A Workers Cooperative Food System Approach to Climate Resilience

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $29,120.00
Projected End Date: 01/15/2024
Grant Recipient: MARSH
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, cropping systems, crop rotation, drought tolerance, food processing, food processing facilities/community kitchens, intercropping, multiple cropping, no-till, nutrient management, pollinator habitat, row covers (for season extension), shade cloth, varieties and cultivars, water management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, volunteer training
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, farm-to-restaurant, labor/employment, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration, habitat enhancement
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, cultivation, mulches - general, mulching - plastic, prevention, row covers (for pests), sanitation, soil solarization, trap crops
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, permaculture
  • Soil Management: composting, earthworms, green manures, organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, community planning, employment opportunities, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, leadership development, local and regional food systems, partnerships, public participation, quality of life, social capital, sustainability measures, urban agriculture, values-based supply chains, climate resilience

    Proposal summary:

    The most pressing issue for the food system is increasing impact from climate change. It is incumbent upon this farming generation to work at the grassroots of food production among those populations that are most precarious and thus most vulnerable to climate effects. Beth Neff of the MARSH Cooperative seeks to develop strategies for climate resilience in a low-income neighborhood through a cooperative approach that supports the community economically and socially while exploring innovations in climate-responsive sustainable urban agriculture methods.

    MARSH’s program model is based on the integration of food system components – a network of urban agriculture plots, a licensed kitchen, and sliding scale grocery cooperative – managed by the participants. This integrative approach localizes food resources, improves both economic and logistical access, advances positive health outcomes, promotes human agency, reduces ecological impact, virtually eliminates food waste, and builds community and social value through a relational economy. In partnership with Laura Belarbi and Laura Gatlin of the Food Patch, Beth Neff proposes to establish an expanded workers cooperative to farm four varied locations that will make more food available, test climate response strategies, and build a foundation for resiliency in a neighborhood that is most vulnerable to climate impacts.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our project seeks to strengthen an existing integrated food system using principles of climate resilience. We plan to accomplish this objective by:

    1. Hiring and training a locally-sourced workers cooperative team to collaboratively farm four neighborhood plots in order to make a reliable and accessible supply of fresh produce available at a sliding scale cooperative grocery.
    2. Comparing the four locations to apply and evaluate methodologies for responding to climate pressures (heat, insects, weeds, moisture levels) while also attending to social pressures of climate change and appropriate responses.
    3. Building a climate resiliency template to initiate discussion at a workshop hosted by MARSH.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.