How farmers gain from co-op ownership

October 19, 2022
Dryland wheat farmer, Debbie Kulm, discusses how the farmer-first culture of her local co-op benefits her family business.

When farmers and ranchers think back on the past two years, one recurring theme is uncertainty. Through supply chain disruptions, historically high fertilizer costs, shifting marketing opportunities and labor shortages, farmers like Debbie Kulm have turned to local cooperatives to help weather the dynamic business conditions.

Co-ops improve on-farm efficiencies

Kulm and her family operate a dryland winter wheat farm in eastern Washington. They rely on their local cooperative for everything from seed and fuel to grain marketing. Kulm says, “One of the most significant struggles we’ve faced over the past two years is the ability to secure adequate labor during our peak seasons. Our local co-op has alleviated some of that struggle by picking up our grain in the field, so we no longer run our own trucks.”

During seasonal peaks, time is at a premium for most farm businesses. Kulm takes advantage of co-op services, including seed delivery, to manage workflow more efficiently, so the farm’s full-time employees can manage more effectively. 

Farmer influence in the cooperative system

Kulm says that the level of farmer influence differs drastically between ag cooperatives and private industry businesses.

“The cooperative structure allows farmers to have an impactful influence on operations. That’s an opportunity that doesn’t exist with private industry companies. With common goals, cooperatives and producers can work together to realize production efficiencies,” she explains.

With a farmer-first culture, Kulm says co-ops have a vested interest in their patrons’ success and giving their members a voice. She encourages farmers and ranchers to explore opportunities found by working with their local co-ops.

“Take advantage of the offerings that work for your business and be transparent about services or products that don’t fit your needs,” says Kulm. “Co-ops exist to meet the unique needs that aren’t being met through other channels.”