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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

The collective future of American agriculture

In the tightly concentrated U.S. chicken industry, where just four companies account for about 55 percent of all the meat sold in the country, it’s tough for a solo farm to get its products into grocery stores. Most commercial chicken farmers raise birds under a contract with one of the big brands, which supply the chicks, feed, pharmaceuticals, and other necessities and then pay a set price to the producer. Farmers assume all the risk of raising the birds, but if things go well, they get a guaranteed paycheck.

But Reginaldo (known as Regi), a trained agronomist who emigrated from Guatemala when he was 25, wasn’t going solo. Before he and Amy decided to expand, he had spent 13 years working a smaller chicken farm and building a regional network of farmers who were drawn to his agroforestry approach. That group now comprises seven committed chicken and grain producers representing more than 950 acres in southeastern Minnesota, plus a processing plant, a grain elevator, and support staff, and more farmers are lining up to join. The chicken business runs as a cooperative, and the larger group includes a nonprofit that owns infrastructure and leads legislative, advocacy, and training initiatives, as well as several other affiliated businesses not part of the co-op. Regi calls this extensive system a “collective.” Together, they might make it.

Read the rest at The Fern


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