmers, formed childcare cooperatives, and supported community solidarity, fostering growing support from within the cooperative and the community.

The Freedom Quilting Bee Coop highlights how Black women regained economic control through cooperation. When the traditional socioeconomic parameters oppressed these craftswomen, they mobilized collective power for themselves and the community. By including the quilting bee cooperative in the American cooperative movement’s history, the real economic advantage and community stability that cooperation offers to members becomes clearer.

Exploring Latinx Cooperatives

In a recent study, the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives explored the growing cooperative movement in Latinx communities. In Latinx Co-op Power in the U.S.Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard and Esther West reveal a rich and expansive network of 180 Latinx cooperatives. Though Latinx cooperative history has not been studied in the American movement, Latin American communities across North America have a strong tradition of cooperation.

In their sample survey, Nembhard and West uncovered that most Latinx coops are urban and suburban, with nearly 89% located in urban areas. From credit unions to agriculture and food co-ops, there were Latinx cooperatives in every sector. The results also revealed that most coops were younger businesses, with only two Latinx co-ops formed before 2000. Between 2004 and 2020, Latinx cooperative numbers skyrocketed, with 14 developing within the last five years. Though the 180 cooperatives surveyed does not depict the entire Latinx co-op community, the study makes important strides in Latinx co-op development and efforts to integrate them into the national cooperative movement history.

 

The diversity of cooperatives in the United States has expanded tenfold with recent studies; however, these cooperators are often overlooked in history. Though many are familiar with the Rochdale pioneers, perhaps a more inclusive history of American cooperation should begin with indigenous networks of cooperation, such as John Curl’s For All The People. With the addition of BIPOC and underserved communities, the history of the U.S. cooperative movement becomes both more inclusive and accurate.

Food Hubs Connect Healthy Food, Farms, and Communities

The USDA defines a food hub as a “business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand”, but food hubs do much more. Food hubs are a catalyst for community wellness. They address problems of food insecurity and connect community members to the source of their food.

Building a regional food hub requires collaboration of multiple partners. Each partner contributes unique strengths and resources to the project. Community stakeholders amplify success by participating in project planning and execution and supporting the food hub in their community.

In 2018 the Ohio State University’s Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFact) partnered with the Methodist Theological School in Ohio (MTSO), Seminary Hill Farm, and Franklinton Gardens Urban Farm, to develop a model for food hub businesses in underserved urban communities. The organizations invite community stakeholders, individuals and organizations to attend the Building Regional Food Hubs Conference on Nov. 9, 2018.

The conference will host local food leaders from across the state of Ohio. Anna Haas from Local Food Connection will share online possibilities for urban food hubs. Piper Fernway will describe how Bon Appetit Management Company connects institutions to local food in Appalachia. Leslie Schaller, the founder of the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks’ (ACEnet) Food Venture Center and Nelsonville Food Hub, will tell how ACEnet helps producers enhance their businesses with value-added products.

The conference will feature a panel of practitioners discussing challenges and opportunities for producers in food hub models. Panelist Tadd Petersen, manager of Seminary Hill Farm, notes that producers face many challenges. Tadd says, “Storage is the number one barrier facing producers.” Food hubs can provide aggregation, packing, processing and storage space to help farmers expand business capacity. Seminary Hill Farm works with 30 local farms to provide catering and event services, supply MTSO’s dining facilities with farm fresh food, and operate a 300-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription. A tour of Seminary Hill Farm will follow the conference.

Attend the Building Regional Food Hubs Conference

Date: Friday, Nov. 9, 2018

Time: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: Methodist Theological School in Ohio, 3081 Columbus Pike, Delaware, Ohio

Fee: $10

To learn more and register for the event visit www.mtso.edu/foodhubconference

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References

1. Barham, James, Debra Tropp, Kathleen Enterline, Jeff Farbman, John Fisk, and Stacia Kiraly. Regional Food Hub Resource Guide. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service. April 2012.

*Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper

Take Ag Action in Moorefield, West Virginia on 8/27 and Kearneyville, WV on 8/28

Think a co-op may be part of the solution for your farm or food business?

Now is the time to get involved and/or come to ask questions.

Date: Monday 8/27/2018

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Location: Eastern WV Community & Technical College, 316 Eastern Drive, Moorefield, West Virginia 26836

Date: Tuesday 8/28/2018

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Location: WVU Kearneysville Tree Fruit Research and Education Center, 67 Apple Harvest Drive, Kearneyville, WV.

