Conversations with Collaborators podcast
Behind-the-scenes look at how small farmers are working together to build markets in Michigan.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “many hands make light work,” but what does this look like in practice? Agriculture in the U.S. is rich with examples of farmers joining together to build markets for their crops (see The History of Black Cooperatives in America), but we, the public, often only see the end result and not the process from which that result evolved. Countless hours of “kitchen table conversations,” planning meetings, and research is required to build a collaborative small-farm venture, but what is discussed at those meetings? Why and how did the collaboration develop the way it did? Can I do something similar with my fellow farmers?
This two-part podcast series will take you behind the scenes of two small-farm collaborations in Michigan: the Green Things Farm Collective in Ann Arbor and the MI Farm Cooperative in Northwest Michigan. Each venture offers a unique example of small-farm collaboration and will provide fellow farmers, support specialists, and the general public with a deeper understanding of the decision-making processes, challenges, and benefits farmers experience when working together.
About the Interviewees
The Green Things Farm Collective officially formed in 2020 when three Ann Arbor farm businesses - The Ann Arbor Seed Company, Green Things Farm, and the Land Loom - came together to expand production and share the management of running a diverse farm business. They organized into an LLC and have been co-managing the production of produce, beef, cut-flowers, and seeds in a model of sustainable, cooperative, and responsible farming. They share with listeners the process of moving from farmer-friends to farmer-business partners, the importance of social capital, and the impact that their model has had on quality of life and mental health.
The MI Farm Cooperative formed as a 521 agricultural cooperative in 2015 to supply local schools with NW Michigan seasonal produce. The co-op has since evolved to include a 100-member CSA alongside its wholesale accounts. Founding members Jim Bardenhagen and Nic Welty share with us their decision-making process for developing the co-op as well as the ins and outs of crop-planning, budgeting, financial management, and member management.
Michigan State University Extension supports small-farmers throughout the state by providing resources and education to growers, supply chain partners, and consumers. We invite you to explore our resources for Beginning Farmers and those interested in Community Food Systems.