OCDC Seed Grants assist cooperative development

By: Hannah Scott, OCDC Program Manager
 
The Ohio Cooperative Development Center (OCDC) Seed Grant program has wrapped up another successful year! The program, which enhances OCDC’s mission of improving rural economies through cooperative development, provides critical resources to new and emerging cooperatives for exploratory or expansion projects. New and emerging cooperatives in Ohio and West Virginia can apply for a reimbursement, matching grant for feasibility and formation activities of groups exploring the cooperative model and for the implementation of expansion projects of already existing cooperatives. Applications are assessed by members of the OCDC advisory committee and OCDC personnel are available to provide assistance to the cooperatives as their plans progress. The program has supported numerous projects over the last five years, awarding grant funds totaling approximately $68,000. 
 
New awards this year total approximately $22,000 to support 10 cooperative development projects throughout Ohio and West Virginia. Many of these projects are focused on the formation or expansion of local food cooperative businesses, including a farmers market, food hubs, and retail stores. Local food cooperatives directly contribute to development through job creation and business generation. They also serve a vital function of providing an outlet for agricultural producers to market products, often allowing these producers to realize economic benefits as well. Finally, these businesses create opportunities for community members to purchase locally-produced food, sometimes in areas with limited access to such products. 
 
Seed grant projects funded this year include a membership loan and gift campaign to help generate financial resources for a new cooperative, a membership and financial campaign to support the expansion of an existing cooperative, work with legal and accounting professionals to develop articles of incorporation and service agreements, and the provision of marketing materials to help generate awareness of cooperatives in their community. 
 
In addition, OCDC awarded a seed grant to the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition (WVFFC) for use toward legal work, workshops, and network-building aimed at informing others of cooperative statute updates in the state. 
 
OCDC plans to continue the successful seed grant program in the upcoming year, which begins on October 1, 2015, contingent upon funding. New and emerging cooperatives in Ohio and West Virginia that are interested in learning more about the program should contact Hannah Scott or Kimberly Roush at 740-289-2071 or at scott.1220@osu.edu or roush.143@osu.edu
 
Funding for the OCDC seed grant program is made available through a Rural Cooperative Development Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development agency.