CO-OP E-News

Co-op Best Practices

1. Problem/Opportunity

Joint Recognition of a Common Economic Problem or Opportunity
The problem could be the lack of sufficient market outlets for firms in an industry, common recognition of inadequate buying muscle in the purchase of supplies or services or financial pressures that force entities to explore the sharing of equipment, personnel or services.

It is extremely important to identify the real economic problem, and not just the symptoms of a problem. Also, all parties that will be involved should have a uniform understanding of the problem.
2. Value Proposition
The Cooperative Should Be Able to Achieve Economies of Scale
The proposed cooperative should be more efficient in producing the good or performing the service collectively than individuals can. In economic terms, the new organization achieves economies of scale. Economies of scale can arise through sharing utilization of personnel, equipment or other resources, financing or risk management. It can be difficult and risky for a single individual to finance, organize and operate a business, but collectively those tasks may be accomplished very efficiently and effectively.
3. Leadership
Leaders Are the Driving Force in Cooperative Endeavours
It is important to identify effective leaders at an early stage, encourage them and reward them for their efforts, even if merely with a few supportive comments. Leaders are a driving force in cooperative endeavours. They facilitate compromise among participants. They coordinate efforts to overcome barriers. They see worthwhile efforts through to completion. They inspire through bad times and good. Consequently, it is imperative that the cooperative has skilled and committed leadership.
4. Adequate Planning & Financing
Cooperatives Must Prepare Thoroughly
It is essential for cooperatives to prepare thorough plans and secure sufficient financial resources to implement their plans.
News from the Co-op Center

The Wyoming Farmers Market Association, Wyoming Department of Education, Wyoming Business Council, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, and Casper Food Hub worked together last fall to plan and host in Casper a conference to explore forming a state local food coalition. This effort was aided by the shared Vista person those groups hired for 2019. The approximately 90 in attendance decided to explore various options and strengthen their leadership. On a related note, the shared staff position is being extended for a second year and applications are being sought.

Sorry to report that the Wyofresh/Triple Crown Commodities Cooperative board of directors voted to cease operations effective December 31, 2019, meaning the co-op’s online farmers market has gone out of business. The Co-op Center was the driving force behind its formation as a pilot project in 2010 and incorporation in 2012. The plan is to retain the cooperative organizational structure for the time being.

Monthly conference calls are continuing with USDA Rural Development personnel, university extension educators, and co-op development specialists from Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming (dubbed the Tri-State Foods calls) to strengthen awareness of the local food projects and issues in those states.

The Co-op Center is participating in a rural grocery initiative with other cooperative development centers to develop a data base of case studies of rural grocery store successes and challenges. We’re also engaging the Center for Community Ownership in Montana and the Illinois Cooperative Development Center in a series of conference calls to better understand rural grocery store distribution issues.

Scott Zimmerman – Wyoming

The Co-op Center met with the New Mexico Electric Co-op Association to familiarize the association with our cooperative development work and to enlist the association’s support for that work. The association is working on an initiative to bring public transportation to rural communities through a program whereby community-owned co-ops would purchase electric cars to be made available to community members in need of transportation for such things as seeking important medical treatments.

The Co-op Center co-hosted a conference in Taos on cooperative models and their development. The conference was co-hosted by the Taos County Cooperative Extension Service and the Agri-Cultura network based in Taos County.

TableTop Co-op continued to develop its administrative infrastructure, budgets, and job descriptions for the administrative and program managers for its beginning farmer/rancher program. They will be pursuing grant funding for their work. TableTop incorporated as a cooperative with the State of New Mexico last year.

The New Mexico Producer and Livestock Cooperative continues its reorganization by establishing new policies and procedures, transitioning its bank account, and restructuring operations. The Center’s Susann Mikkelson provided board training and helped the group draft the new policies and procedures and look at the co-op’s insurance options.

Susann continued to work with ECO High School in Santa Fe, presenting on cooperatives, arranging a panel of growers and other agricultural professionals to discuss career opportunities in agriculture, and connecting students and faculty with a bee keeper to help them set up a bee colony and hives on campus.

Susann has met twice with staff at Mind, Body and Spirit, a 501(c)(3), to discuss forming a cooperative. She also explored forming co-ops with a group of hemp growers and Native beef producers in northwestern New Mexico.

Susann Mikkelson – New Mexico

The Co-op Center’s Dan Hobbs helped organize and lead the University Colorado, Colorado Springs Grain School, especially the first day on "The Grain Chain Starts with Farming", which included a presentation on "Grain and the Art of Cooperation".

Dan also responded to the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition’s request to assist the Rio Grande Farm Park Cooperative in establishing their value proposition, understanding their role in the broader Coalition, and planning production.

Dan helped the newly formed Colorado Grain Chain and the Southwest Farm Fresh Cooperative with organizational development and planning.

The Co-op Center continued to work with the Mobile Farm Workforce to help relieve the confounding labor shortages facing farmers and ranchers. The MFW is in the middle of 2020 business planning, which includes the possibility of working with the Colorado Department of Corrections on bringing inmates close to parole or discharge into the farm labor workforce.

We’re also working on the conversion of a Subchapter S corporation which provides household pet services in the Glenwood Springs area to a worker-owned cooperative. We’ve shared organizational document drafts with the current and prospective new owners and begun planning the conversion in light of taxation, governance, and other factors.

We’re assisting the Colorado Farmers Market Association with addressing a particularly challenging issue with respect to their group liability insurance program: Their current brokerage, which has helped CFMA for several years, recently informed CFMA that when the brokerage issues a liability insurance policy to a farmers market, all vendors selling in that market will be required to carry their own liability insurance policies. This means that for each market to be covered under the CFMA group liability insurance policy, each of that market’s vendors will need to purchase its own liability insurance policy and submit proof of insurance to the market manager and the brokerage. There are a number of markets, especially in rural areas, that a have a significant number of vendors too small or too infrequently using the market to be able to afford to purchase their own insurance. We’re exploring alternative coverage approaches that may enable markets to hurdle this roadblock.

Dan Hobbs – Colorado and New Mexico

Bill Stevenson -
Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming
Ag Related Resources

Currently, our 2020 camp program is still on, and we have opened our ONLINE CAMP REGISTRATION! However, as stated above, things can change at a moment’s notice. In order to help you register with confidence, we have updated our Registration Guidelines.

Article by Jennifer Luitjens Bahr,  Director of Education Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Cooperative Leadership Camp has combined innovation and tradition in cooperative education, leadership development, and team-building at the YMCA of the Rockies near Estes Park, Colorado.

WHY Co-ops? Co-op values were important to those who founded
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union in 1907. Through the formation of cooperatives, they weathered the Great Depression and other tough times that were yet to come. Farmers Union believes co-ops are important drivers in our economy and everyday lives.

Campers at each session create their own co-op
store and elect a board of directors to run the co-op. Member campers vote on co-op issues and receive a dividend at the end of the camp session, as well as choosing a charity or camp project to receive a contribution from the co-op’s profits.

Games and activities have a cooperative focus, developing teamwork along with building self-esteem and leadership skills.

Use the REGISTRATION # 20023006560 when completing your Colorado Income Taxes. 
Copyright © 2020 Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, All rights reserved.

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