Stop # 2 on the field trip to Quebec was Tourne Sol Cooperative Farm. I met Frederic at a the Bring Food Home conference in Peterborough in October- and we chatted about coming for a visit to his farm. Last March our class went through the crop planning book that was written by two of the farmers from this farm. The reason we were really keen on visiting them was because many folks in our class are interested in cooperative farming. What is a cooperative?
In farming a cooperative means multiple business owners of one farm business. Instead of being a partnership (50/50), or a sole proprietership (100%), a coop is owned by a number, say 5, people . At Tourne Sol they each own 20% of the business.
We wrote up a long list of questions like, “How do you deal with conflicts between coop members?”, “What happens if someone leaves”, “What are the steps to starting a coop?”, “How do you do visioning in a co-op?” etc. etc.
In between playing little games with Fred’s 3 year old and eating sushi and bi bim bop, we were able to get a number of our questions answered.
Key things that came out of the conversation (that I find helpful):
-most members of the coop had prior experience being on boards of different groups; most were involved in clubs in university and therefore knew about how to work well in a team
-he took the holistic management course (with Tony and Fran McQuail) with all coop members
-daily meetings are key
-yearly long-term visioning is done with the whole group to make sure everyone is on the same page, and to determine where to put future energies
-each individual is in charge of certain aspects of the business/crops, ie. one girl does herbs and teas, another does the seed saving enterprise… however, they all help make sure those things get done on a day to day basis
-everyone makes a living wage— they get paid $20/hour, and any money they make over that goes back into the farm