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Jan 4, 2017

“We began working as a multifarm agricul­tural cooperative in 2006 with assistance from ICDC and a grant for legal expenses. Without that support, our co-op growers wouldn’t have been able to confidently create its FarmFreshCSA project to direct market our naturally grown fresh produce.”

—Claire Whalen, Laughery Valley Growers

Topics: Testimonial Comments: [comment_count]
Jan 4, 2017

In the fall of 2005, a group of farmers in the Laughery Valley in the Southeastern region of Indiana came together to meet with the ICDC staff and discuss the feasibility of joining forces to develop local markets for their produce. The initial meeting stirred the creativity of the group and soon the Laughery Valley Growers Cooperative began to take shape with six local growers. They agreed to begin their marketing efforts with the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model which would be called the “FarmFreshCSA.”

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) creates a direct relationship between consumers of locally grown food and those who grow it. Growers agree to provide a weekly share of their harvest to subscribers who support them by paying a fee in advance of the harvest season. CSA subscribers join with growers in assuming the costs, risks and rewards of growing the season’s crops. Such fees pay for seeds, supplies, labor, water, equipment maintenance, soil-building amendments and other expenses required before harvesting. They also include expenses for the management and packing of weekly produce.

They created a produce availability chart with each farmer committed to growing certain produce for 2006. Two additional growers joined before the growing season began. In early Spring of 2006, the group of farmers began developing their initial business plan, and became a farmer-owned cooperative, the Laughery Valley Growers, Inc., by the time they packed their first weekly boxes in June, 2006.

In 2007, FarmFreshCSA has increased the number of household subscriptions and has also doubled their size to 15 contributing farmer members. Consumers who have purchased their weekly share of produce have offered the following feedback:

  • “Since increasing my intake of your vegetables, I have more energy.”
  • “I loved this! I can’t wait until next year.”
  • “I liked the opportunity to try new vegetables that I normally wouldn’t try.”
  • “This is a great gift we open each Wednesday.”
  • “I’ve used some of the veggies as baby food …she loved it!”

The Laughery Valley Growers continue to develop strategies to create new collaborative marketing opportunities for their locally grown products and to build upon the CSA business. For more information on the Laughery Valley Growers, visit their website.

Laughery Valley Growers Cooperative members prepare a weekly supply of produce to CSA subscribers within their region.

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Jan 4, 2017

In September 2005, a large group of residents from the greater Orange County region in Southern Indiana gathered to discuss plans to support the growers of local specialty foods and to enhance their availability within the region. A steering committee began to developthe Lost River Community Cooperative. Since that time, the group has been off and running!

The group consisting of consumers as well as producers adopted a vision and mission statement, drafted a set of bylaws, and collected information to formulate a road map to successfully conduct the development work for a new consumer owned food cooperative. The food co-op store will offer a mix of conventional food items, locally grown produce, meats, and baked goods, natural food selections, bulk foods, hard-to-find items, and health and nutrition products. The goal of the retail store is to have a unique product offering, but be broad enough to be a primary food store.

The cooperative incorporated in 2006 with the help of the Indiana cooperative Development Center and CDS. The steering committee utilized the expertise of food co-op advisors to conduct a market analysis and feasibility study and to write a business plan. The steering committee immediately embarked on an intensive membership recruitment drive, member loan campaign, and financing of the cooperative business. The steering committee transitioned to their initial Board of Directors at their first annual meeting in April, 2007. The project has garnered much enthusiasm and support within the committee. The cooperative purchased a building in Paoli for its retail location which as it turns out was originally built as a locally owned grocery store. The co-op membership has been diligently working to renovate and install fixtures for the store.

A general manager was recently hired, and the store is scheduled to open for business as the Lost River Grocery and Deli in the fall of 2007. Lost River plans to employ six when the store opens and twenty people within five years. For more information on the Lost River Community Co-op based in Orange County, visit their website at www.lostrivercoop.com.

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Jan 4, 2017

Organic Valley (La Farge, Wisconsin) is one of the largest organic cooperatives in the US. The Indiana Cooperative Development Center was contacted by Organic Valley and asked to assist a group of 80 organic milk producers in northern Indiana form a cooperative to purchase a local organic feed mill. 

Most of these producers have small, organic farms with less than 50 dairy cows. The majority of the milk producers belong to the local Amish community. As a community they do not like public exposure. Their leaders are mostly the elders with a couple of younger producers in their 30s. They do business on a handshake agreement and that has been problematic. Social responsibility is more than a buzz word – it’s a way of life for them.  They are developing the cooperative for “the community”; not only their community but for their neighbors as well because they know that the organic model is the only way they can keep their small farms profitable and sustainable.

An initial two-day meeting of all interested parties was held in late March, 2011. A five-member executive committee was formed and dollars were committed for initial expenses for the formation of a cooperative. These milk producers were concerned about their ability to obtain high quality organic livestock feed and supplies. Their vision was to secure, for future generations, the availability and price stability of high quality organic livestock feed and supplies for the community.

Producers in the community are dependent on their ability to obtain high-quality organic feed for their farming operations. Because of their dependence, community members were concerned about the future and continued existence of the Wolcottville Organic Feed Mill. Expansion of the organic livestock industry and the profitability of these operations are interconnected to the future existence and expansion of the mill. 

Following the initial meeting in March, ICDC staff worked with the organizing committee to explore the possibility of purchasing the Wolcottville Organic Feed Mill. Staff  helped the steering committee review and understand the financials of the existing mill operations and identified a business to provide a valuation of the feed mill. An attorney experienced in co-op law was identified and ICDC staff assisted in the development of the co-op’s articles of incorporation and by-laws. 

Beginning in 2012, the steering committee began meeting every two weeks to complete their organizational documents. By April 2012, the cooperative was registered with the Indiana Secretary of State and a board was elected. A number of producers from Michigan are interested in becoming members of the cooperative, so incorporation in the state of Michigan is being considered.

Membership documents were developed next and the equity drive began in mid-summer. In just a few short weeks, they have reached over 50 percent of their goal of raising $250,000. The directors have established a goal of having a 50 percent equity stake prior to the actual purchase of the mill.  In an effort to ensure they understand their fiduciary responsibilities as board members, the ICDC provided board training in July, 2012.

The purchase of the mill by the cooperative is expected to take place January 1, 2013.

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Dec 1, 2015
Debbie Trocha, Executive Director, Indiana Cooperative Development Center

Indiana's electric cooperatives and their statewide magazine, Electric Consumer, invite Indiana K-12 students to enter the Cooperative Calendar of Student Art Contest.  A complete set of rules, instructions, required entry forms and additional contest information are available visiting ElectricConsumer.org/?p=5327. The entry deadline is March 18, 2016. 

For details go to http://www.wbiw.com/local/archive/2015/12/electric-cooperatives-host-student-art-contest.php.


Topics: Cooperation Among Co-ops Tags: electric cooperatives, cooperatives, Electric Consumer, Indiana, calendar Comments: [comment_count]


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