A Cooperative Experience for Ohio High Schoolers

September 13, 2023
Andy Lynd of Lynd Fruit Farm and Market shares wisdom about cooperative marketing and customer service with high school students in Appalachia, Ohio. Photo by CFAES Center for Cooperatives at OSU.

Educators in the Appalachian Region of Ohio have been working with area high schools to share information about cooperative business models and agricultural careers.

Since the early 1900s, cooperatives have been active in rural America, from small grocery co-ops to multi-state agricultural co-ops. Many people in many counties in the Appalachian Region of Ohio struggle with poverty.  The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (OSU-CFAES) Center for Cooperatives has been working to raise awareness about the co-op business model as an opportunity for economic development and justice in the region. They’ve been showing young people how cooperatives can be a strategy for sustainability. 

“After learning more about the future talent needs of cooperatives, a colleague suggested we develop a program to help young people see varied cooperative career opportunities, and I was excited to help young people see agriculture from lots of perspectives the way I have been lucky to personally,” said CFAES Center for Cooperatives at OSU program director, Hannah Scott, who comes from an Ohio farm family. “I get excited about students seeing how agriculture, or working in rural communities, could fit their careers even if they work off-farm.” 

With support from a $3,946 NCR-SARE Youth Educator grant in 2019, the CFAES Center for Cooperatives at OSU piloted a new Cooperative Student Leadership Experience program to share cooperative models and career opportunities with students in the Appalachian Region of Ohio. 16 high school students from the Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center in Adams County learned about cooperative principles, types of cooperatives, member roles and responsibilities, and the benefits of cooperatives. 

During one of the student tours, Andy Lynd with Lynd Fruit Farm and Market near Pataskala, Ohio, shared marketing stories. Lynd’s grandfather was instrumental in forming the Ohio Fruit Growers Marketing Program, a grower-owned marketing cooperative. Students learned about Lynd’s farm market firsthand, where they sell apples, pumpkins, and local products like honey and grass-fed beef.

Scott received a follow-up NCR-SARE Research and Education grant to expand the Center for Cooperative’s outreach about cooperative business models and improve the school farm’s viability. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center worked with a local Farm Bureau program to offer online video tours and other materials to continue inspiring students. The “Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience Online” materials help educators teach students about the cooperative business model, co-op history, finance, legislation, and the formation of new cooperatives. Go to https://go.osu.edu/ycle


NCR-SARE’s Youth Educator grant program starts accepting proposals in mid-August. Learn more here: https://northcentral.sare.org/Grants/.

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Topics: Cooperatives, Farm Business Management
Related Locations: North Central, Ohio