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!

CFAES Center for Cooperatives is Hiring a Cooperative Development Program Specialist!  

The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Center for Cooperatives seeks a collaborative, organized, and goal-oriented individual to serve as a cooperative development specialist and to contribute to the applied research, teaching, and Extension functions of the Center.

Learn more about the position and apply online!

 

For questions, please contact Hannah Scott at scott.1220@osu.edu or Beth Rigsby at rigsby.22@osu.edu.

The Ohio State University is an equal opportunity employer.

Two hands holding up a sign that reads, "We are hiring!"

Cooperative Learning Opportunity: Join the Mid America Cooperative Council 2022 Annual Meeting

Cooperatives, like all businesses and organizations, are facing a unique time of change. A 2021 report exploring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on a segment of cooperatives in Ohio highlighted supply chain challenges, changes in governance, and accelerated adoption of digital technologies as some of the impacts of the pandemic. On April 28th, the Mid America Cooperative Council (MACC), in partnership with the CFAES Center for Cooperatives, will host three nationally recognized speakers who will examine current trends in the cooperative community and “ways to implement small practical disciplines to improve your work life,” as part of MACC’s 2022 Annual Meeting.

Meet the Speakers

The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) works to advance the “interests of America’s cooperatives and other farmer-owned enterprises.” President and CEO Chuck Connor has led the organization since 2009. With members across the United States, Mr. Connor will share current trends in the farmer cooperative landscape from a national perspective. Learn more about NCFC here.

Financial planning is an important part of the way cooperatives plan for their future. Dr. Phil Kenkel will share current trends in cooperative equity management at MACC’s upcoming annual meeting. Dr. Kenkel is Regents Professor of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University and an expert in the cooperative business model, having taught courses in agricultural cooperatives, published scholarly works on cooperative finance, risk analysis, strategic planning, and more, and conducted trainings for producer-owned businesses across the globe. Learn more about Dr. Kenkel and his work here.

As businesses and organizations experience the impacts of the “Great Resignation” and think about and craft post-pandemic workplaces, it seems like changes in the workplace are top of mind across the economy. Dr. Theresa Glomb is a professor in the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. Her research, which has included field research in dozens of companies and been published in top psychology and management journals, focuses on worker well-being. Dr. Glomb will present, “Let’s Make Work Better: Evidence Based Practices for Improving Your Work Life,” where she will share “ways to implement small, practical disciplines to improve your work life.” Learn more about Dr. Glomb and her work here.

Register for the Learning Opportunity

The MACC Annual Meeting will take place via Zoom on April 28, 2022 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Eastern. There is no cost to participate, and non-members of MACC are welcome to engage in the learning opportunity. The 2022 MACC Annual Business Meeting will begin at approximately 11:30 a.m. Eastern; only MACC members are eligible to vote during the annual meeting.

Register at go.osu.edu/maccmeeting.

 

What is the Mid America Cooperative Council?

The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Center for Cooperatives at Ohio State provides management services to the Mid America Cooperative Council, a non-profit association of cooperatives, co-op support organizations, and individuals supportive of MACC’s mission to promote, foster, and enhance the values of cooperatives! Learn more at macc.coop.

Small Biz Start Up Workshop

By Joy Bauman

Program Specialist

Melissa Carter and Hannah Scott co-teach a Small Business Start Up workshop in Chillicothe.

Our CFAES Center for Cooperatives Program Manager Hannah Scott, JD, was recently a guest presenter with Melissa Carter, Business Development Specialist for the Business Development Network at the OSU South Centers for a small business start up workshop at the Chillicothe Ross Chamber of Commerce in Chillicothe, OH. The two-hour session ai med to help prospective entrepreneurs better understand business ownership to help them determine if it is right for them.

 

Session topics that were touched on ranged from business feasibility, financing, developing a team of trusted advisors, marketing, and legal considerations. Carter discussed loans and other sources of capital for businesses, advising that “you usually can’t find a grant to start your business.” She explained that government grants funded by tax dollars have strict qualifications and require very stringent compliance and reporting measures.

 

Aspiring entrepreneurs were encouraged to get their business plans out of their heads and put their plans on paper. In addition to providing an organized system for researching your business venture, it provides a road map for you to follow and drastically increases your chances of success. Carter explained the parts of a business plan and how the business development specialists at the OSU South Centers can assist anyone wishing to start a business.

