Happy National Co-op Month! Cooperatives bring a variety of resources and services to consumers. From agriculture, utilities, finance and more, these organizations play an important role across the United States. Not only do they expand options to consumers, but they bring increase economic resources for rural communities too.
There are more than 40,000 cooperative businesses in the United States with 350 million members (many people belong to more than one co-op). These cooperatives generate $514 billion in revenue and more than $25 billion in wages, according to a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, with support from USDA Rural Development.
An agricultural cooperative is a “formal form of farmer collective action for the marketing and processing of farm products and or for the purchase and production of farm inputs.” Cooperatives strive to effectively meet the needs of the farmer by ensuring that high-quality farm products or supplies are available. The objective of a cooperative is to provide the feed, seed, and fertilizer that is going to produce the best yield rather than those most beneficial to the cooperative’s net margins.
Cooperatives assist in helping farmers to remain competitive in a number of ways. Co-ops raise the price of the products marketed and reduce the cost of products purchased. They reduce the cost of supplies by providing products and services to their members at a lower cost; thus decreasing the average market price due to price adjustments in other organizations.
Studies show that consumers want to do business with companies that share their values, making today’s environment ideal for cooperatives and their commitment to the communities in which their members live and work. Cooperatives fill needs and keep thriving communities going and this month recognizes those successes and challenges us to seek out the possible solutions.
To learn more about the benefits of the cooperatives in your area visit cooperative events near you or take part in Co-op Month activities. For ideas and more information, visit www.coopmonth.coop to learn more. Use #CoopMonth to share on social media.
For years, conventional farming practices have depleted the soil we grow on. An overuse of fertilizer and chemicals is very common among modern farmers to maximize their crop yields. Where this might seem to be a short term solution in boosting your output, what is it doing to the long term fertility of the soil?
In fact, long term conventional farming practices can damage the rich, organic contents of the soil and make it so that the grounds we produce on are more and more dependent on the chemicals we spray. With the increased dependency of these synthetic chemicals that we are plugging into our soil, fertility level and overall production level goes down over time. So how can we ensure the health of our soils and an abundant crop for generations to come?
Get rid of the plow
It is estimated that we have 3 feet of topsoil on any given plot of land. Every time a farmer tills his or her field for planting, they are removing millimeters at a time for good. Aside from the physical removal of the soil, tilling greatly diminishes the ability for water to infiltrate and removes carbon from the soil which is vital for crop growth.
Diversify your crop (Including cover crops)
Planting a variety of crops throughout the year can help bring depleted and eroded soils back to life by delivering more of the nitrogen rich and organic content that is lost through disrupting the ground. Whether it’s a winter wheat or a perennial rye grass, it provides protection and another source for your soils nutrients. Not to mention it can create new markets and strengthen rural communities!
Diversify your rotation
Making sure to diversify the rotation that you plant your crops is vital to break pest cycles and combat resistance. It is common among Mid-Western farmers to rotate corn and soybeans from year to year. This provides natural protection from diseases, infestations and insects.