Local. It’s one of the hottest trends in recent years. But that trend was set in communities across rural America nearly 100 years ago when the first local cooperatives opened their doors to provide the services, products and markets local farmers and ranchers needed to thrive.
Farmers build cooperatives to enhance market presence and power.
Join the Ag Action Network for cooperative development meetings:
- Moorefield, WV, June 25, 2018, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Email to register: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Martinsburg, WV, June 26, 2018, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Email to register: email@example.com
The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Center for Cooperatives launched Co-op Mastery: Beyond Cooperatives 101, a new and innovative online training course designed to educate cooperative members, boards, management, employees, and students.
Co-op Mastery: Beyond Cooperatives 101 is made possible by a grant from the CHS Foundation 2017 Cooperative Education Grants Program. The training is housed in The Ohio State University’s public-facing online education platform. It is free and can be accessed online at go.osu.edu/coopmastery.
“Co-op Mastery curriculum focuses on mid-level knowledge about the cooperative business model,” said Center for Cooperatives Program Manager, Hannah Scott. “Training modules build on existing fundamental materials by providing an in-depth look at governance, finance, taxation and other areas not typically covered by courses in fundamentals, yet challenging topics for stakeholders.”
The training features eight modules which include video interviews with numerous leaders in the cooperative movement:
- Logan County Electric Cooperative General Manager Rick Petty discusses cooperative principles and various functions of cooperatives.
- Dennis Bolling retired President and CEO of United Producers Cooperative shares the benefits cooperatives provide members.
- Mid-America Cooperative Counsel Executive Director Rod Kelsay discusses effective education and training the Board of Directors.
- Ohio State Univerisity Extension Educator Dr. Chris Bruynis gives insight to key factors that contribute to a cooperative’s success.
- Nationwide’s VP of Sponsor Relations Devin Fuhrman shares the story of Nationwide’s history as a mutual cooperative company.
- Agricultural attorney Carolyn Eselgroth of Barrett, Easterday, Cunningham and Eselgroth, LLP addresses legal considerations when forming a cooperative business.
- Co-Bank Senior Relationship Manager Gary Weidenborner leads users through an interactive financial document exercise.
- David Hahn, Professor Emeritus the Ohio State University, explains cooperative taxation.
“We invite folks to ask questions and receive answers from our Center staff in the online Co-op Forum,” said Joy Bauman, Program Coordinator. “They can also browse an extensive collection of online resources in the Cooperative Library.”
The CFAES Center for Cooperatives offers customized in-person workshops to complement the online training. Workshops are designed to serve the requesting cooperative’s needs. Examples include: new employee education, board of director education, strategic plan development, cooperative marketing and policy development. Workshop participants receive a companion workbook with activities to fortify learning. They gain on-going access to Co-op Mastery online training materials, which they may work through at their own pace or search for specific information to meet immediate needs. Users can return to the Co-op Mastery online materials at any time to troubleshoot cooperative issues and they can receive ongoing technical assistance from CFAES Center for Cooperatives staff. To request a workshop or more information, visit go.osu.edu/cooperatives or contact the Center for Cooperatives at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-289-2071 ext. 111.
The Center for Cooperatives Guides National Farm to Cafeteria Tours
The 2018 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference brought together educators, dieticians, foodservice staff, farmers and local food advocates from across the country in Cincinnati, Ohio in late April. Attendees discussed how Farm to School initiatives enrich their communities, strengthen the food system and boost local economies. Conference sessions shared best practices to boost local food consumption in the cafeteria and provide agriculture, food, health and nutrition education to students.
The conference featured field trips to several Ohio food and farm destinations. The CFAES Center for Cooperatives guided tours “From Garden to Food Hub” and “The Science of Local Food” at the Ohio State University South Centers.
On the conference’s final morning, twenty conference attendees boarded the bus for a 2-hour scenic trip from the conference center in Cincinnati to OSU South Centers in Piketon. They participated in the award winning food-science program “The Story of the Strawberry.” The program is a partnership between OSU Extension Pike County, OSU Horticulture and OSU Food, Nutrition and Wellness.
