CFAES Center for Cooperatives: Collaboration Creates Greater Impact

By: Ivory Harlow Cooperative Development Specialist, CFAES Center for Cooperatives

Among draft horses, Belgians are reputed to be the strongest and most capable. A single Belgian draft horse can tow 8,000 pounds. More impressive is what two can do together; a team of two draft horses doesn’t just double- but triples pulling power to 24,000 lbs!

Like a team of draft horses, The CFAES Center for Cooperatives combined forces with industry, government and association partners to achieve great things in 2017. Collaboration created greater impact through cooperative education, technical and development assistance for stakeholders and students of cooperatives.

The Center teamed up with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank to share best practices with the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network. Director of Food Resource Development, Mike Frank, led network participants on a tour, describing how the Foodbank has overcome challenges associated with the aggregation, storage and distribution of fresh food. The Network left with practical actions to improve their food hubs’ operational efficiency.

Collaboration between the Center for Cooperatives and the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development provided valuable information to local ag producers looking to diversify or enhance their operations.   A Value-Added Producer Grant informational session with key speakers from the USDA was hosted at the OSU South Centers, offering local producers an opportunity to ask questions and get answers from USDA grant experts.

The Center for Cooperatives worked closely with the Central Appalachia Cooperative Development Group to start Unity Coffee and Teahouse, the first worker-owned cooperative business in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Five Baristas and a coffee roaster created the co-op with a shared vision to foster a commUnity that supports workers, customers and local residents. Unity Coffee and Teahouse opened for business in January 2018.

The Mid-America Cooperative Council (MACC) brought together cooperative developers from across the Midwest to facilitate communication and coordination of co-op educational resources. The Center met with counterparts from Kentucky, Indiana and northeast Ohio at United Producers, Inc. headquarters in Columbus for a two-day roundtable. Developers discussed programming, goals and alignment. The Center identified opportunities to boost educational programming and technical assistance in the region by sharing knowledge and pooling resources.

The Center facilitated cooperative education for visiting scholars in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics over their stay in the United States, including an educational tour of agricultural cooperatives at the Farm Science Review. Scholars visited with representatives from Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, Farm Credit, Heritage Cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America and COBA/Select Sires. The scholars returned to Ukraine motivated to share their newfound knowledge of agricultural cooperatives with students at their respective universities.

The Center connected with local vocational schools and FFA to build students’ awareness of careers in agricultural cooperatives. The Center hosted students at OSU South Centers, visited Ohio Valley Career & Technical Center FFA and served on an Ag Career panel in Ross County.

The Center worked with the Ohio State University CFAES Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics instructors to facilitate an undergraduate class project. Students interviewed cooperative leaders and created multimedia presentations sharing what they learned about the cooperative model.

Collaboration with partners created a great impact in 2017. The CFAES Center for Cooperatives intends to increase our horse power in 2018. We look forward to partnering with the Ohio Farm Bureau to provide cooperative education to the next generation of leaders at the AgriPOWER Institute and the Young Agricultural Professionals Winter Leadership Experience. The Center will forge new relationships with growers, producers and marketers at the annual Ohio Produce Network conference, the Ohio Association of Meat Processors conference, and the 14th Annual West Virginia Small Farm Conference. Together, the Center and partners are resolved to drive forward the cooperative movement in the region and beyond.