WASHINGTON -- More than 135 students from the United States and Puerto Rico participated in the National Farmers Union (NFU) College Conference on Cooperatives last week. The students learned how cooperative businesses are adapting to changing environments in order to succeed and heard from cooperative experts from across the nation on why member-owned businesses are thriving in industries ranging from senior housing to healthcare.
“This is an opportunity for the cooperative community to teach young people about cooperative business principles and to show them that there are great careers in these dynamic, ethical and community-minded businesses,” said NFU President Roger Johnson.
To bring cooperative education to life students toured housing, retail, and marketing cooperatives in Minneapolis and St. Paul. They visited the headquarters of CHS Inc., the nation’s largest agricultural cooperative. Students heard from cooperative leaders, farmers, and government experts who explained current challenges they face.
Presenters ranged from members, directors, employees and managers of traditional and value-added agricultural cooperatives to representatives of electric, housing, and worker-owned co-ops, as well as consumer cooperatives such as credit unions, REI and natural foods co-ops. These professionals offered insights on cooperative development here and abroad.
“Farmers Union remains true to its roots of being an advocate for cooperative businesses and offering education programs, so it’s incredibly valuable to have events like this to help bring those topics together,” said Johnson. “Our own history is so closely tied with the cooperative movement. Cooperatives were made possible by legislative activity, and organized by farmers and ranchers to strengthen the economic opportunities in rural and urban communities. Farmers Union has a strong commitment to providing cooperative education not only to our own members, but also to the general public, and especially to young people, many of whom are just learning about the cooperative way of doing business.”
The conference was organized by National Farmers Union and sponsored by the CHS Foundation, CoBank, Farmers Union Industries Foundation, NFU Foundation, The Cooperative Foundation, SPIRE Federal Credit Union, CHS Inc., Minnesota Cooperative Education Foundation, Federated Youth Foundation and Organic Valley.
National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.