Attendees learned about plasticulture strawberry production and OSU researchers’ efforts to extend the Ohio harvest season from a historical 3-week strawberry harvest to a 3-month harvest window. Attendees also gained disease prevention insights from current berry nutritional research. Hands-on activities included taste tests and strawberry DNA extraction.
Next, the group got on a hay wagon for a tour of South Center’s research plots. They visited the hops yard, grape vineyard and aquaculture ponds. Attendees learned about services provided to new businesses in South Center’s unique business incubator, the 27,000-square foot Endeavor Center. The Business Team shared how they help entrepreneurs, including agricultural producers and food manufacturers, start and grow businesses in southern Ohio.
CFAES Center for Cooperatives Program Manager Hannah Scott greeted twenty-five conference goers on a sunny afternoon outside of the Duke Energy Convention Center for a tour focused on local food aggregation and distribution. Attendees visited the facilities of Our Harvest Cooperative and Ohio Valley Food Connection located in The Incubator, a commercial kitchen and food aggregation incubator in northern Kentucky, to learn about the collaboration between the two southwest Ohio food hubs to move more local food to institutions. The field trip also took attendees to Fox Tail Farm in New Richmond, Ohio, a small produce farm marketing produce like carrots and greens through a hub. Participants learned about the farm’s production techniques and the advantages the farm experiences marketing through a hub.
The unique challenges of moving locally produced food from farms to restaurants, cafeterias, and retailers have been a focus of the Center for Cooperatives since 2014 through the Ohio & West Virginia Food Hub Network and technical assistance work with food hubs. According to a recently released study from Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems and Wallace Center at Winrock International, approximately 31% of U.S. food hubs marketed products to k-12 schools in 2017. Despite challenges, food hubs can help producers access larger markets than they may be able to working on their own. In 2017, approximately 18% of food hubs in the U.S. were cooperatively owned.
Article originally published in the Spring 2018 edition of The Ohio State University South Centers Connections newsletter. The full newsletter is available at: https://southcenters.osu.edu/newsletter/connections-newsletter
Farm fresh food benefits not only students but the farmers that grow it for students. Scaling-up to sell to schools presents challenges, but farmers have achieved success through cooperation, collaborative relationships with buyers and year-round purchasing programs.
Farmers benefit from Farm to School
Institutions are a dependable market that provides farmers with timely and reliable payments. Clarity of a cafeteria’s needs allows farmers to plan production and delivery in advance. Schools streamline procurement, delivery and invoicing processes so farmers can focus their energy on producing high-quality food to nourish students.
Selling to schools is good for the local economy. Schools purchased $790 million of local food in 2013-2014. 42,587 Schools across the United States participated in Farm to School activities according to the USDA Farm to School Census. ¹ Case studies of public schools in Minnesota and Georgia found $82 of every $100 spent stayed in the local economy. ²
Some schools incorporate agriculture and nutrition education into Farm to School programming. Farmers that are passionate about inspiring the next generation of healthy eaters may have an opportunity to partner with educators to teach youth about what it takes to get food from the farm to the cafeteria.
Challenges selling to schools
Schools purchase a large volume of product. Small operations often struggle to produce a volume sufficient for foodservice needs. Cooperative marketing is a solution. An agricultural cooperative can aggregate multiple farms products to achieve intuitional volumes. A co-op offers farmer-members other benefits such as group food safety certifications, shared distribution and reduced costs on supplies. The Preston Growers Cooperative formed in response to the West Virginia Farm to School initiative. Working together, farmers achieve institutional volumes, maintain quality and offer a wider selection of products to local schools.
Farmers receive lower prices from institutional sales than other direct marketing channels. School buyers have tight budget constraints when making food purchasing decisions. The average school lunch cost $2.90 to prepare, only $1.07 of the total cost is allocated to food. The remaining $1.83 goes to labor, preparation and indirect costs. ³ Marketing Michigan Products: A Step-by-Step Guide from Michigan Farm to School is a free online resource that helps farmers prepare bid documents, price their products and negotiate contract agreements.
The school cafeteria is vacant during much of peak fruit and vegetable season. Minimal processing, such as freezing fresh food for future use, can be a solution. Cafeteria staff may process the food in the school cafeteria or coordinate with a food hub or co-packer to process the food in an approved facility. The Ohio Department of Education’s Summer Food Service Program provides a consistent market for farmers by purchasing food when school is not in session. Meals are served to youth enrolled in summer education programs at local YMCAs, libraries and other partner organizations.
