By Berlin Arellano (Tucumcari, NM)
The College Conference on Cooperatives held in St. Paul/Minneapolis, is a convening of students who are open and ready to conquer their prospective industry. As an ag business owner and active Co-op Board member in my rural community, this conference was a great eye-opener for me. The vast mash-up of knowledge and enthusiasm was just what I needed to–reflect on my experiences and then take my new-found knowledge back to my community Cooperatives.
The conference covered all the basics to include Co-ops 101: the principles and values of co-ops, the five different types of co-ops, and Board Member decision making. We also heard from industry leaders and lenders in the cooperative sector, and how funding is available to this unique and underserved niche market.
The conference also included a bus tour to 3 different cooperatives in the Twin Cities plus a delicious lunch at the Farmers Kitchen. Exploring the Riverton Community Housing, Seward Community Grocer, and REI was an awesome experience, and a great way to see how like-minded people join together and build a stronger community.
As if that wasn’t enough, conference coordinators also scheduled some great recreational events during the evening. One evening, we went to the Mall of America, and the other, we went to Midtown Global Market for dinner then to the Orpheum Theatre to see the play, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Understanding and knowing all the tools, organizations, and opportunities available for farmers and rural communities can greatly strengthen the economic position and development of cooperatives in our home regions. While cooperatives may not be a new idea–in this economy, I feel it is going to be the “new norm” business model in the near future. I am truly grateful that with the help of Ogallala Commons and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union I was able to be a part of this amazing conference.