Some of you may have already heard of Fertile Ground out of Oklahoma. I feel like I’ve come across that name before. In any case the company came up in my news feed when an Oklahoma City station aired a segment about them. It seems the company that had been contracted by three local cities to recycle their waste announced they would no longer be accepting glass.
Fertile Ground Cooperative stepped in to see what they could do.
As an environmental co-op, Fertile Ground worked to cut out that corporate middleman.
“We were able to find a solution where we can immediately start recycling glass, right here in Oklahoma, with an Oklahoma-based company,” Singer said.
I found the idea of an environmental co-op intriguing and went to their website to learn more about Fertile Ground. Not only was the business established to improve and protect the social and natural environment, but they structured their organization as a cooperative toward that goal.
WHY are we a WORKER COOPERATIVE?
A worker cooperative is a values-driven business that puts worker and community benefit at the core of its purpose. The central characteristics are that workers own the business and participate in its financial success on the basis of their labor contribution to the co-op, and that workers have representation on and vote for the board of directors, adhering to the principle of one worker, one vote.
Worker-Owners enjoy work because they have control over the conditions of their labor. Because worker-coops are locally owned, workers don’t pollute their own backyards, they are more inclined to pay themselves fairly, take care of their safety, and contribute to the local economy. Worker co-ops are also more productive than traditional workplaces because workers have greater buy-in and receive a portion of the surplus (profit).
We love worker co-ops because they can be a tool to empower people who are locked out of the mainstream economy. Checkout institute.coop for more info about worker co-ops!
I call on cooperatives as a sales representative for several fair trade companies. I came across P6 for the first time this February so I found this article in the La Cross Tribune intriguing.
The Principle Six (P6) Co-operative Trade Movement is an initiative created by cooperatives that promotes small farmers/producers, cooperative businesses and local farmers. P6 works by promoting products and producers that meet our highest values, engaging and empowering customers to make purchasing decisions that make our food system more just and sustainable. The Viroqua Food Co-op designates products as P6 when they meet at least two of the three criteria:
- Local: A product grown or produced within 100 miles of the VFC, or having value added within that radius.
- Cooperative/nonprofit: Cooperative ownership of the business, nonprofit status or the business sources the majority of their product’s ingredients from cooperatives or nonprofits. Some ESOP’s, Social Ventures, or alternative business models may qualify.
- Small farmer/producer: Small producer is defined using these guidelines:
- Independently owned and operated, and
- Selling direct to store or through a regional distributor. Continue reading →
Food For Change is a feature-length documentary film focusing on food co-ops as a force for dynamic social and economic change in American culture. The movie tells the story of the cooperative movement in the U.S. through interviews, rare archival footage, and commentary by the filmmaker and social historians. This is the first film to examine the important historical role played by food co-ops, their pioneering quest for organic foods, and their current efforts to create regional food systems. Additionally, the film shows how the co-op movement strengthens communities where they are located, enhancing local economies and food security. The goal is to educate a wide national audience about the principles of cooperation with a focus on food.
You can learn more about Food For Change here.