Co-ops 101 webinar recordings now available: How cooperatives work and the basic steps of development

Three videos cover cooperative principles and co-op examples, steps to development and legal aspects or entities used.

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Farmers meeting outside a food packing warehouse.

Farmers are subject to many forces, including high input costs, high marketing costs and commodity market price swings. Individuals might find outside pressures affecting their housing costs or their ability to source a particular service or type of food. Cooperative businesses are one method farmers can use to develop shared marketing programs and individuals can use to work together to source particular goods or services. The cooperative business structure can be a great tool for the right situation.

To introduce cooperatives and how they work, the recordings of the webinar “Co-ops 101: How Cooperatives Work and the Basic Steps of Development” are now available for viewing on demand. The webinar was developed by Michigan State University Extension in partnership with the Crosshatch Center for Arts and Ecology. It is broken down into three videos.

Video 1, "What are cooperatives? Examples and cooperative principles," focuses on what cooperatives are and where they are used. Parker Jones of the MSU Product Center presents different examples of businesses that use the cooperative model. He then discusses the seven cooperative principles and how they operate within co-op businesses.

In Video 2, "Determining the feasibility and fit of a co-op, and steps of cooperative development," Chris Bardenhagen from the MSU Extension Farm Business Management Team discusses how to assess whether a co-op is the right fit for a particular business. He covers the steps needed to determine the feasibility of a cooperative business plan, and the timeline to develop a cooperative.

In Video 3, "Business entities used for cooperatives," Bardenhagen visits the legal aspects of cooperatives, many of which track the cooperative principles previously presented. He then discusses the entities that can be used to develop cooperatives in Michigan.

A cooperative business structure, however, is not right for everyone. To address this, presenters also explore other business entities and legal options beyond co-ops that still allow for cooperation.

If you have a cooperative idea or issue you would like to discuss, please contact us.

Parker Jones, MSU Extension Product Center, has many years of business planning expertise working with farms and food systems. He is part of the MSU Product Center that hosts the Michigan Cooperative Development Center, and he sits on the board of Oryana Food Cooperative in Traverse City. Contact:, Office telephone: 231-922-4620.

Daniel Marbury, Crosshatch Center for Art and Ecology, moderated each session and developed this program with Parker and Chris. He has a wealth of experience working with small farm cooperatives and farmer peer-to-peer learning groups, among other collaborative community efforts. Contact: Office telephone: 231-533-2555

Chris Bardenhagen, MSU Extension Farm Business Management, has worked with several cooperative development efforts in different capacities. Contact: Office telephone: 231-256-9888.

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