The Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCWE) is trying to bring more cooperatives into the state.
As of April, VCWE is providing grants for the development of cooperatives that would grow their own food, sell their own products, and provide affordable housing and community services.
The group is trying something new by partnering with a local farmer, who will serve as a co-founder of the cooperative.
“We are looking for a farmer that has the experience to grow his own food and to sell his own products,” said VCEU president and CEO Brian Hagerty.
The co-founders are not alone in trying to grow a cooperative.
Earlier this year, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed legislation into law that allows the state’s cooperatives to receive up to $250,000 in tax credits per year, which are used to buy land, equipment, and seeds.
These subsidies will also allow VCWE to establish its own co-op in the city of Newport News, which is currently home to three small, publicly owned cooperatives.
This is the first step for Virginia’s co-ops to gain recognition and legitimacy.
But as more and more communities move toward a cooperative model, so too will the challenges of running a coop.
For now, VCEW has found itself at the center of a fight over who gets to decide what kind of food cooperatives are legal in Virginia.
In recent years, Virginia has seen an explosion of small-scale farmers who have been able to create a thriving economy around food cooperatively produced produce.
“It’s hard for people to think of a coops that aren’t based on some form of commodity farming,” Hagery said.
“People tend to assume that those are the types of places that are going to thrive.”
This is where the Virginia Cooperative Expansion Act comes in.
The act allows VCWE and its partners to operate cooperatives without regard to whether they are based on a commodity crop or whether they include a market.
It is the same concept that the state adopted to make co-operatives legal in New York City, which has allowed the city’s farmers to expand their operations to produce vegetables and produce their own honey and spices.
As Virginia’s economy has grown, more farmers have been trying to expand into the market and become independent producers, creating a more viable model for the state as a whole.
“When you start with a commodity, you have a limited number of products that you can make that are economically viable and can be made in the same way that we can,” Humbert said.
Virginia’s growing cooperative movement has also seen a shift toward growing produce from locally grown produce, which creates an additional barrier to growing cooperatives in the state, according to Humberty.
“The idea that we need to do more with less is a little bit problematic,” he said.
But even if Virginia’s farmers are able to expand, it’s not a guaranteed path for many other Virginia farmers to succeed.
In New York, a number of local farmers are competing to become the next crop of Virginia’s burgeoning cooperatives, according a report by The Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank.
According to the report, there are already over 3,500 small-to-medium-sized farms operating in Virginia, but only around 20 percent of them are owned and operated by farmers.
In the state of Virginia, there is a growing demand for cooperatives as a way to boost the local economy and provide economic benefits for Virginia farmers, which have been struggling with unemployment and underemployment for years.
Virginia Cooperative Development Director and founder of the Virginia Co-op Coalition Bob Eichler said that the growth of cooperatively grown produce is only one part of the solution to the state economic crisis.
“Cooperatives provide a way for small farmers to grow their crops, and produce a higher-quality product, which in turn is good for the economy and the community,” Eichlers said.
In addition to growing produce, cooperatives also provide an outlet for local businesses to take advantage of the growing local market.
The cooperative model has a long history in Virginia that includes farming, food service, and retail.
According the report from the Economic Policy Initiative, Virginia’s agricultural industry has been one of the most highly profitable industries in the United States for more than a century.
In 1917, the first Virginia Coops Cooperative was formed in Newport News.
Today, the Virginia Agricultural Cooperative Alliance (VAACA), which is a nonprofit that works to promote and encourage the development and operation of Virginia Cooperative Agriculture (VCAA), maintains a list of Virginia cooperatives around the state that it believes to be active.
The Virginia Coop Coalition of Greater New York has also been active in the cooperative movement.
“I think a lot of the movement that we’ve seen in the last year has been really positive, with a lot more people getting involved,” Haggerty said