While food production and backyard farming is our primary focus here at RTT, community building is always viewed as the backbone of those endeavors. Community makes food production possible – from help on the farm to customers to buy the product. Community has also shown itself to be difficult to achieve in our fast-paced, overly scheduled, and screen-addicted lifestyles (yes I know, we’re all staring at a screen right now). Even so, the idea of food production and community remains intertwined and relevant. There is a way to do both, and this method carries more power than casual organizing and community building. This wonder of wonders is the co-op, and the time to build an urban farmers co-op in Colorado Springs is now.
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Foundation is launching its Traveling Cooperative Institute (TCI) program this year. TCI offers free-to-low-cost trainings about cooperative entrepreneurship to communities throughout Colorado and New Mexico, helping communities get these valuable structures in place. The workshops cover the co-op business model and steps to starting a co-op in depth. The events targets ndividuals considering entrepreneurship under the cooperative business model. Caroline Savery, lead trainer and organizer, has worked as co-op business developer and educator since 2011 in Pittsburgh, PA and Denver, CO and has assisted a variety of co-op start-ups in numerous industries.
Why a co-op you ask? Good question. Co-ops increase producer leverage in the market, build networks, keep wealth local (ding, ding, ding!), and help maintain local business ownership. You’ve heard me preaching this line for years, and here’s a chance to get one going for our community.
Here is a quick summary of each of the workshops TCI offers:
- Co-ops 101 – introduction to the co-op model, compared and contrasted with traditional business and non-profit models
- Co-ops as Tools – assessing your community’s needs and discerning whether a co-op might be an appropriate solution
- Using Co-ops – hands-on opportunity to apply your knowledge about co-ops and how co-ops might address your community’s needs
- The Co-op Development Process – understanding the co-op development process
- Gathering Your People – how to bring together your initial community to begin developing your cooperative
- Writing Your Plan – how to begin developing a cooperative business plan with your team
- Leadership in Cooperatives – understanding leadership in the context of democratic co-ops
Between January 11th and January 13th, we have an opportunity to host the Traveling Cooperative Institute here in Colorado Springs. Perhaps you are interested in turning your cottage food business into a co-op, or maybe you and a few of your backyard farming neighbors could organize a co-op.
You know how to reach me, so shoot me an email or leave a comment if you or someone you know is interested. We can do more together than we can apart, and I for one would love to bring local food production to a new level here in Colorado Springs.