More U.S. businesses are becoming worker co-ops: Here’s why

Article appears in Fast Company, read the entire article here.

In 1982, Linda and Gregory Coles were struggling to find a sitter for their 18-month-old daughter. After a year of searching, they just decided to open their own daycare, and founded A Child’s Place in Queens, New York, in 1983. Thirty-four years later, they were ready to retire. “We were going to sell the business,” Linda says. But their broker suggested that instead of selling to new owners, they offer the business to their employees, who could then buy it and organize as a worker cooperative.

The Coles’ hadn’t heard of worker cooperatives before, but once the broker explained how it would work, Linda knew it was the right decision for them. “The idea that we could turn our business over to our employees was one of the best things we thought we could ever do,” she says.

A Child’s Place is now in the process of reorganizing as a cooperative–one of just 300 worker-owned small businesses in the U.S. While employee-owned cooperatives are still a very underrepresented model of workplace organization, they deliver well-documented benefits to the businesses and employees they govern. According to the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI), a nonprofit that supports the development of worker co-ops, employee-owned small businesses see an average of 4% to 5% higher productivity levels and more stability and potential for growth. In contrast to traditional businesses, worker co-ops see much lower rates of employee turnover and business closure. They’re also known to boost both profits and worker wages.

Because the people doing the work for the company are also the ones who own the company, they feel a greater sense of responsibility for and personal stake in helping the business succeed. While there’s still a lot of knowledge-sharing that needs to happen before co-ops go mainstream, recently, policymakers are taking notice of the benefits of worker cooperatives, and new legislation is on the way support their growth. And with millions of baby boomer-owned businesses set to change hands in the upcoming decades, this transition could be an opportunity to create more democratic workplaces across the country–if business owners, workers, and advocates can work together to convert these enterprises into employee-owned cooperatives.


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The Carrot Project’s Business Assistance Network for Farms & Food Businesses


(Photo: Two Farmers Farm, Scarborough, ME)

The Carrot Project and their partners have started a new initiative outlined in the guiding document, The Blueprint: Building a Better Business Assistance Network for Farms and Food Businesses. (Click here to view The Blueprint.)

What is the Blueprint?

Demand for local, ecologically-sound food is increasing rapidly as consumers, advocates, and policy-makers seek to support local and regional food systems. However, current and aspiring farmers and food business owners face significant barriers in accessing land, capital and markets, as well as developing viable business models. There is no consistent support to help farmers and food businesses develop long-term economic viability.

The Carrot Project is a cohort of farm and food business technical assistance providers and funders, ranging from direct service providers, advocacy non-profits, and federal and state agricultural extension services, to foundations. They envision a vibrant local and regional farm and food business economy in the Northeastern US, where entrepreneurs are able to access the tools, resources, and know-how they need to flourish. They came together at the National Farm Viability Conference in 2017 to inform the development of a strategic agenda, outlined in The Blueprint, for the development of a regional network of organizations, programs and services that supports the long-term economic viability of farm and food businesses.The success of food and farm businesses contributes to both the transformation of the food and agriculture system by meeting consumer demand, and to meeting state and regional goals to develop local food systems.

The Blueprint lays out three primary objectives:

  • Objective 1: Cultivate a pipeline of business advisors to advise agricultural entrepreneurs across all business stages, scales, types, and populations.
  • Objective 2: Develop a strong interstate network that provides professional development, networking, and advocacy opportunities for business technical assistance providers.
  • Objective 3: Secure sufficient funding and other resources to ensure access to one-on-one business technical assistance across the New England and Hudson Valley regions.

Click here to view The Blueprint.

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MOFGA awards three business development grants

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), thanks to support from the John Merck Fund, is awarding $3,000 grants to each of three MOFGA-certified organic businesses: Turtle Rock Farm in Brunswick, Ripley Farm in Dover-Foxcroft and Left Field Farm in Bowdoinham. The funding will enable these businesses to access technical and consulting services to increase their sales to wholesale markets. In addition, MOFGA has partnered with Slow Money Maine, which will support two additional applicants at $1,500 each: Two Farmers Farm in Saco and

Morning Dew Farm
Photo by Blue Horse Photography

in Newcastle.

