EAST LANSING, Mich. — Farmers create our local foodsheds and build local economies, but many farmers burnout from trying to farm, manage a business, and market themselves all on their own. To lighten the load, some farmers are turning to cooperative models. Coalitions of farmers are creating aggregate CSAs and food hubs, sharing transportation or processing facilities, or other collaborative marketing strategies. Some are developing formal cooperatively owned businesses, tool shares, or buying programs. These models are becoming more prevalent along the coasts but there are not as many resources on cooperative farming in the Midwest. These models were created by Indigenous peoples across the globe, and after emancipation in the US, Black farmers sustained communities through these cooperative models. However, these were intentionally dismantled and left us the crisis of individuality in farming today.
The National Young Farmers Coalition is piloting a Technical Assistance Navigator position in VT and MI, to connect with farmers and offer them resources and connections to appropriate service providers based on their needs. After statewide farmer surveys, interviews, and listening sessions, the Navigators heard the need for farmer support to establish cooperative business models. This project is in collaboration with Michigan Food and Farming Systems and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board’s Farm & Forest Viability Program. They are inviting the Cooperative Development Institute to a virtual event to speak to farmers about different cooperative business models for farms, as well as how to navigate the interpersonal dynamics that come when going into business with friends and neighbors.
After presentations and Q&A with the Cooperative Development institute, there will be separate breakout rooms for Vermont and Michigan farmers, to learn from farms in their states who are already developing these cooperative farm models. In Michigan, they will hear from Green Things Farm Collective and the Detroit Community Wealth Fund, who funds cooperatives led by Black, Indigenous and other people of color, primarily in Detroit. Farmers will be able to network and ask questions, and receive resources to continue support for their transition towards or formation of a cooperative model.
Go here to register! Farmworkers and landless farmers are welcome! Service providers and non-farming folks are welcome to register as well, but please indicate that you are not a farmer in your registration, and try to leave the Q&A space mostly open for farmers and farmworkers questions. Contact Payge with any MI questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Sav in VT at email@example.com. If you are a farmer, farmworker, or aspiring farmer who is looking for resources or support for your farm goals, feel free to reach out to speak with the Navigators as well to get resources for your current/future business.
— Michigan Food & Farming Systems (MIFFS)
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