Being elected to the board of directors for your local cooperative can be an intimidating experience. An agricultural cooperative may have some fundamental differences from a farm operation that makes it difficult for new board members to assess and direct. Part of these differences are due to business activities in adjacent parts of the supply chain. Additionally, cooperatives have unique financial and legal issues that use unfamiliar terminology, adding to the confusion.
Not surprisingly, education is a hallmark principle of cooperation. Many states offer educational programs for cooperative directors through their state agricultural cooperative council. Other resources for education include the farm credit system members and, of course, your state Extension service. Many of these offer traditional programs over 1-3 days, with speakers and workshops covering a variety of topics. Programs such as these continue to be widely available and appreciated.
However, directors are increasingly requesting alternative educational opportunities with online delivery. On-demand education is often a better fit for modern directors seeking a better balance of time devoted to home, business, and life in general. The pandemic of 2020 taught many boards that a lot of their activities can be effectively conducted online if needed. In response to this, a group of Extension specialists from across the nation established the Cooperative Director Foundations Program. This program provides 15 hours of training across 23 learning modules, targeted to directors of agricultural cooperatives. The course is available from Thinkific, on an online learning platform.
Directors needing cooperative specific training are encouraged to speak to their state Extension specialist for cooperatives and to check out the Foundations course on the Thinkific website at http://cacdd.thinkific.com.
Boland, Michael A., Kopka, Christopher J., Jacobs, Keri, Berner, Courtney, Briggeman, Brian, Elliott, Matthew, Friend, Diane, Kenkel, Phil, McKee, Greg, Olson, Frayne, Park, John L., Secor, William, Schweiss, Kristi, Scott, Hannah and Worley, Tom, (2022), Extension Programming During a Pandemic: The Cooperative Director Foundations Program, Applied Economics Teaching Resources (AETR), 4, issue 2, number 321906.