We LOVE working with our clients - and we wanted to hear what they love about working with us. We asked 6 of our clients to introduce themselves and tell us what they have accomplished through their collaboration with the Keystone Development Center. Their organizations include Leadership that Works, the MontCo Union Taxi Co-op, MARC - Feeding PA, and Tuscarora Organic Growers. Click here to check out the video - we hope you love it as much as we do!
From cooperative banks, rural electric, purchasing and marketing cooperatives, Pennsylvania farmers have historically depended on the cooperative economy to work together for the benefit of their communities. Agricultural cooperatives have provided farm families economic sustainability, thereby preserving farming as a viable way of life.
Keystone Development Center (KDC), a non-profit corporation with a mission to provide technical and research assistance to groups who wish to organize as cooperatives, believe that the cooperative-business model can enable people to mitigate business risk and provide themselves with services at an economic advantage.
KDC will be conducting research on the economic contributions and rural impacts of agriculture cooperatives on preserving working farms in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, through the partnership between all levels of government and non-profit agencies, has shown commitment and leadership nationally in preserving farmland through the easement purchase of more than 4951 farms totaling more than 520,619 acres. Farm businesses return far more to Pennsylvania’s economy than the Commonwealth invested in the preservation of farmland.
Combining farmland preservation achievements with efforts to organize and strengthen agricultural cooperatives moves us closer to the goal of growing, maintaining and supporting farmers and working agricultural lands in the Commonwealth. What has never been accounted for is the overall economic impact of cooperatives in Pennsylvania in terms of jobs, wages and salary and total income.
Keystone Development Center is concerned with the holistic reality of the regional economy and the critical contributions of agriculture to regional food security, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. KDC has received $20,000 in funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to support their newest research project. This award was matched with supporting funds from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Cooperative Development Grant which supports KDC’s general operating budget for $200,000.
Many cooperatives work to build and strengthen local and regional food systems by developing capacity along the food chain, building relationships that create mutual benefit between and among cooperatives across sectors and between urban and rural communities.
KDC is excited to further investigate the agricultural co-op sector as part of this year’s Cooperative Census. “We estimate that there are 66 agricultural marketing cooperatives currently operating in Pennsylvania.” states Peggy Fogarty, Executive Director of KDC. “We hope to identify strategies to promote business growth and create conditions that will allow these communities to thrive economically.”
Keystone Development Center’s Cooperative Census presents an excellent opportunity to go beyond the information customarily gathered around size, structure, revenue, etc. of the cooperatives they serve, to dig deeper into the agricultural sector of co-ops, and to engage co-op members - not just organizations.
KDC plans to interview member producers from key agricultural cooperatives in Pennsylvania. They will identify cooperative member farmers who are farming on preserved land, and conduct in-depth interviews with them, gaining insights and first-person narratives that will illuminate the relationships between the impact of preserving farmland and of agricultural cooperatives in the Commonwealth.
Keystone Development Center’s census has three key objectives:
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is awarding 29 grants totaling $5.8 million to help rural cooperatives create jobs and support business expansion. The funds are provided through the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program, which helps fund non-profit groups, such as rural cooperative development centers & higher education institutions. KDC is the proud recipient of one of these grants and is looking forward to supporting cooperative development through 2017. Read The Grant Announcement Here!
Want more? Click here to read an article from National Co-op month discussing our award and the work we have done with Tuscarora Organic Growers!
From Left to Right:
Thomas P. Williams, Pennsylvania State Director, USDA Rural Development
Samuel Rikkers, Administrator, USDA Rural Development Rural Business Cooperative sErvice
Peggy Fogarty, Executive Director, Keystone Development Center
Jim Crawford, Founding Member and Board Member of Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative
KDC has been involved with the Clean Energy Cooperative since the beginning. Initially, we helped organizers understand the cooperative model and how it would work. We then provided support in basic organizational development including reviewing policy formation, bylaws, financial projections and the business plan. KDC also assisted the Clean Energy Cooperative with understanding various legal issues along with the incorporation process. KDC continues to be a sounding board to their leadership team
Yesterday, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) announced its national award winners for the Best of 2016 in renewable energy and energy efficiency. IREC's 3iAward recipients were honored during an awards ceremony at Solar Power International, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The winner of the 2016 Community Renewables Project of the Year is the northeast Pennsylvania-based Clean Energy Co-op.
The Clean Energy Cooperative, Inc., a community-owned clean energy co-op, was founded in 2014 with the idea to use local investments to develop renewable energy demonstration projects that provide positive economic returns to its members and community.
