Join us for a new cooperative learning series

Cooperative Learning Series

REGISTRATION IS OPEN for a new learning series hosted by the Iowa Farmers Union in partnership with the CHS Foundation:

“Cooperating to Grow Your Farm” offers an interactive learning opportunity for farmers focused on how farmer-owned cooperatives can help you add value to your products, reach new markets, and expand the profitability of your farm business. From sourcing inputs, to building infrastructure for processing, to accessing new and larger markets, farmer-owned cooperatives have a long history of success in keeping more of the food dollar in the pocket of the farmer. As Iowa agriculture has evolved over the past decade to include growing local and regional food systems and increased organic and specialty crop production, there is new demand and new opportunities for farmers to work together to build a more vibrant and robust farm economy that works for family farms.

“We are excited to explore new opportunities for Iowa’s family farmers to grow the health and financial sustainability of their operations,” said IFU President Aaron Lehman. “For so many beginning farmers especially, that means growing higher value specialty crops and selling directly to consumers and other specialty markets. These farmers are adding to the diversity and resilience of our farm economy, building ties within our communities, and supplying Iowa with healthy, locally-raised food. We need to use all the tools in our toolbox – including the unique opportunities and advantages offered by farmer-owned cooperatives – to make sure this new generation of family farmers has access to the supply chains, processing, marketing, and distribution they need to build successful and sustainable farm businesses.”

The learning series will include two webinars and one in-person workshop:

WEBINAR I – The Basics of Cooperation: Getting Started with Cooperative Principles

Dr. Keri Jacobs from ISU Extension & Outreach will walk you through the basics of cooperative development in Iowa, including cooperative principles and an overview of the nuts and bolts of cooperative business formation, governance, and financing. Following Keri’s presentation, LaVon Griffieon of Griffieon Family Farm will lead a discussion with participants relating her experience as as a producer and former board member for the Iowa Food Cooperative.

  • WHEN: Monday, March 207:00-8:00PM
  • Details for joining the webinar will be emailed to participants prior to the event
  • The webinar will be recorded and made available following the event to everyone who is registered for the learning series

Discussion leaders:

  • Dr. Keri Jacobs, Iowa Institute for Cooperatives Economics Professor, Iowa State University
  • LaVon Griffieon, Griffieon Family Farm, Ankeny, IA

​WEBINAR II – Cooperative Opportunities and Challenges: How to Make Your Cooperative a Success

Bill Stevenson from Rocky Mountain Farmers Union will share his expertise and practical experience with building and maintaining successful cooperatives, including an overview of the common challenges in cooperative business development. RMFU has a long history of working with successful farmer-owned cooperatives, and Bill is their resident expert with great practical wisdom to share. Following Bill’s presentation, Tom Frantzen of Frantzen family farm will lead a discussion with participants relating his experience as a member of farmer-owned Organic Prairie Cooperative.

  • WHEN: Monday, March 277:00-8:00PM
  • Details for joining the webinar will be emailed to participants prior to the event
  • The webinar will be recorded and made available following the event to everyone who is registered for the learning series

Discussion leaders:

  • Bill Stevenson, Director of Cooperative Development, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Cooperative Development Center
  • Tom Frantzen, Frantzen Farm, New Hampton, IA

IN-PERSON WORKSHOP – How Cooperation Works: Real Lessons of Cooperative Success Stories

The in-person workshop will be offered twice in two different locations. Participants are encouraged to attend the one that works best for them:

  • Monday, April 36:00-8:00PM, Ames City Hall (515 Clark Ave, Ames, IA)
  • Tuesday, April 46:00-8:00PM, Coralville Library (1401 5th St, Coralville, IA)

The in-person workshop will provide participants with real world stories of building a successful farmer-owned cooperative from the ground up – from initial discussions to full-scale operation. Sarah Lloyd from Wisconsin Farmers Union will share her experience working to develop the farmer-owned Wisconsin Food Hub. John Flory from the Latino Economic Development Center in Minnesota will also be there to share his organization’s experience building food cooperatives. Following these presentations, Sarah, John, and IFU staff will help lead a discussion and listening session with participants, so we can hear your questions and ideas for farmer-owned cooperative business development in Iowa.

Discussion leaders:

  • Sarah Lloyd, Special Projects Coordinator, Wisconsin Farmers Union
  • John Flory, Latino Economic Development Center, Minneapolis, MN


Questions? Contact IFU Membership Coordinator Deborah Bunka (dbunka@iowafarmersunion.org515-451-8492).

This learning series is offered with the generous support of the CHS Foundation.

Iowa Farmers Union
PO Box 1883 Ames, IA 50010-1883