; Cooperatives for Local Food Systems | Conferences | AgRisk Library


Conference Name Cooperatives for Local Food Systems

Ken Hart


Cooperatives offer a powerful and democratic form of business organization. Cooperative features of voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, independence, cooperation, rewards for member participation, and concern for community provide a unique opportunity for local food system participants. Farmers, consumers, and processors can organize marketing, purchasing, worker, or land/equipment sharing cooperatives to work together to accomplish their goals and benefit members. Cooperatives are already an important part of many local food systems. They may be underutilized and could play important role in the growth and sustainability of local food systems. Cooperatives have a long history with established principles and values. Local food systems are dynamic and changing, but the participants have a set of shared values, in general, that bind them together in community of the local food system.
Ken Hart, University of Idaho Extension Educator, completed a sabbatical in 2016 focused on cooperative business structure and opportunities in local food systems. He has worked with cooperatives in Idaho, Moldova, Angola, and Malawi. Ken is working with Colette De Phelps (University of Idaho) and John Foltz (The Ohio State University), employing ethnographic, narrative and case study tools to identify common values between cooperatives and food system participants. Further, they identify actions to start-up a cooperative or manage an existing cooperative that sustain these values. Measured impact is limited to anecdotal evidence from presentations, workshops and consulting.