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Celebrating National Co-op Month: Ohio Farmers Join Forces to Grow their Market Reach

Posted by Sam Rikkers, Acting Administrator, Rural Business and Cooperative Service, USDA Rural Development in Rural
Oct 07, 2015
Tomatoes inspected by Great River Organics board member Michael Jones and General Manager Charlotte Graham
These tomatoes, inspected by Great River Organics board member Michael Jones and General Manager Charlotte Graham, will be distributed through the co-op’s weekly community-supported agriculture deliveries.

October is National Cooperative Month, and all this month we will be shining a spotlight on several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development's Cooperative Services. One fine example is Great River Organics in Ohio. Kimberly Rous and Hannah Scott work for our partner, the Ohio Cooperative Development Center in Piketon, Ohio and provided us some insight on a successful cooperative venture that is producing organic produce throughout central and north-central Ohio.

Great River Organics formed as a farmer-owned cooperative in December of 2014. Comprised of seven certified-organic farmers in central Ohio, the cooperative aggregates, markets, and distributes the organic produce grown by the farmer-owners through programs like the Great River Market Bag, a community-supported agriculture program that includes about 300 subscribers across central Ohio. They're also actively involved in the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network, which promotes the development of food hubs in the region.

Another major component of Great River Organics is the development of a wholesale business focused on making their farmer-owners' organic produce widely available to consumers. By building relationships with area partners, while simultaneously developing quality standards for their produce that meet and exceed industry standards, Great River Organics is moving forward with getting their fresh harvests in the grocery stores across central Ohio.

Initially formed as an LLC, Great River Organics restructured as a cooperative with help from Ohio Cooperative Development Center and USDA Rural Development, as they felt the cooperative business model better provided for future prosperity for the farmer-owners. The farmer-owners can concentrate on growing and producing a top-notch harvest while the collective marketing power of the cooperative provides a venue for distribution and growth of the customer base – including the future addition of more farmer-owners.

With continued support from USDA Rural Development's Cooperative Programs, we anticipate seeing more great things out of the Ohio Cooperative Development Center – clearly Great River Organics is already aptly named.

Last year, our nation’s co-ops generated record revenue.  With co-ops like Great River the future looks even brighter.

Category/Topic: Rural