 

Scott discussed legal business formation and the differences between sole proprietorships, general partnerships, corporations, cooperatives, non-profits, and limited liability companies, along with the pros and cons of each business type. She advised attendees to get a tax identification number directly from the IRS online, because it is fast and free; pointing out there are numerous scams to have would-be business owners needlessly pay to file for a tax identification number or file their business with the Secretary of State. If you need help with filing, our business development specialists can assist you.

 

Hannah Scott talking at small business workshop

Center for Cooperatives Program Manager, Hannah Scott, JD, was a speaker for the December Small Business Start Up Workshop.

Scott pointed out differences between employees and independent contractors, noting, “This is not something the employer chooses, it is based on the circumstances of the working relationship.” She went on to explain the tax consequences of each.

 

While record-keeping is probably not any business owner’s favorite part of business ownership, it is an important responsibility. Detailed tracking of customers, sales, and inventory are necessary for tax prep and future planning. In addition to keeping records of business expenses, payroll, inventory, sales, income, travel, credit card sales, permits, licenses, insurance, and tax paperwork, it is also vital to keep a record of key agreements such as leases, job descriptions and duties, employment contracts, purchase orders, etc.

 

Aside from the necessary record-keeping and taxes, Carter and Scott also discussed promotions and advertising, helping participants to think about brand recognition and online presence for their businesses, including websites, online sales, and marketing through social media. Scott emphasized legal considerations with branding and marketing, such as trademarks/service marks, and copyrights, and knowing who owns the materials created by a professional graphic designer or web developer.

 

“Generally, employees who create materials in the scope of their employment do not own those materials. The employer owns them,” Scott said.  “Also, generally, an independent contractor owns the materials they create, unless there is an agreement otherwise.”

 

After asking if the would-be entrepreneurs thought they were ready after learning about the many things to consider when starting a business, Scott identified several sources of professional help for business owners, and Carter explained next steps prior to opening a business, including determining the feasibility of the business, building an advisory team, developing a business plan, securing capital and start-up funds. Fortunately, the Business Development Team at the OSU South Centers in Piketon is available to help guide those considering starting their own business, along with the Center for Cooperatives for any groups interested in exploring starting a cooperative business.

 

Also, watch our calendar of upcoming events for more Small Business Start Up sessions in the future!

 

 

 

MEATing a Need – Resource kit available for those exploring meat processing business

By Joy Bauman

beef carcasses

A team of Ohio State business and meat science specialists have compiled a Meat Processing Business Tool Kit for people who are exploring the meat processing business. Designed as a decision-making aid for people exploring investing in or expanding a meat processing facility, this online tool kit can help entrepreneurs evaluate the business and navigate business planning. The Meat Processing Business Tool Kit is available in the Business section at the OSU South Centers webpage and at the OSU Extension Meat Science webpage.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers saw shortages of meat in large supermarkets caused by disruptions in large packing plant operations. “As a result, consumers started shopping at smaller, local meat shops, that didn’t have shortages of meat,” explained Lynn Knipe, PhD, associate professor of food science and technology at Ohio State who worked with the team to develop the meat processing business tool kit. “This, in turn, increased business for the smaller meat processors to a point that people who were used to taking animals to their local slaughterhouse, had to schedule their animals much farther out than normal,” Knipe said.

Knipe explained that entrepreneurial people who either raised livestock or had some past experience with slaughter or cutting of meat, have decided to consider opening their own meat businesses. Knipe and his colleague, Lyda Garcia, PhD, assistant professor of animal science began receiving more calls than usual, with people finding them either through their Extension Meat Science website or by referral from meat inspection people they had contacted.

Likewise, many of the same people were reaching out for guidance from the business development specialists at OSU South Centers and the specialists at the CFAES Center for Cooperatives, which is also based at the OSU South Centers. While gathering information to assist clients in summer 2020, the Center for Cooperatives team members reached out to OSU Extension meat science specialists Knipe and

Garcia. Soon, a working group was formed with team members from the CFAES Center for Cooperatives, the Small Business Development Center at OSU South Centers, the Extension Meat Science Program, and the OSU Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics.  Together, the group developed and compiled resources to help guide entrepreneurs interested in the meat processing business.

“It only made sense that we work together as Ohio State colleagues to better serve our clientele,” said Garcia. “Instead of individuals contacting one OSU source and getting a bit of information and then needing to contact another OSU source for more information, we can all point them toward this fantastic online resource that will help answer their questions and guide them in the decision-making process,” Garcia explained.