Looking for local non-profits interested in going solar, Honesdale's historic Cooperage stepped forward as the co-op's first solar project. Originally built in 1861 by a local cooper, the Cooperage has withstood several incarnations since it was home to wooden barrel making. Today, the building is home to The Cooperage Project, a well-loved, non-profit community center, and as of December also to a 27kilowatt rooftop solar photovoltaic system, designed to provide 100% of the building's annual electricity usage. The Co-op received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Renewable Energy for America (REAP) program to fund 25% of the project. Co-op members provided the rest. A family-owned, NABCEP-certified business, Buselli Solutions in nearby Beach Lake PA, designed, and installed the system.
"We are tremendously excited to receive national recognition for our first community-supported solar project," said Jack Barnett, president of the Clean Energy Co-op. "Projects such as these are common in other states that have community solar laws, but much harder here in rural Pennsylvania. We would love to help other local non-profits implement energy efficiency or renewable energy systems. Moving toward greater sustainability is important to our membership and our community."
"Through IREC's 3iAwards - celebrating Innovation, Ingenuity and Inspiration - we're proud to recognize programs, projects and individuals leading the way to a cleaner energy future," said IREC Board Chair Larry Shirley. "Their work is creating solutions to today's complex renewable energy and energy efficiency challenges - changing the national energy conversation and our communities in the process," added Ken Jurman, IREC board member and chair of the 3iAwards Committee.
The Cooperage will also be one of the Upper Delaware River Valley sustainable buildings on the upcoming Green Living Bus tour, hosted by a local non-profit, Sustainable Energy Education & Development Support (SEEDS) on Sunday October 2nd, as part of the 2016 National Solar Tour (www.nationalsolartour.org). For more information or to register for this bus tour, visit seedsgroup.net/get-on-the-bus.
For additional local information about the Clean Energy Co-op, visit www.CleanEnergy.Coop, or contact George Brown at email@example.com. For more information about The Cooperage Project in Honesdale, visit www.TheCooperageProject.org, or contact Ryanne Jennings at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about IREC and their 3iAwards, contact Ruth Fein at518.858.7329 or email@example.com.
KDC has been a Rural Cooperative Development Center for 17 years, and in this time we have developed a sophisticated array of state, regional, and national programs for cooperative business development. KDC had a very active year in 2015, serving 31 cooperative businesses as well as 15 potential cooperative groups and an additional six non-cooperative businesses. We incorporated three new cooperatives last year, Allegheny Solar Cooperative and the Soil Building Partners Cooperative, as well as MontCo Union Taxi LLC, which was not legally formed as a cooperative due to restrictions in the Maryland statues, but it operates on a cooperative basis. We provided feasibility studies or business plans to two groups and assisted three organizations with bylaws development.
Over the life of the center we have assisted over 100 clients and worked on at least 29 different feasibility studies. Our best estimates are that KDC has helped to create 25 cooperatives that sustained operations for five years or more. Of these we estimate that 65 full-time or part-time jobs were created. The aggregate annual gross sales of these cooperatives are estimated to be greater than $25,000,000. In addition, we have impacted over 70 other cooperatives or startup groups. Our collective qualifications include meeting facilitation, co-op education, bylaws and incorporation, member equity drives, feasibility analysis, market research, business planning, financial modeling, board development, management development, organizational analysis, administrative systems, cooperative law and cooperative taxes.
Neil Stauffer, General Manager of Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance, which has worked with KDC since 1999, says he considers KDC “an essential partner” to his thriving business. Jack Barnett, President of the Clean Energy Cooperative, which recently made their successful solar installation, says KDC’s assistance has been “crucial” for his co-op’s progress. Testaments like these speak to KDC’s ability to deliver technical assistance that is timely, effective, and tailored to the needs of the client.
KDC immerses our development efforts into new cooperative approaches for our region. KDC is working with our third shellfish grower’s cooperative to establish a hatchery in Maryland to support this growing industry. We are supporting our second taxi cooperative, one where 100% of the cabs will be handicap-accessible. Additionally, we are responding to a growth in natural resources cooperatives with multiple and diverse projects including a community solar energy cooperative, a forestry cooperative and continued support to a cooperative of farmers to accept and compost food and organic waste from local municipal areas.
Our development strategy is cooperation among cooperatives. We focus on building regional food systems that are deeply inclusive of people living in economically distressed areas, especially rural farmers. For example, we linked the Heritage Shellfish Cooperative and Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative with food cooperatives in the Philadelphia region. We help farmers extract the “local and organic premium” by assisting them to organize among themselves to lower per farm transportation and marketing costs. Then we help them open-up marketing channels to retail outlets where consumers are willing to pay a premium for local food.
