Lake Area Technical Students Gain New Perspective on Cooperatives
Growing up, Andrew Edgar spent his summers working on his cousin’s farm near Orient, S.D. So, until recently, when the Lake Area Technical Institute student thinks about what a cooperative is, the local grain elevator comes to mind. Today, he understands that the cooperative model works for more than farmers.
“I didn’t realize cooperatives could be used to provide affordable housing for college students or as a grocery store,” explains Edgar of what he learned during a class trip to Minneapolis and participation in National Farmers Union College Conference on Cooperatives.
During the three-day conference held in February, Edgar, along with 13 other Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) students learned from representatives and farmers from traditional and value-added agricultural, housing and consumer cooperatives. These presenters offered their insight on cooperative development. The students toured several area cooperatives, including Mississippi Market Food Co-op, Seward Co-op, Riverton Housing Co-op and REI, as well as the Mill City Museum, a river-front museum built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill.
“This conference really changed my perspective of cooperative business model,” says Edgar, who plans to put his agriculture business degree to work as a cooperative employee following graduation.
Edgar’s experience is not unique, explains Jeff York, LATI instructor who takes students from the Co-op Principles Class to this conference each year. “Students here in South Dakota basically see one model of a cooperative – their hometown elevator,” York explains. “By going on this trip, they get to expand their horizons a bit and see the different uses of this business model.”
South Dakota Farmers Union helps coordinate the trip for LATI each year. “Supporting cooperatives and educating the next generation about the value of cooperative membership has been a focus of Farmers Union since the beginning, more than a century ago,” explains Doug Sombke, SDFU President.
More about the NFU College Conference on Cooperatives
Lake Area Technical Institute students were among 75 students who participated in National Farmers Union annual College Conference on Cooperatives (CCOC).
The three-day conference provides an interactive learning experience for American agriculture’s next generation on the importance, structure and operations of various types of cooperative groups.
This year’s conference was made possible by premier supporters CHS Foundation, CHS Inc., CoBank, Farmers Union Industries Foundation and NFU Foundation. National Farmers Union also appreciates the generosity of the Ralph K. Morris Foundation, which provided travel scholarships for several students and hosted the keynote luncheon.
To learn more about how SDFU promotes and provides education to South Dakotans of all ages, visit www.sdfu.org.