Reactions from the Ohio cooperative community

“Good ideas stand the test of time. How often have you heard a quote from Ben Franklin or read a version of Aesop’s fables to your kids or grandkids? Some concepts are timeless and are as true today as they were when they were first developed. This is certainly true for cooperatives. The concepts developed more than 100 years ago are still the foundation of today’s cooperatives. The attached speech was delivered by Dr. Charles Ingraham, OSU Business Management Extension Specialist, on Aug. 7, 1973, to the American Institute of Cooperation. The messages it conveys were true then, have remained true throughout my lifetime and I am confident they will remain true long after I’ve retired. This is a testament to the fact that, while the services and products offered to cooperative members may have changed over time, the value of banding together to procure those products and services remains essential. Few of us were cooperative members or employees at the time this speech was given so I encourage you to invest the 15 minutes to travel back in time to see how the cooperative world has changed in those 50 years…and how it hasn’t.”

Heather McCann, Chair, Mid America Cooperative Council

“People working together to achieve goals that they have in common are what spawns a cooperative business entity in the beginning. The importance of people is just as strong now as it was 50 years ago and indeed from the very beginning of the modern cooperative movement … Still today, Dr. Ingraham’s observation that members must understand the cooperative for it to “go and grow” and that education is a major key to understanding an abstract business organization like a cooperative is education rings true. Cooperative members must be reminded about how cooperatives are unique and how members can use the cooperative to increase their own net income in the long run. The legacy of cooperative education continues for today’s cooperatives across our region for employees and boards of directors as well as general awareness and understanding of the cooperative difference among the public. We continue to believe in the “duty to Educate” and plan to continue strong emphasis on education and training as we move forward to reach a new generation of students, employees, and members of both today’s and tomorrow’s cooperatives.”

Dr. Tom Worley, Director, CFAES Center for Cooperatives and OSU South Centers

“To say cooperatives have withstood the test of time is an understatement. There are many types of cooperatives that are very successful today and have been for many years. Many facets of today’s business world and society have been discovering the cooperative business model. As Dr. Ingraham noted several years ago the common denominator in these successes is the people. ‘Many businesses tout the reality that people are our most important asset.’ For cooperatives this is not only true but form a critical equation for longevity. The employees who serve the members; the Board who serves the members and leads the cooperative; and, the members who benefit. So, the critical factor for success and growth remains people working for mutual benefit. In today’s global economy and changes too numerous to mention this common denominator does in fact sustain the business.”

Dennis Bolling, Retired Ohio cooperative leader, Member of the Cooperative Hall of Fame

Foreword by Carolyn Eselgroth

By Carolyn Eselgroth
Partner at Barrett, Easterday, Cunningham and Eselgroth LLP & Former student of Dr. Ingraham

“Hi, Scoop!” I recognized the energetic voice on the phone with the Washington County twang, even though it was my first day on the job at The Ohio Farmer magazine. I had recently graduated from The OSU, but that didn’t stop Dr. Charles H. (Chuck) Ingraham, my co-op class professor, from calling and giving me a quiz about the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

Over time I discovered Chuck was in contact with many former students and acquaintances in the cooperative world. His area of expertise was ag marketing and cooperatives, and his extension outreach and teaching seemed to take him everywhere, even several years of work with farmers’ cooperatives in Hawaii after his retirement from Ohio State. Notes on his speeches, which he provided to his students for our “possibly useful file,” gave us some idea of his travels and national prominence.

For more than 30 years, until his death at age 89 in 2013, Chuck continued my co-op education, about their history in Ohio and elsewhere, about boards and governance, about how things work and why they don’t. He helped me decipher the notes in financial audits, showed me how bylaws were sometimes misused to abuse democratic processes, and gave me the context for information found in boxes of public securities filings. The 1980s provided many opportunities for learning!

We continued to talk about co-ops as I transitioned from journalism to law, including the updates to Ohio’s cooperative law. Instead of reporting on co-op trials and tribulations, I was advising co-op clients how to prevent those problems. While I couldn’t share client confidences, Chuck’s “possibly useful files” were indeed useful, and I found myself understanding in new ways the things Chuck had taught in class.
As time passed, our conversations became more reflective. Chuck realized he was teaching the same lessons and dealing with the same problems with each new generation of co-op members, directors, and employees. The basics didn’t change, but they were always new to those who hadn’t heard them before, and encouragement and reminders are needed. His words still ring true today: “Cooperatives are unique – they are people working together to obtain those goals they could not achieve individually. For a cooperative to ‘go and grow’ members must: need it, want it, understand it, use it, finance it, and work at it.” How much he says in so few words!