For more information and to register contact:  tina.metzer@easternwv.edu or nbergdoll@wvda.us

Farming 101: How to Price Farm Products

Determining a price for farm products that attracts consumers and creates profits for producers can be a challenge. A three-part Farming 101 series of articles in Farm & Dairy Newspaper helps farmers calculate costs, conduct price research and implement a price strategy to increase farm sales and revenue.

Click article to visit Farming 101 Archives.
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Celebrate Cooperatives and Sustainability Today

Today, cooperators everywhere celebrate the International Day of Cooperatives. The United Nations established the holiday to recognize co-ops’ contributions to society, culture and the economy. This year’s theme is “Sustainable Consumption and Production.” ¹ The World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” ²

Cooperatives provide sustainable solutions

Cooperatives are businesses owned by the people they benefit. They exist in every major industry and are common in food and agriculture. Co-ops provide members with sustainable solutions. They help farmers gain access to larger markets, boost product quality, reduce costs and achieve greater efficiency and operational effectiveness.

Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is owned by 14,500 farmer-members. The co-op’s sustainability program aims to improve animal and environmental health. DFA’s Gold Standard Dairy Program upholds standards set forth by the National Milk Producers Federation’s National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management Program (FARM), for animal health, nutrition, management, housing and facilities, handling and transporting. DFA offers on-farm consultations to members to identify areas where sustainable practices can benefit their operations. Members that participate in the Gold Standard Program receive tailored resources and on-going technical assistance to improve sustainability on the farm. ³

Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives (OEC) power rural communities in 77 counties. In recent years OEC has diversified their energy sources portfolio to include renewable sources such as air, wind, hydro, biomass, solar and heat recovery. The co-op promotes energy efficiency through advising, energy audits and appliance rebate incentives that reduce members’ energy expenditures and save members money. ⁴

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company is the No. 1 writer of insurance policies for farms and ranches. Nationwide works towards greater sustainability by reducing environmental waste and carbon emissions and promoting recycling. Nationwide’s green purchasing initiative works with suppliers to purchase eco-friendlier products. The company partners with voluntary government and industry programs such as Energy Star and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). ⁵

On the International Day of Cooperatives farmers everywhere tip our hats to recognize these and other cooperative businesses’ dedication to sustainable consumption and production.

*Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper

References

  1. United Nations Development. (March 3, 2018). 2018 International Day of Cooperatives. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/development/desa/cooperatives/2018/03/02/coopsday/
  2. United Nations General Assembly. (1987). Report of the world commission on environment and development: Our common future. Oslo, Norway: United Nations General Assembly, Development and International Co-operation: Environment.
  3. Dairy Farmers of America. (n.d.). Sustainability. Retrieved from http://www.dfamilk.com/our-cooperative/sustainability
  4. Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives. (n.d.) Efficiency. Retrieved from https://ohioec.org/oec/efficiency/
  5. Nationwide Insurance. (n.d.) Energy & Environment. Retrieved from https://www.nationwide.com/about-us/energy-environment.jspSTAY INFORMED

CFAES Center for Cooperatives Launches Co-op Mastery

The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Center for Cooperatives launched Co-op Mastery: Beyond Cooperatives 101, a new and innovative online training course designed to educate cooperative members, boards, management, employees, and students.

Co-op Mastery: Beyond Cooperatives 101 is made possible by a grant from the CHS Foundation 2017 Cooperative Education Grants Program. The training is housed in The Ohio State University’s public-facing online education platform. It is free and can be accessed online at go.osu.edu/coopmastery.

Caption: Co-op Mastery is a new online learning tool launched by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Center for Cooperatives.

“Co-op Mastery curriculum focuses on mid-level knowledge about the cooperative business model,” said Center for Cooperatives Program Manager, Hannah Scott.  “Training modules build on existing fundamental materials by providing an in-depth look at governance, finance, taxation and other areas not typically covered by courses in fundamentals, yet challenging topics for stakeholders.”

The training features eight modules which include video interviews with numerous leaders in the cooperative movement:

  • Logan County Electric Cooperative General Manager Rick Petty discusses cooperative principles and various functions of cooperatives.
  • Dennis Bolling retired President and CEO of United Producers Cooperative shares the benefits cooperatives provide members.
  • Mid-America Cooperative Counsel Executive Director Rod Kelsay discusses effective education and training the Board of Directors.
  • Ohio State Univerisity Extension Educator Dr. Chris Bruynis gives insight to key factors that contribute to a cooperative’s success.
  • Nationwide’s VP of Sponsor Relations Devin Fuhrman shares the story of Nationwide’s history as a mutual cooperative company.
  • Agricultural attorney Carolyn Eselgroth of Barrett, Easterday, Cunningham and Eselgroth, LLP addresses legal considerations when forming a cooperative business.
  • Co-Bank Senior Relationship Manager Gary Weidenborner leads users through an interactive financial document exercise.
  • David Hahn, Professor Emeritus the Ohio State University, explains cooperative taxation.