Farmers that have successfully sold to schools suggest developing working relationships with school dieticians, buyers and food service staff. Farmers should clarify vendor requirements, volume, packaging, delivery, insurance, payment terms and necessary food safety certifications prior to making the first delivery. Regular communication throughout the school year is vital to success.
For more information on Farm to School in Ohio visit http://farmtoschool.osu.edu/.
To learn about the Ohio State University Dining Service’s goal to purchase 40% local and sustainable Food by 2025 visit https://dining.osu.edu/sustainability/local-and-sustainable-food/.
- “Farm to School Census.” 2015. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Nutrition Service.
- Christensen, L., Jablonski, B., Stephens, L. & Joshi, A. “Economic Impacts of Farm to School: Case Studies and Assessment Tools.” Sept 2017. National Farm to School Network. Retrieved April 27, 2018 from http://www.farmtoschool.org/Resources/EconomicImpactReport.pdf.
- “School Lunch and Breakfast Cost Study-II.” 2006. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Nutrition Service.
*Originally published in Farm and Dairy newspaper 5/4/2018
Low salaries, high turnover and lack of employee engagement are prevalent in food service. Eight food entrepreneurs had a solution; they would create a restaurant that empowered employees through ownership. In 1985 they opened Casa Nueva, the first worker-owned cooperative restaurant in Ohio, in the heart of downtown Athens.
In 1987 Casa Nueva worked with the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) to develop and market a product line of salsas and other value-added goods. The restaurant added a cantina in 1993, and a second kitchen in 2003.
Worker ownership in practice
Casa Nueva carries out daily operations with the help of worker-owners and non-owners (associates). 1/3 of staff are worker-owners, 2/3 are associates. Associates have an opportunity to apply for ownership after working 1000 hours in the restaurant, serving on special committees and earning positive performance evaluations. The co-op board of directors vote to approve or disapprove the associate’s application for ownership. All new owners contribute equity. The cost is offset by a raise that goes into effect when an associate becomes a member of the cooperative. Other benefits of membership include: voting rights, paid time-off, insurance and scheduling preference.
For over 30 years Casa has provided worker-owners with meaningful work, sustainable jobs and opportunities for advancement. Fresh ingredients, Mexican-inspired flavors, culture, music and art delight locals and students of Ohio University, the city’s main economic driver.
Founder Leslie Schaller shares Casa Nueva’s Story
Did you know that the average gross revenue of a food hub in 2017 was $2.4 million? Or that the most common types of customers for food hubs are restaurants and direct consumers? Or that the average number of vendor selling to a food hub was 55 in 2013?
“Findings of the 2017 National Food Hub Survey,” published in March 2018, details these and many more findings from a comprehensive review of the maturing food hub sector in the United States. The report reviews many aspects of a food hub business from finances to food safety, giving food hub stakeholders access to information that can help inform their decisions, based on a national survey of existing food hubs. You can learn more about the study’s results in a webinar hosted by the National Good Food Network at 3:30pm EST on Thursday, April 19, 2018.
“Counting Values: Food Hub Financial Benchmarking Study,” released in 2014 by the Wallace Center at Winrock International, Farm Credit East, and other partners, details financial and operational characteristics for food hubs in a way that can serve as performance indicators for other businesses in the sector.
Food hub stakeholders have an opportunity now to contribute to an update of research like this through the 2018 Food Hub Benchmarking Study. The study, according to the Wallace Center at Winrock International will collect financial and operational data from food hub businesses, standardizing and aggregating the data to develop sector insights and performance indicators. Hubs that participate in the study will receive and individualized benchmark report and technical assistance on using the report as a business tool. Learn more about how to participate in the study here.
Farmers are gearing up for a busy growing season. Planting, hauling, caring for livestock, harvesting, marketing and distributing farm products — are you wondering how you’ll manage the workload? Seasonal help can boost your farm’s productivity and profitability, but good help can be hard to find.
