The 46th Annual Appalachian Studies Conference, hosted on the Athens, Ohio, campus of Ohio University in the heart of the Buckeye state’s Appalachian region, celebrated the region’s resilience. From scholarly presentations to practitioner panels, arts performances, poster presentations, and more, the conference explored issues like diversity, equity, and inclusion, environmental challenges and reclamation, combating food deserts, honoring and sharing the region’s history, traditions, and culture, and much more via the theme “AppalachiaFest: From Surviving the Thriving.”
Hannah Scott, CFAES Center for Cooperatives Program Director, joined a panel with colleagues from Pennsylvania and Kentucky around the theme, “Cooperatives and Sustainable Development in Appalachia.”
Dr. J. Todd Nesbitt, Professor of Geography at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania studies economic geography, including the history of economic development in Appalachia. Defining sustainable development simply as “growth that must be accomplished with respect for nature and humankind,” Dr. Nesbitt posited that “most cooperative enterprises achieve sustainable development by default,” through their commitment to globally recognized principles including democratic member control and concern for community, as well as values of self-help, democracy, and equity.
From farmers marketing their products to consumers accessing new or affordable goods and services to workers democratically owning their workplace, Hannah Scott shared how the cooperative model is being applied across Appalachia and how the CFAES Center for Cooperatives’ Appalachia Cooperates Initiative (ACI) is working to support a cooperative ecosystem in the region. ACI is a peer learning network. The main idea is to connect cooperative, community, business, and economic developers and advocates in Central Appalachia. By helping build these connections and providing learning opportunities, the CFAES Center for Cooperatives’ goals are to build awareness and understanding of the co-op model, equip practitioners with knowledge and skills, and facilitate a connected network of co-op and community developers. ACI was born out of a collaborative dialogue between partners in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
The Center regularly hosts peer networking calls and learning sessions as part of the ACI. Find learning session recordings and sign-up to receive emails about the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative at: go.osu.edu/appalachiacooperates.
Myrisa Christy, Project & Development Specialist with the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD) shared how KCARD’s team, along with partners like Kentucky Farm Bureau and others, were part of an effort to activate networks of cooperative farm supply stores to support post-tornado recovery in 2022. With financial support from community partners, cooperatively owned farm supply stores were able to pivot to help community members procure needed supplies like fencing and small equipment to recover from devastating tornadoes in the state. Christy also shared multiple examples of cooperative or cooperative-like efforts to respond to community needs in Appalachia, highlighting that cooperatives are focused on serving members’ needs in a way that builds equity and provides members with control over the enterprise, but recognizing that there are various barriers to cooperative development in the Appalachian region.
For more information about the Appalachia Studies Association (ASA), visit: https://www.appalachianstudies.org/.