By: Christie Welch, OCDC Program Manager and Brad Bergefurd, Horticulture Specialist and Extension Educator
2014 was a year of growing cooperatives in Ohio and West Virginia. The Ohio Cooperative Development Center (OCDC) at the OSU South Centers worked with new and emerging cooperatives related to local foods, farmers’ markets, the wood industry, and others to help improve the economic status of cooperative members. The clients that received technical assistance and training from OCDC in 2014 reported that they created 26 jobs, retained 34 jobs, invested $1.7 million in capital, and increased sales by $98,000. These new and emerging cooperatives are having positive economic impacts on their local communities. Following are some highlights from a few of these cooperatives.
The Ohio Hop Growers Guild officially incorporated in 2014
With the assistance of Brad Bergefurd, Horticultural Specialist at the OSU South Centers, Christie Welch and Tom Snyder of OCDC provided expertise and guidance to Ohio hop growers to determine the feasibility and lead the formation of the Ohio Hop Growers Guild (OHGG). OCDC provided technical assistance and information about the cooperative model for a group of hops producers looking to cooperatives to help grow the hops industry in Ohio. The group is working to plan for and meet the needs of the rapidly expanding Ohio craft brewing industry. The mission of the Ohio Hop Growers Guild is to unify, grow, educate, and protect the Ohio hops growing community; to increase sales of Ohio-grown hops through cooperative promotions, marketing, and increasing industry awareness; and to monitor and assure a sustainable hops industry within the state of Ohio. The Guild is committed to the following objectives:
1) Advocating for Ohio-grown hops under an OHGG Seal of Quality, cooperatively marketing and promoting the OHGG brand to increase awareness of and demand for Ohio-grown hops.
2) Improving product quality, grower efficiency and profits through education and collaboration.
3) Leveraging combined purchasing power through voluntary joint-purchasing programs and access to resources.
4) Representing the independent producers, which include both general members and the board of directors. The interim Board of Directors includes Dave and Nina Volkman of Ohio Valley Hops, Maineville, Ohio; TJ Merrill of Paradune Brewing Farm, Belle Center, Ohio; Joseph Pellegrino of Mankato Farms, New Carlisle, Ohio; and Brad Bergefurd, OSU South Centers Horticultural Specialist, an ex-officio director representing academia. The Guild will be presenting at the 2015 Ohio Hops Conference on future Guild opportunities.
The Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network
Many local communities want to significantly increase the production, processing, and marketing of locally-grown fresh food for their residents. However, to meet this growing demand, the production of locally-produced foods must increase. The question then becomes: How should we support the growing or expansion of growers and facilitate the local food-related value chain business expansions or start-ups in order to have major impact? To help address this need, Tom Snyder of OCDC worked with partners to form a food hub networking group. This group supports the development of growers and value chain businesses to meet the increasing demand for locally-produced foods.
The Food Hub Network is:
• Supporting regional food hub planning and executive boards/leaders
• Providing and/or connecting individuals to the needed technical assistance
• Developing and sharing grower training resources and business model templates
• Providing regional, state, and national networking opportunities
This food hub network group was formed in 2014. Participants include representatives of sixteen new and emerging food hubs and incubator farms, technical assistance providers, funding agencies, business development service centers, and educational institutions. The network’s goal is to develop successful food hub models that produce, process, and market significantly more locally grown and/or locally processed food while creating new businesses and jobs for local communities.
Sharing Best Practices with Policy Makers
In addition to assisting new and emerging cooperatives in Ohio and West Virginia, OCDC has been working with WVU College of Law to help research cooperative statues throughout the United States. The results of this research will be shared with policy makers in West Virginia to consider when looking to update the state’s statues on cooperatives. While the WV state legislature made some updates to the regulations in 2014, the types of groups that can choose the cooperative model are limited to agricultural based enterprises. Expanding the cooperative model to other industries would encourage the formation of additional cooperatives in West Virginia.