On the webpage housing the tool kit, users will find information to help get started, including understanding the capacity for such a business, maps of federal and state inspection facilities and auction sites, as well as livestock inventory. To aid in decision making regarding business models, there are samples of cooperative and corporate business models, with business planning templates, financial worksheets, and information about funding sources. Contacts are also listed for those using the tool kit and seeking additional assistance with their business planning.

“The materials lead entrepreneurs to investigate critical considerations during the planning process, including collecting livestock data, gathering financial information, financial modeling, and business planning. That means that the tools are adaptable and intended to be changed to the user’s unique circumstance,” said Ryan Kline, Cooperative Program Specialist for the CFAES Center for Cooperatives.

A business plan is helpful as a decision-making tool for entrepreneurs and it becomes a tool they can use when talking to potential lenders, investors, or future key employees. CFAES Center for Cooperatives program manager Hannah Scott explained, “In our experience, entrepreneurs don’t usually look forward to business planning, but many of them are already going through the business planning process mentally as they consider a new business or ways to expand their current operation. We encourage entrepreneurs to write down their plans – and to use tools and coaching that can help them approach the process in a systematic way without being overwhelming – because it can help them identify potential issues and consider topics they might not have before.”

“There is lots of assistance for entrepreneurs going through the business planning process, from templates like the ones in this tool kit to assistance from business development specialists like our team at the CFAES Center for Cooperatives or the OSU South Centers Business Development Network, which houses a multi-county Small Business Development Center (SBDC),” Scott said. The SBDC program is a nationwide network of business development specialists who provide no-cost business consulting for entrepreneurs. Readers can locate their nearest SBDC here.

“We hope that the tool will be intuitive as entrepreneurs move through the planning process,” Kline said. “When visiting the website, people will find a self-guided and self-paced exploration of Meat Processing that we hope will help anyone interested in starting a meat processing facility.”

To find the Meat Processing Business Tool Kit online, visit: southcenters.osu.edu/meat-processing-business-toolkit or meatsci.osu.edu/programs/meat-processing-business-toolkit.

Appalachia Cooperates Tours the Region’s Cooperative Economy

On January 27, the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative (ACI) hosted the “Exploring Appalachia’s Cooperative Economy” webinar. Our center manager, Hannah Scott, and cooperative program specialist Ryan Kline prepared a presentation on the region’s cooperative efforts. Together they explored the co-op model’s foundations, cooperatives as economic development agents, and collaborative efforts in Appalachia today during the webinar. According to the program organizers, the virtual event was a success, with the webinar having almost 100 attendees. That number does not include additional people who registered but could not attend and requested the recorded webinar.

Central Appalachia fosters a network of cooperatives as diverse as the people who call the region home. ACI is a learning network connecting cooperative, community, business, and economic developers and advocates in Central Appalachia interested in expanding cooperative efforts in the region. The CFAES Center for Cooperatives works with cooperators across the region to coordinate speakers and promote regional cooperative development.

Though you may not have been able to participate in the webinar, it is not too late! Because of increased interest, we have recorded the entire webinar for anyone interested in exploring cooperatives throughout Central Appalachia. You can contact the staff for a recording of the whole webinar!

For more information, or to learn more about what our Center offers, email us or check out our website.

Sustainability through Cooperation

While the concept of sustainability can mean different things to different audiences, the cooperative business model builds sustainable practices into the fabric of businesses from agriculture to food cooperatives to credit providers. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) organization include concepts of productivity, environmental stewardship, profitability, and quality of life in the way they think about sustainability. The examples shared here from cooperatives across industries, geographies, and growth stages demonstrate how sustainability is a part of being a co-op.

Environmental Stewardship

In early 2020, Ocean Spray, a farmer-owned cooperative of cranberry growers across the United States, Canada, and Chile, announced that 100% of the cranberries it used in products from juices to snacks to fresh fruit were sustainably grown, according to the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform’s (SAI Platform) Farm Sustainability Assessment. The SAI Platform defines sustainable agriculture as the “efficient production of safe, high- quality agricultural products in a way that protects and improves the natural environment, the social and economic conditions of farmers and their communities, and safeguards the health and welfare of all farmed species.”

Practices like water efficiency technologies, nutrient management practices, and more help ensure that cranberry production enhances the quality of natural resources. Ocean Spray shared that, on average, every acre of cranberry bog conserves 5.5 acres of natural lands for native plants and wildlife.