MOFGA’s Wholesale Technical Assistance (TA) grant program is designed to help Maine organic farmers and businesses access technical assistance at key points in their development so that they engage more successfully with such wholesale markets as restaurants, grocery stores and food distributors. This is MOFGA’s third year offering the program, which can help businesses evaluate profitability of different products or business models, conduct market research, research new equipment or packaging, address legal needs, redesign marketing efforts, and more. Past recipients include Sap Hound Maple Company, Green Spark Farm, Dandelion Spring Farm and Misty Brook Farm. MOFGA tries to find resources and support for all applicants, even those not chosen to receive the grants.

Past recipient Mary Ellen Chadd of Green Spark Farm said of the TA program, “This pilot will increase sales and profit by allowing me to seek new wholesale buyers for wholesale seedlings as we expand our sales of seedlings to grocery stores. Offering this education is an immense service.”

Many participants have become more comfortable looking at their numbers and conducting cost-benefit analyses for crops. They have said that the program significantly impacted their ability to achieve economic goals and to evaluate their bottom line and overall efficiency.

This is MOFGA’s third year offering the program, which can help businesses evaluate profitability of different products or business models, conduct market research, research new equipment or packaging, address legal needs, redesign marketing efforts, and more.

For more information about MOFGA’s TA grant program, please contact Heather Omand at The application process will open again in spring of 2019.

Original Link:


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The Food Studies Program at USM Announces New Food Studies Graduate Certificate

Are you curious about where your food comes from? Do you care whether the land it’s grown on is being well cared for and if the workers are making a livable wage? Do you want to help end widespread hunger in Maine? Do Maine’s fast-growing food businesses interest you as possible employment opportunities?

Then a Food Studies Graduate Certificate may be for you!

Our Graduate Certificate can be completed in 1-2 years and financial aid is always available. Learn more about the application process and courses being offered by clicking below.

To learn more about our courses and get info on applying, visit their website. 
Also, check them out on Facebook.

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June Webinars and Workshops from New Entry

June webinars and workshops from New Entry
Throughout the year, New Entry holds dozens of classes, advanced workshops, online trainings, farm tours and field trainings for beginning and established farmers, Food Hub customers, and the general public. Almost all events require some form of pre-registration, but most are free or very low-cost to attend. FMI on all events below visit:

Creating a Strong Brand for your Farm
Your farm brand consists of everything that you offer, say, or do, from the quality of your produce or meat to the color of your logo to the way you greet your customers. This session will explain how to creating a clear, consistent, and compelling brand that can help people remember your farm, build customer loyalty, and increase sales.
This event is for: Farmers who want to learn useful, farm-specific marketing skills!
Location: Online
Date: Wednesday, June 13th, 2018
Time: 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Webinar: Evaluation Plans
This webinar provides information to develop a useful evaluation plan for both your organization’s own use, as well as for a BFRDP proposal. We’ll be taking a deeper dive into creating outcomes and indicators. Participants will gain an understanding of the basic steps, and will have a list of resources to use in developing future plans. Presented by Jan Perez, Research and Education Specialist, Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz, and Allison Goin, Strategic Development & Program Design Consultant.
This event is for: This webinar is ideal for those involved or interested in the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant Program who want to learn more about creating an evaluation plan.
Location: Online
Date: Monday, June 25, 2018
Time: 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Explore Farming Workshop
This FREE two-hour workshop and discussion is designed to help you start thinking about farming and how you can get involved in the local food system. We will discuss the basics of starting a farm business, as well as alternative roles that people can play within our local food system.This class is a prerequisite for New Entry’s classroom-based Farm Business Planning Course.
This class is for: Aspiring farmers and folks considering involvement in food production.
Location: Tufts Veterinary School | 200 Westboro Road | North Grafton, MA 01536
Date: Monday, June 11th, 2018
Time: 5:00 – 7:00 pm

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Frinklepod Farm Announces Summer Cooking Classes

Vegan Sushi, Pickles-Chutneys-Jams, Date Night, Mexican Fiesta, and more….  Frinklepod Farm has something for everyone planned this summer!