The work plan being proposed is divided into five primary areas of activity: 1) Supporting the formation and sustainability of a cooperative regional food system; 2) Delivering technical assistance to environmentally sustainable cooperative enterprises in the Mid-Atlantic region ; 3) Supporting the significantly increased interest in worker cooperatives and business conversions to employee ownership; 4) Providing education and outreach about cooperative solutions through collaboration with partner organizations; and 5) Maintaining a sustainable regional cooperative development center.
Local and community support for the Keystone Development Center’s mission is widespread and strong. All of our projects have local collaborators and partners. Our diverse community partners include industry and business partners such as United Producers, Inc., and the AFL-CIO; associations such as Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance; educational institutions such as Rutgers University, Penn State University, and Morgan State University; and governmental agencies such as the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection. We have successfully raised sources of support for KDC to supplement Rural Cooperative Development Grant program resources and will continue to do so, building a broadly experienced, healthy and financially sustainable organization.
Our Board of Directors adds an additional dimension to KDC’s ability to provide assistance to cooperative groups. Board members bring extensive experience in rural development and organizational development. Several have direct experience in cooperative development and management. Our Directors have a deep commitment to cooperative development and bring a wealth of experience in running a nonprofit doing economic development.
The Honesdale-based Clean Energy Cooperative Inc. has been awarded a Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) grant from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to improve the solar output of downtown Honesdale. The Cooperage building on Main Street will soon join at least four other downtown businesses to have solar panels arrayed on their roofs and providing their electricity. Earlier solar installations were able to take advantage of PA State incentives to help with the large upfront costs. With those gone, the Co-op was formed last year with a goal to pull together local investment and establish a Power Purchase Agreement business model. This business model, when applied to solar is better known as ‘solar panel leasing;’ it will allow more local community buildings to enjoy the benefits of clean energy production, with zero up-front cost.
The REAP grant, for up to $17,830, will be used toward the construction of the Co-op’s first community-scale solar system. The work on the Cooperage roof to install the 90 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels should start later this month. The installation is expected to be complete and the array fully operating by the end of December. Upon completion, the Cooperage Project, a not-for profit community organization and primary tenant of the Cooperage building, will purchase the generated electricity from the Co-op.
“Investing locally in clean, renewable energy brings many positive long-term benefits, both financially and in other ways, such as less air and water pollution, a lower carbon footprint, greater local economic resiliency and energy independence. With the Clean Energy Co-op, our members have decided to invest directly in our community and in its future.” says Jack Barnett, local resident and president of the organization.
The Clean Energy Co-op is a for-profit community-owned cooperative organization, in which its members plan local projects and may decide to invest for a long-term modest return. The Co-op is already looking for suggestions for more local clean energy projects, solar or otherwise, that align with its mission. That mission is to sustainably develop renewable energy resources for a healthy and just energy future for our community, using local investment and providing positive returns to its members. Visit www.CleanEnergy.Coop for more information and to keep up with all the Co-op’s projects and activities. Co-op membership is open to anyone with similar interests for a one-time $100 fee for individuals.
Join us in congratulating the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance! They have received a $25,000 grant from the USDA to study the feasibility of forming a Purchasing Co-op to serve local food co-ops and local producers. Keystone Development Center will be conducting the Feasibility study and assisting with business planning.
Read the full article here!
The Keystone Development Center was recently informed that it had received a $200,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program (RCDG) for the calendar year 2016. The primary objective of the RCDG program is to improve the economic condition of rural areas by assisting individuals or entities in the startup, expansion or operational improvement of rural cooperatives and other business entities. Agriculture Under Secretary Lisa Mensah today awarded 30 grants totaling $5.8 million to help rural cooperatives create jobs and support business expansion. The funds are being provided through the Rural Cooperative Development Grant program, which helps fund non-profit groups, such as rural cooperative development centers and higher education institutions.
"The cooperative business model has been very successful in improving the economies of our rural communities,” Mensah said. "As we celebrate October as National Cooperative Month, we are pleased to bring a spotlight to these worthy groups.”
Development Centers can use RCDG funds for feasibility studies, strategic planning, leadership and operations training, and business plan development. As part of this grant program, recipients are required to contribute matching funds that equal 25 percent of total project costs. USDA is providing grants for 30 projects in 22 states. View the projects awarded. Funding is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of their grant agreement.
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