Online Resource “Co-op Mastery” Refreshed and Open for Learning!

An illustration of multicolored connected gears, puzzle pieces, light bulb, and arrow on a light yellow background.

A lot has changed since 2018.

When the CFAES Center for Cooperatives launched the online learning platform Co-op Mastery: Beyond Cooperatives 101 in 2018, our goal was the create a resource for cooperative stakeholders where they could learn about the unique business model through accessible learning materials. We used infographics, videos with co-op experts, recorded presentations, and brief articles. We shared the platform and associated workbook with stakeholders, including people exploring new cooperative ideas.

But in the early part of 2023, we recognized that our team and others in the cooperative community had generated a lot of knowledge and learning resources since 2018. Often, we were referring people to these updated resources, so we launched a refresh of Co-op Mastery to reflect new knowledge and incorporate new learning materials.

Visit Co-op Mastery: Beyond Cooperatives 101 at go.osu.edu/coopmastery.

 

Refreshed Co-op Mastery Highlights

In the refreshed Co-op Mastery, you will find some of the original materials developed for Co-op Mastery, but you will also find references to new knowledge and materials.

You will find links to recent webinars about housing cooperatives, video tours of Ohio cooperatives, and new data about worker cooperatives in the refreshed Cooperatives in the Community page.

Some of these materials come from the 13 recordings of online learning sessions about the cooperative business model that were part of the Center-led Appalachia Cooperates Initiative from 2020-2023. From a webinar about “Selling to Your Workers” in September 2023 to a dive into “Legal Frameworks for Cooperatives in West Virginia” in 2022, and more, the recordings are available to the public at: go.osu.edu/appalachiacooperates.

In Co-op Mastery’s Cooperative Benefits and Principles you can explore a real-world example of the international cooperative principles by watching a webinar featuring leaders of an emerging Ohio cooperative working to grow new farmers.

Learn about the key roles of directors and members through new research from the University Wisconsin’s Cooperative Governance Research Initiative and links to recent resources like the guide Navigating Your Legal Duties: A Guide for Agricultural Cooperative Directors, published by the National Agricultural Law Center in 2021 and co-authored by CFAES Center for Cooperatives Program Director, Hannah Scott.

Explore the legal foundations of cooperatives in the refreshed Cooperative Frameworks section of Co-op Mastery that includes a video interview with a cooperative attorney and links to new resources like a National Agricultural Law Center compilation of state statutes that govern the formation of agricultural cooperatives as of 2022 and a “State-by-State Co-op Law” resource focused on worker cooperatives from the Sustainable Economies Law Center’s Co-opLaw.org.

Our team continues to refresh content related to building a new cooperative, so we encourage you to check back on the growing learning resource!

Marketing Collaborations for Farmers

Marketing is “creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value,” according to the definition adopted by the American Marketing Association. As is clear from the definition, marketing is broad! It encompasses concepts around product, price, place, and promotion.

At the 2023 Farm Science Review (FSR), CFAES Center for Cooperatives program director, Hannah Scott, shared collaborative approaches to marketing that may help fruit and vegetable farmers grow their businesses. From cooperative efforts to reach customers to group buys for marketing supplies, the key question for collaborative approaches is whether a group can do something better together than they can individually.

Colorful pattern of lettuce, tomatoes, eggplants, and carrots on tan background.

Collaborative Promotion

To help reach customers and promote their farms and products, farmers might consider taking advantage of collaborative programs like Ohio Proud, a program of the Ohio Department of Agriculture to promote Ohio grown, raised, or processed food and agriculture products. Other community-led efforts to promote local food, like the Pike County Local Foods Directory, led by Pike County OSU Extension, may be opportunities for farmers to reach new customers and raise awareness.

Interested in Collaborative Promotion Strategies? Here are some things to consider:

  • Are there existing programs your farm could engage simply and efficiently?
  • How can your farm share promotional items from these collaborative programs? Using social media or placing materials around your community?
  • If you help create new materials, who will “own” keeping them updated?