The time is now, Chuck would admonish, not “someday” when we get around to it. He would urge us to recognize the challenges and educate ourselves and the next generation continually. To remind us, he would hand out bright red, coin-shaped bits of plastic imprinted with the words “A ROUND TUIT”. (Chuck was rarely subtle!)

Yes, time is scarce, but co-op education pays dividends over and over. I hope Chuck’s speech given at the American Institute of Cooperation 50 years ago will inspire you to help your co-op “go and grow”! I am grateful to Hannah and her team at The OSU Center for Cooperatives for making it easier for co-op leaders today to get “a round tuit”!

Cooperatives Help Sustain Communities

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience Day Held at OSU South Centers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives Annual Meeting 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unleash the Potential of Cooperative Management Upcoming Online Workshop

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

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

The CFAES Center for Cooperatives at Ohio State 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 or Beth Rigsby at


The Ohio State University is an equal opportunity employer.

Creating Appalachia Cooperates Initiative’s Online Home!

Developing the cooperative economy in Central Appalachia is no easy task, but the CFAES Center for Cooperatives at Ohio State is working toward that goal with the Appalachia Cooperates Initiative. Shifting to virtual programming throughout the pandemic, the Center has been able to reach more cooperators across the Appalachian Region.

The Appalachia Cooperates Initiative (ACI) is an education and peer-learning network for community, business, and economic development practitioners interested in the cooperative model.

“Whether the model is used in food and agriculture, housing, workplace ownership, or other areas, cooperatives can help community members solve problems and build wealth locally,” said Hannah Scott, Program Manager for the CFAES Center for Cooperatives.

ACI programs develop awareness of the cooperative business model and share resources to help communities recognize and act on cooperative opportunities. Programs have featured guest speakers from Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, a co-founder of a community-owned broadband cooperative, cooperative attorneys, and more.

Under the ACI, the center is also working to develop connections and relationships among cooperative practitioners. “Our ultimate goal is to facilitate joint cooperative development activities in Central Appalachia, allowing practitioners to better utilize existing resources,” Scott said. Creating community-based employment and supporting workplace democracy are some of the areas of focus for ACI.

Recently the Center developed an online page devoted to hosting recordings of ACI learning sessions. Cooperative Development Specialist Ryan Kline stated, “this new webpage is a great place for those looking to make change in the region through cooperation! From topics like the history of Appalachian cooperation to changemakers in rural broadband, our recordings can be instrumental for economic, community and cooperative developers to learn more about co-op development in the region.”

More information about the ACI and past program recordings are available  at .



Co-op Month Podcast Playlist

Headphones October is National Co-op Month in the United States! The annual celebration is an opportunity to lift up the values and impact of the cooperative community. To celebrate this year, our team at the CFAES Center for Cooperatives is sharing resources for learning about the co-op model. This focus is fitting given that Co-op Principle 5: Education, Training and Information highlights the importance of life-long learning across the global co-op community.

The cooperative community’s diversity and innovation create seemingly endless opportunities to learn about how member-owned enterprises are solving problems and “building back better” in their communities.

Whether you’re new to cooperatives or a seasoned co-op developer, you’ll find unique stories about the cooperative business model in the co-op podcast playlist below!

See us at the Small Farm Center Tuesday at the Farm Science Review

September 21 at 10:30 a.m. in the Small Farms Center at the Ohio Farm Science Review. The Small Farms Center is located at the west end of Equipment Avenue.

We will be sharing info about the Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience Online. This is a resource featuring innovative and exciting ag co-op career content that teachers can easily build into classroom learning during the 2021 school year and beyond. The open-access format also allows students to visit the website outside of class to learn from leaders in the agricultural industry.

With funding from the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation, The Hocking County Farm Bureau and Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Center for Cooperatives partnered to create this online experience for high school students to discover and explore careers in agricultural cooperatives.

The virtual program is free and available to all educators and students, but was designed to speak the unique challenges students face in rural Appalachian counties.

If you are at the FSR on Tuesday morning, be sure to stop by to learn about the Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience Online and how it can be a first-step for your school ag program to explore forming a student-led cooperative.

For more information about the Farm Science Review, visit: