CO-OP E-News

The United Nations International Day of Cooperatives is celebrated annually on the first Saturday of July. The aim of this celebration is to increase awareness of cooperatives, highlight the complementary goals and objectives of the United Nations and the international cooperative movement, underscore the contributions of the movement to the resolution of the major problems addressed by the United Nations and strengthen and extend partnerships between the international cooperative movement and other actors. In 1992, following a concerted lobbying effort by the cooperative members of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) and the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) members, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the first Saturday of July 1995 to be International Day of Cooperatives, marking the centenary of the establishment of the ICA, by resolution 47/90 of 16 December 1992. Indeed, since 1995, the ICA and the United Nations have been setting the theme for the celebration of the International Day through COPAC, a multi-stakeholder partnership of global public and private institutions that champions and supports people-centered and self-sustaining cooperative enterprises as leaders in sustainable development.

At least 12% of people on earth is a cooperator in any of the 3 million cooperatives on earth. Cooperatives provide work opportunities to 10% of the employed population, and the three hundred top cooperatives or cooperative groups generate 2.1 trillion USD in revenues while providing the services and infrastructure society needs to thrive (GLOBAL 300).

To learn more visit International Co-operative Alliance
Source: International Co-operative Alliance
Our Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Co-op Center has partnered with UpRoot Colorado and Veterans to Farmers to implement the following mobile farm workforce project. Most produce growers will tell you one of their main constraints is labor. We are hoping this effort will lead to a worker-owned labor and ag services cooperative, one of a number of ground-breaking solutions for our regional food system.
DENVER, Colorado, April 22, 2019—Nationwide, there are two jobs available in agriculture for every job seeker. Farmers and ranchers in the Rocky Mountain West haven’t escaped the problem of securing reliable, efficient labor, and the current lack of available labor especially affects smallholder and family farms and ranches.

However, a creative solution is in the works in Colorado to help farmers and ranchers with tasks that run the gamut from fence-mending to pruning to harvesting to even setting and pulling irrigation pipe.

In 2018, two mobile farm workforce pilot projects along the northern Front Range and in southwest Colorado showed enough promise that Rocky Mountain Farmers Union has announced a commitment of $4000 to each project for 2019. Last year, the pilot along the northern Front Range, coordinated by UpRoot Colorado, involved 15 mobile farm workers setting foot on 10 different farms and ranches across four counties in nine weeks, from September till early November. They harvested ~200,000 pounds of crops for participating farmers and ranchers. Three members of the workforce were military veterans who found that farming resides at the intersection of an honest day’s work and the healing and spiritual benefits of stepping onto the land.

The southwest Colorado project sponsored by The Good Food Collective worked with two distinct cohorts. The first involved providing skills, training and job experience for five young professionals eager to engage in community organizing and/or food systems work. This team provided an invaluable service to the area's recently revitalized orchard industry, harvesting over 112,000 pounds of fruit for area cideries and juice manufacturers while receiving much-needed project management experience and 21st-century skills development to support the team’s future professional endeavors. The second cohort featured students from Fort Lewis College in Durango providing farm labor as part of a co-curricular, paid learning and professional development experience. The land has a special place in the culture and curriculum of the college, whose students include, among others, individuals from 170 Native American tribes and Native Alaskan villages.

The vision for the pilot projects is to evolve them into worker-owned farm labor cooperatives in the near future—a great way to bring the benefits and responsibilities of business ownership to workers who likely have not owned and managed their own businesses while addressing the labor gaps currently existing on farms and ranches in the Rocky Mountain West.

Part of RMFU’s work with the pilots this year will be to assist them in raising additional funds.

About Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is an advocate for family farmers and ranchers, local communities, and consumers. We are a progressive grassroots organization whose members determine our priorities. Founded in 1907, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union represent farm and ranch families in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Working together with similar state chapters across America, we are the heart and soul of the National Farmers Union.

About UpRoot Colorado
UpRoot Colorado was established in October 2017 and works to measurably reduce on-farm surplus agriculture in Colorado, support the economic stability of farmers, and increase the nutritional security of our state’s residents.

About The Good Food Collective
The Good Food Collective was established in October 2017 to reinstate an intact regional food system in southwestern Colorado that would drive local economic vitality, create workforce opportunities, promote environmental stewardship and provide equitable access to healthy, local food. The GFC operates three different initiatives throughout La Plata, Montezuma, and Archuleta Counties: Food Security & Health Equity, Regional Convening & Coordination, and Agricultural Support.

The RMFU Co-op Development Center team (Dan, Susann, Scott, Sandra, and Bill) recently submitted two grant applications to the USDA for work late in 2019 and through 2020.

