Two new guides from the BC Ministry of Agriculture aim to help producers looking to establish agricultural co-ops become established.
According to the province, the recently updated Agricultural Co-operatives Start-Up Guide outlines an easy five-step process to help farmers create a new local co-op, while the Financing Agricultural Co-operatives Guide provides funding options for co-op farms. Originally produced in 1997, the guides were updated with funding from the province’s Grow BC program and joint federal-provincial funding under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.
“Our government is pleased to be teaming up with the province to provide this guidance to producers, because the rewards of forming a co-op can be great,” said federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau in announcing the guides. “Co-ops continue to make important contributions to the sustainable development of our rural areas. They offer producers the advantages of large-scale business, while benefiting many individual producers.”
Speaking at the BC Association of Farmers Markets conference in Kimberley last year, Joy Emmanuel of Turning Times Research and Consulting in Shawnigan Lake noted that the appeal of co-ops lies in a “values-based” approach that emphasizes the community over the individual.
The dominant form of agricultural co-op in BC is the marketing co-op, which sees farmers band together to sell produce locally and often allows for community membership. More than two dozen exist in BC, many with a not-for-profit mandate.
According to a study by Kwantlen Polytechnic University, there were approximately 86 active agri-food co-ops in BC last year.