As our name implies, the work of CDS involves “developing cooperatives.” So it’s likely no surprise that our clients are existing cooperatives that seek to expand, diversify, or improve in some aspect of their operations or governance. We also help groups that want to form new cooperatives. In fiscal year 2016, CDS provided organizational or business development assistance to 102 existing co-ops and 27 start-up groups. It was a busy year!
But we also strengthen cooperatives by strengthening the businesses of their owner-members, especially the businesses of farmers who are members of farm supply or dairy co-ops, rural electric co-ops, or credit unions.
CDS staff work all across the agricultural spectrum: large and small, “conventional” or “sustainable” or “organic.” Over the past 15 years, markets for the products of sustainable and organic agriculture have been particularly active and growing, and we have played a significant role in strengthening the local supply chains that serve consumer-owned natural foods cooperatives. In this newsletter, you can read about one of those clients, the VanDerPol family who created and grew the Pastures A Plenty brand of sustainably-produced meat products. It’s been very satisfying work.
In addition to our work in governance and business analysis, we also help our clients connect to informational and financial resources. In the past 15 years, we have helped co-ops and farmer-owned companies obtain over $7 million in federal, state and foundation funding, with particular success in helping clients access the USDA Value-Added Producer Grant program and the Minnesota Value-Added Grant program.
Whether you are with a co-op, a steering committee thinking of starting a co-op, or a business that is a member of a co-op, we welcome you to be in touch with questions of how we can help you grow successfully. Check out our website, www.cdsus.coop, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at 651-265-3678.
–Kevin Edberg, Executive Director, Cooperative Development Services