By Hannah Scott, OCDC Program Manager
It has been quite a year at the Ohio Cooperative Development Center! The OCDC saw some exciting developments in 2015 and is poised to continue supporting rural economic development throughout Ohio and West Virginia in 2016.
As a co-op development center, OCDC’s main focus is on providing technical assistance to new and emerging cooperative businesses in the region. This assistance often comes in the form of one-on-one meetings with OCDC staff, who help groups explore the cooperative model, work with them through the cooperative formation process, assist with board training and development, and much more. In 2015, OCDC staff assisted over 35 cooperatives and cooperative projects across the region!
Many of these new and emerging cooperatives will now help their members address a wide variety of problems or opportunities. For instance, the Greenfield Farmers’ Market Co-op now provides a member-owned and governed outlet for local farmers to market their products, while the All Things Food Co-op allows the community ownership of their food through a cooperative local foods store and the Minutemen Farmers’ Cooperative is gearing up to provide farmer training to local veterans.
OCDC’s Seed Grant Program was also a valuable resource for cooperative development in the region last year, providing funds for new and emerging cooperatives to form and grow their businesses. The 2014-2015 program, which operated from October 2014 through September 2015, provided over $18,000 to nine projects. The 2015-2016 program started with a bang in the final quarter of 2015, accepting a record number of proposals from projects across the region. OCDC staff were excited to award approximately $12,000 to these projects at the end of December and will be working with awardees as they complete their projects in the new year.
Finally, one of OCDC’s signature programs, the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network brought together food hub and training farm managers and developers, along with technical assistance and service providers, for peer exchange and education four times in 2015. Approximately 20 hub businesses and service providers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, OSU Extension, West Virginia University Extension, Marshall University, and many others learned about food hub case studies and models, financial resources, value-chain connections, and more! The network will continue to address barriers to food development in 2016.