Terence talking with Virgin Island farmers at Co-opEcon 2019, Epes, Alabama
Regional Center For Cooperative Development
Director of Cooperative Development & Strategic Initiatives
State-Based Cooperative Development
We focus on developing one to three cooperatives each year in each State. In South Carolina, we’re working with new members to start up the Southeast Fisherman’s Cooperative, as well as outreaching to veteran State Association members to revive older cooperatives. In Georgia, we’re initiating a campaign to organize home childcare providers into cooperatives; we’re working with state staff to strengthen Southern Alternative (a value-added pecan cooperative). We conducted Coop 101 workshops and made presentations to communities in the Atlanta area interested in forming cooperatives.
Collaborating with the Alabama staff, we developed a work plan to help residents of the Windy Hill Housing Community and the local Wellness Center to form associations governed by cooperative principles and structures. Additionally, we have designs for moving our Goat Cooperative, SOGOCO, to a more robust position by accessing processing facilities and securing more consistent management.
Regional Cooperative Development
Whether we concern ourselves with the best interests of individual cooperatives or with the more expansive notion of large scale economic and political empowerment, a regionally coordinated program for cooperative development is nonetheless imperative to building long term, sustainable, and successful collectively owned enterprises.
Given the history of FSC/LAF and our traditional areas of work, it would be easy to assume that everything we do is focused in the southern United States. However, we are currently engaged in two projects that –while not located in the US South- nonetheless have strategic importance to the future of our membership and the communities in which they live.. These projects are the Cleveland/Akron Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative and the Cuban Cooperative Trade Partnership.
The Cleveland/Akron Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative (SHTI) involves the FSC/LAF leading a project in the cities of Cleveland and Akron OH that supports low-income communities of color facing food insecurity. We assist by helping participants obtain USDA/NRCS resources to build Hoop Houses which extend growing opportunities This project is a continuation of our long established rural/urban connection. Its relevance is determined by two key factors:
Mississippi Association of Cooperatives
Cooperation among cooperatives is not just a principle or slogan that FSC/LAF lives by, it also represents our strategy for competing with the agricultural behemoths that currently dominate the whole industry, making it harder for small farmers to survive. Our strategy in this regard has four key components:
CoopEcon – a program of regional cooperative development education, networking and relationship building;
Academic Alliance Building – a program that builds partnerships with colleges, universities and technical schools to educate students about cooperatives, and provide them with places to apply classroom knowledge in the real world;
Cooperative Developer & Manager Training – a program led by the Rural Training Center to teach members and staff about cooperative development and managing coops;
Cooperative Development Consortium – a program of harnessing regional capacity by first building/strengthening State Associations, followed by the development of more Cooperative Development Centers, and finally by coordinating the activities of said Cooperative Development Centers.
These four components enable FSC/LAF to build stronger institutional mechanisms needed to provide more and even better assistance throughout the southern region. Greater geographic presence helps ensure that individual farmers get more personalized assistance, and imparts the membership as a whole with the ability to wield power that more effectively reshapes economic and political conditions to their benefit.