Sustainable production and marketing using the cooperative model for a student-managed school farm cooperative

Project Overview

LNC19-428
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $161,632.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2023
Grant Recipient: The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Center for Cooperatives
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Hannah Scott
The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Center for Cooperatives

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Education and Training: participatory research, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: business planning, marketing management

    Proposal abstract:

    The OSU CFAES Center for Cooperatives will collaborate with the Agriculture Business Management program at Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center (OVCTC) on the project, “Sustainable production and marketing using the cooperative model for a student-managed school farm cooperative,” to enhance and examine the impacts of a student cooperative learning program.

    Rural communities need innovative young entrepreneurs and effective models to develop them. In rural, Appalachian communities, economic opportunities are limited. For example, Adams County, Ohio ranks in the worst 10% of U.S. counties on an index combining unemployment, per capita market income, and poverty rates. Adams County has approximately 1,350 farms with average cash receipts of $28,798 per farm. As of 2016, there were only 502 private sector employment opportunities and the county’s median household income was $34,709.

    The Center for Cooperatives will educate OVCTC students on the cooperative business model and best practices in co-op management, collaborating with a retired cooperative executive to provide real-world perspectives. Agricultural marketing experts will teach students about marketing concepts like pricing, packaging, and customer demographics. The Center will collaborate with local farmers and agricultural leaders to share their experiences using innovative marketing and environmentally sustainable production practices, exposing students to innovative approaches and developing their agricultural knowledge. Center staff will assist students in developing marketing and environmental plans for their enterprise, developing their planning and business management skills. Students will then implement these plans on their cooperatively managed school farm using seed funding from this project. Center staff will collaborate with students to monitor project activities and outcomes to determine successful strategies for teaching young people about the cooperative model and fostering entrepreneurship in rural communities. Team members will assess the success of these strategies on the school farm by tracking activities and examining the farm cooperative’s financial health. Team members will examine changes in students’ knowledge and attitudes and gather feedback on education techniques. Using this information, the team will develop a digital toolkit for cooperative developers, educators, and Extension professionals to create similar cooperative learning programs for youth farms, greenhouses, and gardens.

    The goals of this hands-on cooperative approach are to: (1) enhance students’ knowledge of business management, particularly cooperative management, agricultural marketing, and sustainable farm production practices; (2) develop students’ skills in strategic planning, project management, and communication; (3) improve the financial health of the school farm; (4) develop tools to implement similar programs for training young agricultural entrepreneurs.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The goals of this hands-on cooperative approach are to:

    • enhance students’ knowledge of
      1. business management, particularly co-op management;
      2. agricultural marketing and related concepts like regulatory compliance;
      3. sustainable farm production practices; and
      4. agricultural enterprises in their region.
    • develop students’ skills in strategic planning, project management, and communication;
    • improve the school farm’s financial health; and
    • develop tools to implement similar training programs for young agricultural entrepreneurs.

    Approximately 25-35 students will receive training annually.

    Outreach activities will raise awareness of the model among educators and the agricultural community in Adams and surrounding counties.

    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.