Webinar Explores Cooperatives in Food Systems

by Russell Schaffer | Rural Prosperity

Aerial view of the UNL Student Organic Farm. Students work in the Student Organic Garden on East Campus while CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members pick up their produce.” Photo by Craig Chandler

November 30, 2022

Lincoln, Neb. —The Nebraska Cooperative Development Center is hosting a winter webinar series focused on cooperative businesses in the food system. During the Co-op Innovation in the Food System series, attendees will hear from a wide range of businesses and learn how they use the cooperative model to address issues such as land access, infrastructure needs, fair prices, and land stewardship. Interested producers, community members and service providers are encouraged to register for these free, one-hour virtual sessions.

​“We’re hoping that these conversations will spark questions and ideas from attendees around using cooperatives to solve shared challenges that many producers, processors and communities encounter in the food system,” said Margaret Milligan, the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center specialist running the webinars.

The Nebraska Cooperative Development Center is well known for their work with cooperative grocery stores across rural Nebraska. Lesser-known, however, is their work with local food producers and food systems. This webinar series is aimed at connecting people in the various fields of food systems who might benefit from the cooperative business model, including producers and consumers, retailers, marketing and distribution groups, and meat processing facilities.

“Cooperatives are businesses that can be made up of individuals, or of aligned businesses,” said Milligan. “They encourage participation, are democratically controlled, spread out risk, and most importantly address and solve shared challenges of their owners. Cooperatives are a way for people to make a living and continue to put down roots in rural Nebraska.”

The schedule and topics for each webinar is as follows:

Session 1: Dec. 6, 2022, 12-1 p.m. CST via Zoom
Co-ops, Small-Scale Livestock Producers, Fair Prices, and Big Impacts

A conversation and Q&A session with Cody Hopkins, CEO of Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative, a cooperative based in Arkansas whose members are small-scale livestock producers across the country, using soil regenerating practices on their farms and raising their animals on pasture. They own and operate processing facilities that are centrally located to their producers, and ship pasture raised chicken, pork, turkey, lamb, bison, and beef nationally.

A core part of their mission is to grow the next generation of farmers in America. Learn how they are fulfilling their mission through the cooperative business model.

Session 2: Dec. 13, 2022, 12-1 p.m. CST via Zoom

Unique Land Access, Worker-Cooperative Farm and Perpetuating Community Generosity 

Hannah Breckbill, co-founder of Humble Hands Harvest in Decorah, Iowa, will join the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center for a conversation about their unique land access story, how their “commons” project aims to make it easier for the next generation of farmers to get started, and the benefits of organizing their highly diverse farm as a worker cooperative.

Learn how Humble Hands Harvest is creatively using the cooperative model to address current needs, involve their supportive community in the business, and plan for the transition of the land and business to the next generation.

Session 3: Jan., 2023
More info coming soon!

You can register for the webinars at https://go.unl.edu/coopfoodsystem

The Nebraska Cooperative Development Center (NCDC) is located within the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. NCDC programs abide with the nondiscrimination policies of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the United States Department of Agriculture. NCDC is funded in part by the USDA RCDG Grant Program.

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