In just nine months, the Wayne County Farmer’s Co-Op has gone from an idea to what is likely the largest co-op in West Virginia with more than 100 members.
“From its inception, the organization has devoted itself to making agriculture a viable economic opportunity for the people of Wayne County in response to the financial hardship and unemployment facing the region,” said member Ron Thompson.
Cooperatives are businesses owned and controlled by the people who use them; agricultural co-ops allow farmers to pool their resources in certain areas of activity.
Effective June 11, 2015, the West Virginia Legislature expanded the state’s producer cooperative statute to include all food- and farm-related businesses, not just producers, to form as cooperative businesses.
SB352 expanded the agriculture code that pertains to producer cooperatives to include all businesses that relate to foods and beverages, arts and crafts, woodworking and recycling, composting and repurposing of materials.
“I think with 100 members now, it is safe to say they are the largest in the state,” said Brandon Nida, director of programs at the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition in Fayetteville. “Right now, there are only six in the state.”
Nida says he expects that number to grow because co-ops provide high-quality services.
“Co-ops help to spur activity and value in local economies because they are controlled by the members who use their services, rather than by outside investors,” he said. “It’s a good way of keeping and building wealth in a community…”