Co-Op Demographics

My vision of how this cooperative would function leads me to believe families would be ideal prospects for recruitment.  Families purchase more food than couples or singles, providing a built in incentive: save money.   The bigger the family, the greater the potential savings.  Sticking to at least All Natural growing methods, there is a health consideration: Parents don't want to put chemicals on their kid's plate.   At the very least, families looking to save money and not poison their kids are the ideal customers for our products.

The sharecropper arrangement allows any member of the family to participate.  A family has more than one person who can make that contribution.  As long as the offspring are at least 14, they can help on the farm.  At 16 they can handle foods and some equipment in the kitchen as well as help in other areas that are low risk.  At 18, they can do anything.  The younger kids can participate in the Cans for College program, arts and crafts projects, and tag along with older siblings in areas that are not hazardous.  The working parents may contribute at the start of the enterprise, however, I think the baton would be passed to the younger generation to handle the work, some of which will be physically demanding.  Farms and young people are a good match.  They've got the energy of youth, strong backs, quickness and will readily take possession of the duties involved.  The sharecropper plan allows these kids to contribute as much time as they wish and be rewarded accordingly. 

The current economic situation does not favor these youths.  Unemployment in the 18-24 age group is a disgrace, has been for several years, and there is no end in sight.  What's more, the jobs these kids do get are part time, minimum wage, and dead end.  Upward mobility aint gonna happen for many years.  There are too many qualified people in the job market.  Until the economy improves, employment for our young people will be in crisis.  There are few jobs in which to gain experience and no place to use it if they had it.  These kids are losing the first 10 years of their working lives.  Carry that down the road, that's 10 years missing from their pensions and retirement funds.  They are not set back for a couple of years.  Their lives will not be as good as ours unless they have a chance to work and develop skills which will give them an advantage.   Fro the perspective of the parents, they are not just buying a share in a company, they are investing in their kid's future.

The core benefit of this co-op is giving kids the chance to work, learn, and develop skills which give them a head start in the working world.  With a diverse operation, these kids can be exposed to agriculture, food service, customer service, retail, and craftsmanship.  As they learn and develop on the farm they develop leadership skills, learn to solve problems, and by the nature of the enterprise, take on a holistic view of the entire business from planting to harvest to processing to sales and service.  They'll be involved in the creative process of product development.  They'll be exposed to and participate in decision making at every level.  They'll take on the sort of responsibility they won't get from a part time, minimum wage, dead end job.  Our product is not a box of tomatoes or loaf of bread.  Our product is skilled, experienced, self motivated leaders capable of critical thinking.

Older folks, empty nesters, and retirees can find the experience fulfilling.  They bring critically needed experience and wisdom.  Having the time available, the co-op offers the chance to explore their creativity and share that lifetime of knowledge with a younger generation.  If there is one thing we need in good supply it's patience, wisdom, and a willingness to help get these young people off to a strong start.  I know a lot about gardening, but the physical strain is becoming more than I can bear.  I'd love to be involved, but that shovel gets heavier every year.  I can offer more with my head than with my back.

 

Cooperative Enterprise, Plan Outline