Controlling Costs through Joint Purchasing

Does your farm use marketing supplies that others also often use? Think of items like bags, boxes, cartons, crates, stickers, signage, and more. Sometimes purchasing supplies as a group may help farmers access bulk discounts while reducing the inventory they need to hold themselves. Group buys might also help control shipping costs and reduce administrative burdens.

Interested in Collaborative Purchasing? Here are some things to consider:

  • Will group purchasing save costs on goods and/or shipping?
  • Do the logistics work for the group?
  • Be aware of potential risks and plan for them, including potential risks around payments for goods, the quantity purchased, storage and timing considerations, and more.
  • Ensure that communications around the what, when, where, and how, for group purchases are clear and consistent.

Collaborative Marketing Approaches to Enhance Product Diversity

Sometimes offering a diverse array of products might help a business attract more customers. For example, farmer’s markets often work to recruit a diverse group of vendors so they can offer customers everything from fruits and veggies to meat and proteins, dairy, baked goods, and more. In some instances, business-to-business (B2B) sales, including approaches like multi-farm CSA’s, may help farmers or markets increase their product offerings or extend their marketing season.

Interested in Collaborative Approaches to Enhance Product Diversity? Here are some things to consider:

  • How can you manage for the quality and safety of products you do not produce?
  • Does product diversity actually help sales in the market channel you are in?
  • What strategies might you need to help manage risk and set clear expectations around terms of B2B sales?
  • Does the market channel where you sell products allow for B2B sales? For example, some farmer’s market rules may not allow for sales of items a vendor did not produce themselves.

An illustration of a laptop with retail store awning and paper airplane next to brick buildings to represent online business marketing.

Cooperation to Reach New Market Channels

Some market channels require higher volumes of product more consistently than others – think k-12 institutions or wholesale buyers – and these markets might be challenging for some farmers to enter. Producer-owned cooperatives that market products on behalf of their members may offer opportunities for farmers to pool products to reach higher volumes more consistently. Some farmer’s markets may be producer-led cooperatives (like the Chillicothe Farmers Market in Ross County, Ohio). Cooperatives may be a useful approach where pooling product or resources helps solve a challenge, but they can also be complex.

Interested in the Producer-Owned Cooperative Model? Here are some things to consider:

  • Who will be involved as members and what will be their role?
  • How will the group make decisions?
  • How can the group manage risk?
  • Will working together create the intended benefit? Can that benefit be clearly identified and communicated to members?

Access the slides for the presentation, “Marketing Collaborations to Improve your Farm’s Bottom Line” here!

 

To learn more about cooperative and collaborative approaches in agriculture, reach out to the CFAES Center for Cooperatives at Ohio State at go.osu.edu/cooperatives or 740-289-2071. The publication, “Cooperative Farming: Frameworks for Farming Together” published by Northeast SARE is also a great place to start learning about cooperative and collaborative approaches in agriculture.

Farm Science Review is a three-day, annual outdoor event hosted by Ohio State University featuring commercial exhibits, educational programs, and field demonstrations showcasing the future of agriculture. The presentation was part of 15 different learning sessions at the OSU Extension Fruits & Vegetables exhibit at FSR. The OSU Extension Fruit & Vegetable team posts educational resources and updates at https://u.osu.edu/vegnetnews/

People Make Their Cooperatives Go and Grow: Reflections on a Timeless Idea

Read the foreword by Carolyn Eselgroth

By Hannah Scott and Bradford Sherman
CFAES Center for Cooperatives

“Cooperatives are people in action…”

The idea that it is people who make their cooperative go and grow is a timeless one. It rings as true today as it did 50 years ago when respected Ohio State University Extension Economist Dr. Charles H. Ingraham said so in a speech to the American Institute of Cooperation’s Graduate and Collegiate Seminar.

“Cooperatives are unique – they are people working together to obtain those goals they could not achieve individually,” Dr. Ingraham said. “For a cooperative to ‘go and grow’ members must: need it, want it, understand it, use it, finance it, and work at it.”

Continue reading

Exploring the Ways Cooperatives Support Sustainable Development at the 2023 Appalachia Studies Conference

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.”

Picture of "AppalachiaFest: From Surviving to Thriving" button on green background with black font "Visit Athens County, Ohio."

