Innovation, cooperation on display at OEFFA conference

Buckeye Farm News
February 19, 2013
By Seth Teter

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s recent annual conference highlighted dozens of innovative ways to grow food and bring products to market. Many of these efforts emphasized the value of increased coordination among both farmers and consumers.

I talked with a few of this year’s presenters and attendees.

Here’s what they had to say:  

Organic Valley CEO George Siemon described how farmers have found success working together through the producer-owned cooperative.

“The dream of every family farm is to have it to go to the next generation.  And so we know who we want to be, we want to serve the next generation of family farms.  And that’s the beauty of a cooperative, is that it does represent or serve the community.”

Hear more from Siemon about Organic Valley’s approach.

Bob Cohen of the Cooperative Development Center at Kent State University shared his thoughts on the feasibility of the cooperative model in today’s business climate.

“Particularly small and medium scale farmers often can’t compete in the marketplace on their own and so they’re finding that by banding together they’re able to negotiate a better price and sometimes create the mechanisms and infrastructure that enable them to be competitive and more profitable.”

Hear more Cohen.

Another example of farmers cultivating unique business models came from Marissa Kruthaup of Kruthaup Family Farm. The farm has a Community Supported Agriculture program where each year customers buy a share of the farm’s products.

“People who are especially concerned about how their food is being grown, they can come to the farm and see where it’s grown and see how it’s grown and interact with us.”

Hear Kruthaup explain how the program works.

No matter the model, Richard Stewart of Carriage House Farm showed how farmers are always pursuing new opportunities. In addition to growing a wide variety of crops, Stewart is working to convert a former gravel mine into productive farmland.

Hear more about Stewart’s unique farm and his progress on this project.