Concern for Community

Social aspects of sustainability focus on promoting resilience and well-being for individuals and communities. The National Council of Farm Cooperatives (NCFC) adopted an approach to sustainability that includes community well-being, including “conducting our businesses responsibly, maintaining safe, healthy and respectful workplaces for our employees, and fostering vibrant rural communities.” Co-op regulars will recognize in these concepts one of the principles of the cooperative model – concern for community. The concept of community engagement is an internationally recognized and celebrated principle of the cooperative model. Not only are co-ops rooted in community through their member-owned structure, but they also support their communities in ways that are as diverse as the co-op community across the U.S. For example, in Ohio, three cooperatives founded Fueling the Cure, an effort to promote cancer research and prevention. By donating $1 for every delivery stop of bulk propane purchased through their cooperatives, the group has now donated over $1.5 million to help find a cure for cancer.

Economic Viability

For an enterprise to be sustainable, it must be economically viable over the long term. Cooperatives are no exception. But cooperatives also have characteristics that ensure that their economic viability spreads beyond the co-op itself to its member-owners. One of the hallmarks of the cooperative business model is that member-owners share in the benefits of the business, including the profits or surplus. Cooperatives share profits based on member-owners’ use of the business rather than their investment in the enterprise. This is known as patronage. Patronage refunds that are returned to member-owners can be reinvested in their farms, businesses, or homes. For example, in early 2020, Farm Credit Mid-America, a lender in the Farm Credit system serving Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee, announced that it would return $186 million in patronage to customer-members. In 2019, the co-op returned $146 million to customer members.

Watch “Cooperating for Sustainable Development”

In November 2020, the CFAES Center for Cooperatives teamed up with the OSU School of Environment and Natural Resources Environmental Professionals Network and the OSU Sustainability Institute to host “Cooperating for Sustainable Development.” The webinar was a conversation with Dr. Kip Curtis and founding members of the Richland Gro-Op cooperative (RGO), Matthew Stanfield, and Walt Bonham. RGO is a marketing co-op supporting new growers in Richland County, Ohio, in their goals to grow new farmers and build a more sustainable and just food system in their community. The CFAES Center for Cooperatives team has supported the development of RGO since 2018. You can view the video of the conversation below with introductory comments from special guests Dr. Ryan Schmiesing, Vice Provost for Outreach and Engagement at The Ohio State University, Dr. Cathann Kress, Vice President for Agricultural Administration and Dean of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, and Doug O’Brien, President, and CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International.

Cooperatives interested in developing a comprehensive sustainability program, or refreshing an existing program, can use the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives’ Field Guild for Farmer Cooperative Sustainability Programs for guidance.

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.

Kline joins the Center for Cooperative Team

 

Ryan Kline will be the new Cooperative Development Specialist for the CFAES Center for Cooperatives.  Kline will be collaborating with staff at OSU South Centers, Ohio State University Extension, West Virginia University Extension Services, USDA Rural Development, and other rural economic development organizations to create and deploy programming to support the mission, goals, and priorities of the Center. Kline’s previous experience working with county extension offices, private foundations, and museums, helped him to develop a passion for collaboration, youth, and economic development, and forming new programs to educate leaders in agriculture. Ryan is excited to join a dynamic team that strives for the development and support of cooperatives across the region.

Kline has been active in agriculture, including 4-H and FFA his entire life. Born and raised on a fifth-generation family farm in Ross County, Ohio, and Appalachian agriculture deeply impacted his personal and professional life. In college, his passion for agriculture and history joined. In the Spring of 2020, Kline received his Master’s degree in History at Auburn University, focusing on the history of Agriculture and Labor.  He also received his BA in History at Ohio University.

You can reach Ryan at kline.375@osu.edu or at 740.289.2071.

 

Foodpreneur Coaching: Crafting a Blueprint to Grow Your Food and Farm Business

The CFAES Center for Cooperatives is working to help businesses keep things moving forward in these difficult times. Marketing is a key aspect to maintaining or growing any business, including food and farm businesses.

The CFAES Center for Cooperatives, OSU Extension Direct Food & Agricultural Marketing Team, and Ohio Farm Bureau in Ross, Hocking, Fairfield, and Pickaway counties are hosting a virtual interactive experience for small and medium food entrepreneurs who are eager to grow their businesses. Foodpreneur School Coaching will give attendees an opportunity to engage with experts in marketing and promoting their local food and farm products, and more, to help them learn strategies to meet their growth goals. This educational opportunity will cover marketing locally raised meat, increasing produce sales, and promoting local food and farm retail products.

Foodpreneur School Coaching will be offered over a three-week span, in three sessions, and will focus on ways to grow food and farm businesses. Entrepreneurs can attend one session that best fits their needs or all three sessions. Each live Foodpreneur Business Coaching virtual session will offer small group coaching from industry and university experts.

The first session, Marketing Local Meat, will be offered on Tuesday, September 15th.  This LIVE Foodpreneur Business Coaching virtual session is for farmers and ranchers seeking to increase local and regional meat sales or explore new market channels for farm-raised proteins and local meat products.

Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative, a southwest Ohio co-op that markets member-farmers’ beef to retailers and consumers, will share results from a recent research project to assess multiple marketing channels to grow sales. Co-op members will share their experiences marketing local meat throughout the region. Additionally, Dr. Lyda Garcia, Animal Science professor at The Ohio State University, will be available to offer insights and answer participant questions.  Garcia specializes in meat science and manages the OSU Meat Lab.  Through her background in meat industry internships, livestock production, training and research in graduate school, and many other meat related experiences, she seeks to bring product value to the meat industry, producers, and consumers.

The second session, Increase Produce Sales, will be offered on Tuesday, September 22nd.  This session will offer insights and best practices for produce growers looking to increase produce sales or explore new market channels such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), farmers markets, farm stands, or specialty stores.

Brad Bergefurd, Ohio State University Extension Horticulture Specialist, and owner of Bergefurd’s Farm Market, will share his expertise built over 30 years of experience in produce education, production, and marketing.  Bergefurd’s education and research at OSU has focused on a variety of produce crops, including strawberries, pumpkins, hops, pawpaws, and more, in addition to research and education on marketing innovations like produce auctions.  Bergefurd’s Farm has specialized in growing a variety of produce that is sold through CSA’s, farmers markets, and an agritourism operation.  In the planning of this session Bergefurd stated that, “Produce farmers have many channels of marketing opportunities available today more than ever. Marketing is less expensive, and online options now allow farmers to reach customers in areas they never were able to reach before these marketing channels became available.  It’s all in how you market yourself, so it’s important to get it right”, said Bergefurd.

The third session, Promoting your Local Food, will be offered on Tuesday, September 29th.In this session, educators and industry experts, will discuss how farm and food producers making products such as cheese, salsa, honey, baked goods, and body items, can expand a farm’s offerings  or serve as a standalone business. During the live Foodpreneur Business Coaching session attendees will learn how to expand their sales and build their brand.

A large part of growing any business is effective marketing to keep customers engaged. Christie Welch, Ohio State University Extension Direct Food and Agricultural Marketing Specialist, and owner/operator of Welch Farms LLC, explains that marketing is key to keeping customers engaged with your business, especially in the current environment of the pandemic. Welch shared that, “Customers are craving experiences and seeking the locally produced foods they have come to love.  Because of the rapid changes in how business is conducted while maintaining social distancing, communicating with your customers is more important now than ever.  They want to know what you are doing to keep them safe while still purchasing the local foods they love. Sharing this information in a manner that reflects your brand is key.”

Christie Welch is the owner/operator of Welch Farms, LLC, a third-generation family farm in southern Ohio.  Christie has been involved in the operation since 1992 and during that time, the farm has diversified.  The farm, which began as a dairy operation, has diversified over the years and currently focuses on u-pick plasticulture strawberries.  The farm also sold at several farmers’ markets and Christie served on the board of the Chillicothe Farmers Market Association for seven years.  Direct marketing to consumers is vital to Welch Farms and provides many opportunities to share experiences with other local food producers.

Foodpreneur School Coaching sessions will all be held online and will be offered over a span of three weeks with each session held on a Tuesday evening.  The cost to attend the Foodpreneur School Coaching is $20 per session for Farm Bureau members, and $25 per session for non-Farm Bureau members. There is a separate registration for each session.  We encourage early registration; each session will have a limited number of seats available. To learn more, go to https://cooperatives.cfaes.ohio-state.edu/events or to register for the Foodpreneur School Coaching you can go to go.osu.edu/foodschool2020.  For additional information you may contact Charissa Gardner at gardner.1148@osu.edu.