The theme of the 2023 Appalachian Studies Conference was “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.

In 2020, Hannah Scott explored how sustainability is a part of being a cooperative in this article.

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.

A slide sharing the goals of the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative: Develop practitioners’ awareness and understanding of the cooperative model and of cooperative development resources to better recognize and act on cooperative opportunities in their communities 
Foster relationships among practitioners that will facilitate joint cooperative development activities in Central Appalachia and allow practitioners to better utilize existing resources 
Raise awareness of the cooperative business model as an opportunity for economic development and justice in the region.

The goals of the Center’s Appalachia Cooperates Initiative include developing practitioners’ awareness, fostering relationships, and raising awareness about cooperatives as an economic development opportunity.

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/.

3rd Biennial Ohio Co-op Law Conference a Success

During the month of January, attorneys, co-op developers and co-op minded individuals gathered in Columbus for the 3rd Biennial Ohio Co-op Law Conference. This two day event held a wide variety of co-op law related sessions with topics ranging from employment law and worker co-ops to experts speaking on housing cooperatives with nearly 40 in attendance.

Keynote speaker, Doug O’Brien, President and CEO of NCBA CLUSA, spoke to attendees on ‘Cooperatives for the Modern Era’. Doug touched on the current role that cooperatives have in todays society and how cooperatives could be more relevant in the future with the economy. All which addressing how getting involved can help bring more awareness to cooperatives, whether it be at a state, local or federal level working on policy or working one on one with cooperative groups to bring awareness and education.

On day two, Nathan Schneider, Professor of Media, Communication and Information at University of Colorado Boulder spoke on the future of cooperatives and the 21st century. Nathan discussed how individuals need to be an advocate for cooperatives and to be aware of the gaps that we see in society.

Professor Ariana Levinson, University of Louisville,  spoke on the topic of worker co-ops and employment law discussing the legal structure that can distinguish the worker owners from the employees and breaking down some of the legal structure that is in place for classification. While panelists’ spoke on how the legal community has helped navigate and support the development of cooperatives around the area.

Those in attendance were able to engage with one another throughout the event networking and bringing relative issues to the forefront to be discussed. Coming from across the country, representatives from Texas, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Tennessee gathered together to learn more on defining the cooperative legal structure and how to guide cooperatives with resources.

With plans to meet again in 2025, organizers are already meeting to create another engaging conference. Stay tuned and hope to see you at the next conference!

3rd Biennial Cooperative Law Conference

Have you heard about the 3rd Biennial Cooperative Law Conference? With the last conference being held in 2020 in virtual format, we are happy to come back together and hold this event as an in-person conference packed with great speakers and informative sessions. This two day event will be held on January 24-25, 2023 at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center located on The Ohio State University campus in Columbus, Ohio. The conference focus being “Cooperative for the Modern Era”, participants will hear from leading experts in the cooperative field by attending workshops, panel discussions and keynote sessions discussing the tools that cooperatives need to help in the growth of a resilient, and just of a local economy. Networking time is scheduled throughout the day for individuals to connect with others to create and foster cooperative relationships.

For more information and details and how to register for this event, click here.

Who should attend?

Whether you are based in the legal sector, cooperative sector, or interested in the cooperative business model, this conference will offer informative education for all. Encouraging not only those within the state of Ohio, but those in the region to participate! This experience will show how professionals can spark the movement to empower community based initiatives to be the power to change through cooperatives and social enterprise while building relationships through our network.

Keynote Speaker

Keynote speaker Nathan Schneider will be featured on day two, presenting on the topic “21 century cooperatives: multistakeholder, platform, and DAO cooperatives – what’s new? (future of coops)”. Nathan is an associate professor with the University of Colorado Boulder with his studies in religion, technology and democracy has recently focused on democracy ownership and technology. In 2020, Nathan published, “Exit to Community: A Community Primer“, which focuses on how companies can readjust their business model to offer ownership to those within the company to create a community of stakeholders.

Nathan Schneider

This conference is being organized by attorney Jacqueline Radebaugh and several cooperators. Thank you to the following sponsors and all those involved for making this event happen!

 

 

Hope to see you all in Columbus!

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!