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Are farmer cooperatives a solution for scaling up?

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I recently listened to a podcast done by Permaculture Voices that provided an interview with a member of a permaculture farmer cooperative in Arkansas (I believe it's Grass Roots). This gentleman told the story of his farm, how neighboring farmers had friendly relationships and were doing small errands for one another, and how little by little the relationship turned into a formal cooperative agreement. He explained how four farmers turned in their list of customers to the cooperative, thus making it financially viable from day one. They also had some initial support from Heifer International, and now the cooperative has grown attracting more farmers. They all agreed to grow pastured cattle and poultry following the same procedures and feed, to obtain consistent quality product.

This is the only story about permaculture cooperatives that I encountered. Is anybody aware of other similar examples? Are cooperatives a solution for the continuous growth of permaculture? I'm a backyard gardener and a business professor and I'm trying to understand what are the viable permaculture business models.

Cristian Chelariu
Posts: 177
Location: Haute Vienne, France
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Mark Sheppard is part of a co-operative. Organic Valley farms.
I think they run everything from group produce selling and marketing, to sharing equipment, to making bio-diesel.
There is also quite a large cooperative farmer movement in the Basque country, not permaculture, but iirc they're a mature co-op that have been running for many years.

IMO it makes complete sense to be more co-operative as a farmer, or even gardener!

Solid business models would be really useful to have, there aren't enough replicative, proven co-op models for farmers to follow. I'm interested in diving further into this.

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Location: Wisconsin, USA (zone 4b)
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Here's a link to Organic Valley

Cristian Chelariu
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Rus and Becky,

thank you for the information. It will come in handy if I decide to do some interviews in the future. There is very little business research on farmer cooperatives. The more recent one is a paper from 2014 in the Academy of Management Journal (a very respected publication) trying to understand why Midwest farmers form ethanol plant cooperatives. Nothing on permaculture.

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