Farm labor challenges
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population in Ohio was stagnant from 2010 to 2017, increasing only 1.1 percent. Rural counties, especially Ohio’s Appalachian counties, suffered declines, resulting in a smaller pool of potential applicants seeking farm work. ¹
Farmers depend on skilled workers to carry out critical tasks. Finding employees proficient in handling livestock, operating equipment and managing production can be a challenge. However, delegating critical tasks to inexperienced employees raises safety concerns. On my farm, I am reluctant to let inexperienced workers operate equipment or stand on moving hay wagons. Workers not used to laborious tasks often overestimate their physical capabilities and underestimate the importance of hydration. I have found that such workers slow the process down instead of speeding it up.
Offering a competitive wage while maintaining farm profitability is a challenge for farmers, especially when competing with the non-farm market for skilled employees. Without additional compensation, some workers find an air-conditioned office more appealing than working outdoors under the hot summer sun.
How to find and hire seasonal help
Assess labor needs. Make a list of tasks the new employee(s) will accomplish. Estimate the amount of time each task will take an average employee. Keep in mind inexperienced workers will likely take longer to accomplish a task than those with experience.
Identify desired skills and knowledge. What skills and knowledge will the ideal candidate bring to the farm? List skills and knowledge employees must have from day one, and skills and knowledge you are willing to train.
What new skills and knowledge can an employee contribute? The owner of an agritourism operation was delighted when her generation Z employees took her farm’s social media to the next level, “Staff posted pictures and videos that got a lot of likes and shares. They taught me how to boost posts and create online ads for my business.”
Develop a labor budget. Review your seasonal projections and cash flow estimates to determine what you can afford to spend on labor. If you come up short, keep in mind that money is a motivator but applicants also seek opportunities to learn and advance. Food and lodging are other benefits that farmers use to supplement wages.
The Ohio State University Extension Farm Office website offers farm management tools to create labor budgets. View Ohio Custom Rates for labor and contract services. The United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) publishes wage rates for farm labor in multiple regions.
Write a job description. After you have assessed your labor needs, identified desired skills and knowledge, and developed a labor budget, you are ready to write a job description. Purdue University offers job description templates for various farm positions.
Advertise the job. Strategic advertising will attract qualified applicants to the position. Instead of blasting the ad everywhere, place the ad on relevant platforms where it is likely to be seen by your ideal candidates. This will save you time and money. Farm and Dairy classifieds is a great place to start. Farm and Dairy’s help wanted ads reach applicants seeking jobs in agriculture. Your ad dollars stretch twice as far, appearing in-print and online.
Advertising jobs on social media is a low-cost and effective way to reach applicants. Facebook job posts and social media promotions allow employers to target potential applicants by location, specify the length of time they wish to run an ad, and set an advertising budget. Promoted posts on Facebook cost as little as $2.50 a day and reach hundreds of potential job applicants in the local area.
Farm internships give students an opportunity to learn new things and develop skills. Farmers benefit from student workers that are eager to learn. Contact the local Ag college’s career development office to explore hosting interns on your farm.
Apprentice programs match willing workers with willing teachers. The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) offers an apprentice matching program. Learn how you can share your knowledge with a farm apprentice.
Word-of-mouth advertising travels far in a rural community. Post the job on community boards and publish it in local newsletters. Contact your county’s OSU Extension Office, Farm Bureau chapter and Ag teachers. These organizations and individuals know the local Ag scene and can help spread the word in your community.
“Population Percent Change April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2017.” Quickfacts. United States Census Bureau. www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/OH/PST120217
Article was originally published in Farm Forward, Farm & Dairy Newspaper, https://www.farmanddairy.com/top-stories/find-and-hire-seasonal-help-for-your-farm/479544.html
Meet us in the foothills of Appalachia for this local foods event!
- Local food breakfast buffet
- Appalachian grown proteins, produce, dairy, and value-added goods on display
- Producer and distributor educational panels
- Food business resources
- Networking opportunities
Date: Friday, April 13, 2018
Time: 8 a.m. to noon
Location: OSU South Centers, Endeavor Center, 1864 Shyville Road, Piketon, Ohio 45661
Cost: FREE (those attending must register)
Registration: Contact Charissa Gardner at 740.289.2071, ext.132 or email@example.com
Deadline to Register is April 6th