“We invite folks to ask questions and receive answers from our Center staff in the online Co-op Forum,” said Joy Bauman, Program Coordinator.  “They can also browse an extensive collection of online resources in the Cooperative Library.”

The CFAES Center for Cooperatives offers customized in-person workshops to complement the online training. Workshops are designed to serve the requesting cooperative’s needs. Examples include: new employee education, board of director education, strategic plan development, cooperative marketing and policy development. Workshop participants receive a companion workbook with activities to fortify learning. They gain on-going access to Co-op Mastery online training materials, which they may work through at their own pace or search for specific information to meet immediate needs. Users can return to the Co-op Mastery online materials at any time to troubleshoot cooperative issues and they can receive ongoing technical assistance from CFAES Center for Cooperatives staff. To request a workshop or more information, visit go.osu.edu/cooperatives or contact the Center for Cooperatives at osucooperatives@osu.edu or 740-289-2071 ext. 111.

 

Ohio Agritourism Benefits Farmers and Consumers

The morning began with a hearty cowboy breakfast, then we saddled the horses and hit the trails. We buckaroos rode over rolling hills and crossed trickling creeks. When the afternoon sun grew hot, we rested the horses under a shady canopy of trees. That evening we were treated to a chuck-wagon dinner around a campfire, complete with s’mores and cowboy poetry. It was a perfect day made possible by agritourism.

My husband and I are diehard agritourists. Each summer we visit a local u-pick blueberry farm in South Bloomfield, Ohio. I buy plenty of berries to eat fresh and freeze. In fall we attend Hirsch’s Annual Apple Harvest Open House. We ride the hay wagon to the peak of the property and gaze down at the apple orchard below. The beautiful view still takes my breath away — even after six seasons attending Hirsch Fruit Farm’s agritourism event!

“Inviting the public onto your farm to participate in farm-related activities and see for themselves how food is produced in Ohio can be a win-win for both farmers and consumers,” Christie Welch, Direct Marketing Program Specialist at the Ohio State University South Centers said. “It is a great way to educate the public, and it can add additional income to your operation.”

More benefits

Agritourism also is a business diversification strategy. A pumpkin grower can add a pick-your-own pumpkin patch. Hops and wine grape growers can host locally produced beer and wine tastings at their yard or vineyard. Producers can complement their current offerings with an agritourism activity; a grower of specialty crops can partner with a local chef to cook up a farm-to-table dinner.

Ohio AgritourismReady Conference

Producers considering adding agritourism to their operation will find the possibilities are endless, but there are several things to consider before opening your barn door to the public. Whether you have been inviting the public onto your farm for years or are just exploring the possibilities, the Ohio AgritourismReady Conference aims to prepare producers with the knowledge to start or expand an agritourism operation.  Topics for the conference include:

  • Food & Animals – Managing Liability
  • Awesome Customer Service
  • Getting Grants and Low-Interest Loans
  • Spirits, Beer, and Wine, Oh My!
  • Much more

The conference is being presented by the Ohio State University Extension Direct Food and Agriculture Marketing Team, The Resource and Ag Law Program, Wright & Moore, LPA, and The Ohio Farm Bureau and Pike County Farm Bureau.

The second annual Ohio AgritourismReady Conference we be held March 10, 2018 at the OSU South Centers Endeavor Center in Piketon, Ohio. Registration is required as space is limited.  For more information or to register contact gardner.1148@osu.edu or 740-289-2071 x. 132.  Deadline to register is March 2.  The registration fee is $25/person.  Farm Bureau members can receive a $5 discount.

*Originally published by Farm & Dairy at https://www.farmanddairy.com/top-stories/ohio-agritourism-benefits-farmers-and-consumers/474157.html

March 1 Seminar – Agricultural Data Coalition: Putting Farmers in the Driver’s Seat

CFAES Center for Cooperatives Seminar Series Agricultural Data Coalition: Putting Farmers in the Driver’s Seat

The CFAES Center for Cooperatives will host a lecture at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 1 presented by Scott A. Shearer, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University.

Dr. Scott A. Shearer will present a lecture on using precision agriculture data, issues of ownership and control, and the potential applications of using this data to help decrease agriculture’s environmental impact.

Dr. Shearer received formal training in agricultural engineering from The Ohio State University.  During his nearly 30-year career in academia, his research efforts have focused on controls and methodologies for metering and spatial distribution of inputs (seed, fertilizer, and chemicals) for precision cropping systems. His current research activities include: modeling of current and future field machinery systems; autonomous, multi-vehicle field production systems; UAS for remote sensing; yield monitoring strategies; precision seeding technologies and management of production agriculture data.

THURSDAY

MARCH 1, 2018

3 P.M.

The Ohio State University

Kottman Hall, Room 102

2021 Coffey Road ٠ Columbus, OH 43210

FREE!

To view seminar online: go.osu.edu/AgDataSem

For more information, contact:

Joy Bauman, Program Coordinator

CFAES Center for Cooperatives

740-289-2071 ext. 111

bauman.67@osu.edu

cooperatives.cfaes.ohio-state.edu

CFAES Center for Cooperatives: Collaboration Creates Greater Impact

Among draft horses, Belgians are reputed to be the strongest and most capable. A single Belgian draft horse can tow 8,000 pounds. More impressive is what two can do together; a team of two draft horses doesn’t just double- but triples pulling power to 24,000 lbs!

Like a team of draft horses, The CFAES Center for Cooperatives combined forces with industry, government and association partners to achieve great things in 2017. Collaboration created greater impact through cooperative education, technical and development assistance for stakeholders and students of cooperatives.

The Center teamed up with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank to share best practices with the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network. Director of Food Resource Development, Mike Frank, led network participants on a tour, describing how the Foodbank has overcome challenges associated with the aggregation, storage and distribution of fresh food. The Network left with practical actions to improve their food hubs’ operational efficiency.

Collaboration between the Center for Cooperatives and the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development provided valuable information to local ag producers looking to diversify or enhance their operations.   A Value-Added Producer Grant informational session with key speakers from the USDA was hosted at the OSU South Centers, offering local producers an opportunity to ask questions and get answers from USDA grant experts.

The Center for Cooperatives worked closely with the Central Appalachia Cooperative Development Group to start Unity Coffee and Teahouse, the first worker-owned cooperative business in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Five Baristas and a coffee roaster created the co-op with a shared vision to foster a commUnity that supports workers, customers and local residents. Unity Coffee and Teahouse opened for business in January 2018.

The Mid-America Cooperative Council (MACC) brought together cooperative developers from across the Midwest to facilitate communication and coordination of co-op educational resources. The Center met with counterparts from Kentucky, Indiana and northeast Ohio at United Producers, Inc. headquarters in Columbus for a two-day roundtable. Developers discussed programming, goals and alignment. The Center identified opportunities to boost educational programming and technical assistance in the region by sharing knowledge and pooling resources.

The Center facilitated cooperative education for visiting scholars in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics over their stay in the United States, including an educational tour of agricultural cooperatives at the Farm Science Review. Scholars visited with representatives from Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, Farm Credit, Heritage Cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America and COBA/Select Sires. The scholars returned to Ukraine motivated to share their newfound knowledge of agricultural cooperatives with students at their respective universities.

The Center connected with local vocational schools and FFA to build students’ awareness of careers in agricultural cooperatives. The Center hosted students at OSU South Centers, visited Ohio Valley Career & Technical Center FFA and served on an Ag Career panel in Ross County.

The Center worked with the Ohio State University CFAES Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics instructors to facilitate an undergraduate class project. Students interviewed cooperative leaders and created multimedia presentations sharing what they learned about the cooperative model.

Collaboration with partners created a great impact in 2017. The CFAES Center for Cooperatives intends to increase our horse power in 2018. We look forward to partnering with the Ohio Farm Bureau to provide cooperative education to the next generation of leaders at the AgriPOWER Institute and the Young Agricultural Professionals Winter Leadership Experience. The Center will forge new relationships with growers, producers and marketers at the annual Ohio Produce Network conference, the Ohio Association of Meat Processors conference, and the 14th Annual West Virginia Small Farm Conference. Together, the Center and partners are resolved to drive forward the cooperative movement in the region and beyond.

*View The Ohio State University South Center’s Connections Newsletter: Winter 2018 Achievements Edition at:

https://southcenters.osu.edu/newsletter/connections-newsletter