More than 150 attendees from 25 states plus Puerto Rico participated in the 2015 National Farmers Union (NFU) College Conference on Cooperatives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 20-22. Kansas attendees included Cloud County Community College students Lindsay Brown and Ellen Revell, plus Fort Hays State University students Janna Cook, Jason Cowan, Kristina DePriest, Kinsley Kroetsch, and Chelsea Wilkens.
Participants learned how cooperative businesses are adapting to changing environments and heard from cooperative experts from across the nation on why member-owned businesses are thriving in industries ranging from senior housing to healthcare. “I really loved the food cooperatives we toured,” said CCCC student Lyndsay Brown. “It really opened my eyes to the urban community market.”
To bring cooperative education to life, students toured housing, retail, and marketing cooperatives in Minneapolis and St. Paul. They also visited the headquarters of CHS Inc., the nation’s largest agricultural cooperative, and the Mill City Museum, built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill. “I really liked going to the CHS headquarters,” said FHSU student Chelsea Wilkens. “It was amazing seeing how each person described their job with such passion. I also thought the cooperative structure of the retirement home was unique, how they all owned a share of their home.”
Conference presenters ranged from members, directors, employees and managers of traditional and value-added agricultural cooperatives to representatives of housing and worker-owned co-ops, as well as consumer cooperatives such as REI and natural foods co-ops. These professionals offered insights on cooperative development here and abroad.
“The people I met on the trip was by far the best experience! I loved talking to and connecting with other individuals, learning about their backgrounds, and point of views on different issues,” said CCCC student Ellen Revell.
“Farmers Union remains true to its roots of both being an advocate for cooperative businesses and offering education programs,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “Our own history is very 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, CHS Inc., Minnesota Cooperative Education Foundation, Federated Youth Foundation and Organic Valley.
Kansas participation was made possible through the 2015 Cooperative Education Grants Program of the CHS Foundation. The CHS Foundation (www.chsinc.com/stewardship) is the major giving entity of CHS Inc. (NASDAQ:CHSCP), the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company. As a part of the CHS stewardship focus, the CHS Foundation is committed to investing in the future of rural America, agriculture and cooperative business through education and leadership development.
Visit the National Farmers Union flickr album to see more photos from the conference.