Our Rural Cooperative Development Gant submission featured a work plan proposal with five key task areas:

1. Cooperative Rural Work Force Solutions
Access to qualified farm labor is a growing challenge for many producers in our territory and we plan to continue work on developing cooperatives to play a significant role in helping to solve this problem as well as in creating opportunities for veterans and others to work.

2. Establishing and Scaling-Up Value Chains
These projects include one or more functions to add value to locally produced meats, grains, vegetables, and fruits, and increase job opportunities in rural areas.

3. Cooperative Land, Water, and Service Initiatives
Land access remains a major barrier for many first-generation farmers and ranchers, including veterans looking to farm as a profession. We help these producers develop innovative cooperative land ownership models, leasing and management solutions, and Land Link opportunities.

4. Cooperative Infrastructure and Rural Economic Development
In 2020 we will be working on assessing and improving agricultural processing capabilities, focusing on rural inventions and innovations, and rural grocery store development, among other exciting projects.

5. Cooperative Literacy
Accessibility, outreach, education, and organizing are essential steps in creating the necessary awareness that can lead to a cooperative economy.

Our Socially-Disadvantaged Groups Grant application will provide training and technical assistance to a minimum of three emerging worker-owned cooperatives which are developing rural workforces in the food and agricultural sectors. The first is a mobile agricultural workforce in southwestern Colorado, the second is a mobile agricultural workforce in northern Colorado, the third is a tortilla bakery and food processing business in southeastern Colorado. The charter members of these three emerging co-ops will be women and minorities. Additionally, due to serious and persistent labor challenges in agriculture throughout the country, we’ll prepare an agricultural workforce development manual and conduct outreach to agricultural agencies and farming communities for its dissemination.

Please wish us luck with these submissions!

A Cooperative Colorado

Findings from the Cooperative Policy Roundtable May 1, 2019

Colorado is poised to provide a national model for creating an inclusive, democratic economy.

This starts with our leadership in employee ownership, as well as other kinds of community ownership like credit unions, rural electrics, food hubs, and online platforms. Co-ops have helped build Colorado, and we want to work with the state government to make Colorado the best place in the country to build cooperative businesses.

We invite the state to help us do this by:

  • Continuing to participate in grassroots policy and business convening
  • Collaborating with promoting state-level branding, such as
  • Declaring a Colorado Cooperatives Day to celebrate this legacy and opportunity
Our legacy

Different kinds of cooperatives have been a bedrock of the Colorado economy throughout the state’s history—especially for the most marginalized—from 19th-century Grange halls to an early Black-owned saddlery co-op in Denver. This legacy continues today. Our economy depends on its rural electric co-ops, telecom co-ops, credit unions, farmer co-ops, and small business purchasing co-ops. These amount to about 400 cooperative businesses and almost a thousand co-op franchisees and branches.

Now, a new generation of cooperators is trying to use this model to access a more equitable and just economy. But the tools developed for earlier generations aren’t always up to the task of our new challenges. Policies designed for farmer cooperatives aren’t prepared for accelerating co-op tech startups or empowering immigrant worker co-ops. That’s why we’re helping to lead a national conversation about the kinds of policies and entrepreneurship we need to make cooperative enterprise more available and more accessible than ever before.

These are some strategies we’re exploring to strengthen the Colorado co-op economy:

Awareness and education

Too few Coloradans know what co-ops are—much less how to work or shop at one.

  • Promotion and outreach around a Colorado cooperative brand
  • Improved information about co-op models from state offices and library districts
  • Training for members of older co-ops on their rights and opportunities
  • Centers for co-op education and research at state universities
  • X Prize-style statewide contests for co-op startups
  • Support youth education through 4-H and electric co-op summer camps
Technical support

We have only about a dozen co-op developers working statewide—it’s time to scale up.

  • Greater capacity for culturally appropriate technical support in diverse communities through highly trained co-op developers
  • Training for state economic development staff on a wide range of co-op models
  • Improved measurement and tracking of co-op opportunities and impacts
  • Education, peer-to-peer support, and succession planning for operational managers and boards
Capital access

The economy is tilted towards investor ownership—we can level the field for communities.

  • Loan guarantees and lender education for diverse forms of co-op businesses
  • Statewide procurement preferences for cooperative and worker-owned business
  • Right of first refusal in ownership transitions, such as for employees and multifamily apartment residents
  • Grant opportunities favoring democratic cooperative business endeavors
  • Financing through public capital pools such as pension funds
  • Preference for multi-stakeholder “social co-ops” for public-private partnerships

This convening was possible through the support of the National Cooperative Business Association and the Cooperative Development Foundation, with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, CoBank, the Center for Community Wealth Building and the Colorado Co-ops Study Circle. branding is a product of Cooperatives for a Better World.

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