Skagit Farmers Supply hosted young producers from Northwest Washington in the Bavarian-style mountain village of Leavenworth again this year for another round of cooperative leadership. Paul Hansen, Manager of Leadership Development with Land O’ Lakes, spent Dec. 2 and 3 with us going thru their “Cornerstone for Engagement” program. This program is usually done in Minneapolis at the end of February each year in conjunction with the Land O’ Lakes annual meeting, but to engage local cooperative members that can’t make it to Minneapolis, several progressive co-ops across the country have chosen to host Paul as a means of furthering the cooperative system with these sessions. We often hear that “the next generation doesn’t want to be involved with co-ops”. In our experience, that isn’t true. The reality is that you do need to use some resources to reach out to growers to walk thru with them what you are doing and discuss why they might want to be a part of cooperative leadership someday. This shouldn’t surprise us as this is how all values are passed on from generation to generation. Thru families, thru schools, sports, churches and in our case, thru the local co-op.
“Cornerstone for Engagement starts with farmer members and what their natural talents and interests are and gets them thinking about how they might use those talents in the cooperative system and in advocating for agriculture. It’s not meant to sign you up right now for a position, but to get you thinking about why and how you might use your natural talents to engage when you are ready. It also gives you a path to grow those talents in support of the larger cooperative system. This is vital for rural American if we are to have a strong system for the next generation” commented Tom Boland, President and CEO of Skagit Farmers Supply.
The sessions are designed to be the start of a process for individuals and couples to further their involvement in agriculture and to grow in their engagement of it.
This was the second time Skagit Farmers has hosted the event and the Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort outside of Leavenworth, Washington, is a great venue for the event. Clusters of cabins in the woods await the guests with the meetings held onsite. The rustic setting is a natural place for reflection as the woods team with deer and the cabins are kept quiet with no screens to distract you from the natural beauty you are enjoying.
“We’ve had the pleasure of hosting over 50 farmers from Snohomish, Island, Skagit and Whatcom Counties over the two sessions,” said Boland, “they represented most of the different crops grown in northwest Washington and it gave the group a good idea of why they might want to be involved in cooperative governance at some point.”