When you start your farm business, one think that you need to think about is your business structure.
Sole proprietorships and LLCs are common ways to go, but there are also other options, like co-operatives…
That’s how farmer Chris Thoreau of Food Pedalers structure his business, and that’s the subject of today’s show…
Today I’m going up to Vancouver to talk to microgreen farmer Chris Thoreau about a topic that you don’t hear discussed a lot in small scale farming circles – how he organized his business..
Chris initially started his business as a sole proprietor, but as he began to grow, both in the size of the business and the amount of people working in the business, he realized he needed to change that.
After looking at all of the options, Chris decided that he wanted to do something different, something that went more against the status quo, and something that was equitable for everyone involved – so Chris organized his business as a co-operative.
It’s an interesting business structure and it’s one that most people wouldn’t think of when organizing their business.
If your business is growing, or if you are thinking about expanding your team, then a coop structure might make sense for you…
Today Chris will talk about why he chose that structure, the advantages and disadvantages of it, and what it takes to have a successful member-owner business.
A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.
Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
2. Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.
3. Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
5. Education, Training and Information
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6. Co-operation among Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7. Concern for Community
Previous Episodes with Chris:
About Chris Thoreau
Chris Thoreau has been engaged in urban food production since 2001 as a farmer, educator, community organizer, and advocate. Chris now is one of the farmer owners of the Vancouver Food Pedaler’s Cooperative.
Since 2008 Chris has been based in Vancouver, BC where he attended the University of British Columbia’s Agroecology program. He received his BSc. (Hons) in 2011 after focusing his studies on urban farming, soil management, and small-scale plant breeding.
Prior to his time in Vancouver Chris operated a certified organic farm in Victoria, BC for six years. While in Victoria he also served on the local certifying body’s (Islands Organic Producers Association) Board of Directors and Certification Committee for two years.
When he isn’t obsessing over seeds, soil, and harvests Chris spends most of his time with his four-year-old son doing everything from soccer to skating, running to wall climbing, and reading to wrestling!
Curtis Stone interviews Chris Thoreau at his Vancouver microgreen farm
Interested in growing microgreens profitably as a business?
Don’t have a lot of land?
Looking to make a living farming?
Microgreens might be a great place to start…
Microgreens are high value crop that can be growing intensively in a very small space with some crops selling upwards of $50 per pound.
It’s totally possible and it is being done everyday.
Microgreen grower Chris Thoreau generates over $200,000 per year in this space…