Two University of Minnesota Crookston students, Amber Johnson, and Lacy Jacobson, as well as their instructor Charles Lariviere, attended the National Farmers Union (NFU) annual College Conference on Cooperatives (CCOC). The three-day conference was Feb. 15-17, 2019, and it hosted 71 students from across the nation in Minneapolis, Minn. The conference showcased an interactive learning experience for agriculture students that focused on the importance, structure, and operations of various types of cooperative groups. 

The students visited a wide range of cooperatives from a Food Co-op, Valley View Senior Housing Co-op, Riverton Housing Co-op, and REI, as well as the Mill City Museum, a river-front museum built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill.

Johnson said, “We were able to learn about and to tour hands-on applications of cooperative business principles and structures. The tours really highlighted the opportunities that are available when companies utilize the cooperative model.”  

Attendees were also able to listen to and ask questions of a panel of local farmers from traditional and value-added agricultural cooperatives, housing and worker-owned co-ops, and consumer cooperatives. Other speakers included William Nelson, former president of CHS Foundation, and Nanci Lilja, current president of CHS Foundation. 

Jacobson also found value in the networking opportunities that were a part of the conference. She said, “Being able to network with and build connections with people from across the country that are in the same career field as you is extremely important when starting to build a professional resume.”