Frinklepod Farm is proud to be the only venue in southern Maine (and probably beyond) offering a regular schedule of hands-on, plant-based/vegan cooking classes!   The unique setting, right in the middle of Frinklepod Farm, allows them to feature super fresh, organic produce and other local ingredients, for a true “farm to table” meal that leaves you feeling healthy and satiated.

Start looking at your calendar now because we expect all of our classes to fill up!

For more information and to register, click here.

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Wild Folk Farm Holds 3rd Annual Rice Planting Party; June 2, 2018

Join Wild Folk Farm on Saturday June 2nd for their
Third Annual Rice Planting Party!

12-6pm working, 7-11pm un-working

Come play amongst the frogs, toads, and migratory birds.
Come learn about rice cultivation and paddy creation.
Let’s continue to create a paddy agriculture in Maine built on human power and work songs, as newfound relationships and friends coalesce.

In villages throughout the world, rice is traditionally transplanted and harvested annually as a community activity.  Since launching the Maine Rice Project in Central Maine, we – and you! – have made it a priority to build that tradition right here.  Last year we had more than 50 folks join in throughout the day; let’s make it more!

The planting (and weeding) starts at 12pm. Ben will be giving a rice tour/history mid-afternoon.  The earth oven dinner will get rolling around 7pmonce the work winds down.  We will gather around the bonfire, discuss the day’s and year’s activities, play some campfire music, dine on fresh local cuisine, and get to know your strangers and neighbors better.  Of course, over some cold kegs of fresh local beer.

Invite friends and family.  Stay as long as you like. Get your hands and feet into our rice paddies, join in the work, and also feel free to explore the farm and socialize. If you have children in tow, or aches and pains, or time constraints, or anything that keeps you from physically joining in the work, please do put aside any stresses or worries and join us regardless.  That’s part of what makes the community pulse.

Thanks for considering.  If you may, reply to this email and tell us you’re thoughts on attending.  It’s okay if it’s a maybe or perhaps, or definite 1 or 10, just shoot us an email what you’re best guess is.  It really helps us prepare food and work group sizes.  But….that said of course last minute attendees are more than welcome to join the festivities.

We appreciate the support and really look forward to seeing you all.
Definitely feel free to pass this invite along to whomever may be interested,
and to contact us with any questions or thoughts you have.
Cheers and happy incoming summer!

~Ben and the Wild Folk farm crew

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Fork Food Lab’s Entrepreneurship and Scale Up Series to Begin May 29

Join Fork Food Lab for their Entrepreneurship & Scale Up Series running through October.

The first event in the series, an overview of scaling up, will be on Tuesday, May 29.

Learn more here.

Scaling your business might be your dream. Moving from small production runs to serious manufacturing. Are you asking the right questions of your business and yourself? Have you budgeted for growth? What about legal advice and insurance for risk mitigation? Do you know what your customers need? What sorts of food safety systems do you need? Join Dr. Michele Pfannenstiel of Dirigo Food Safety to understand the mindset you need to ensure success as you scale.

Registration Required Limited Seating


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CEI launches ‘Wicked Fast Microloans’ for small businesses

Coastal Enterprises Inc. has created a new microloan product that’s intended to help small businesses that need capital quickly to address needs ranging from equipment breakdowns to scaling up operations in order to take advantage of unique opportunities. Read about it here.

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Cooperative Maine Business Alliance Presents: “We the Owners: Employees Expanding the American Dream”


Cooperative Maine Business Alliance Presents a new video:
“We the Owners: Employees Expanding the American Dream”

May 17 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
The Crosby Center, 96 Church Street, Belfast

The event will include a brief panel discussion with local cooperatives Rock City Employee Cooperative and Allen Insurance. Midcoast Leadership Academy will share their findings of a region-wide research effort developed in collaboration with the Cooperative Development Institute: “Sustaining and Growing our Employment Strength Through Cooperatives.”

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