How to Start a Co-op: An Introductory Course for Farmers

Posted by Chantelle Chan on January 01, 2024

Current Status
Not Enrolled
Get Started

Young Agrarians presents How to Start a Co-op: An Introductory Course for Farmers.  This online course offers the opportunity to learn about and apply the tools,  resources, and skills that you need to co-create a farming (or farm-adjacent) co-operative!

Interested in hearing about upcoming programs or webinars about co-operatives? Click the button below and sign up to be notified.


The program has been developed by Emi Do, Young Agrarians Co-operatives Coordinator, to help new and aspiring farmers understand the benefits, possibilities and realities of applying co-operative operating models to the farming world. Together, we will explore how co-operatives can successfully function, and practice applying the tools, resources and knowledge that you can use to co-create your own thriving co-op. 

You might ask, why would I consider starting a co-operative? Emi shares this,

Co-operatives emerge in times of need. They are enterprises that enable a group of people to accomplish a common objective by joining forces, pooling resources, and building a collective solution. There are many different types of co-ops–consumer, worker, producer–each addressing the specific gap in product or service that the group members are experiencing. Co-operatives empower individuals to be part of the solution they can not achieve alone.”

Read more in their blog post, Why I Still Believe in Co-ops.

Program Format 

Dates: January 23rd to March 19th
Time for live sessions: 6:00-8:00pm PT / 7:00-9:00 MT / 8:00 – 10:00 CT 

There are five live sessions on January 23rd, February 6th, 20th, March 5th and 19th.
These bi-weekly sessions will be opportunities for participants to learn, share and interact with Emi and a series of farmers and farm-allies who have started cooperative enterprises.

There will also be four cohort sessions on January 30th, February 13th, February 27th, and March 12th. These sessions will be an opportunity for participants to gather in smaller cohorts to apply the course content from the previous live session. For some cohorts where meeting in person is an available option, participants may agree to shift the day/time that they meet during the non-live session week. 

Cohorts will be assigned based on geography or interest. For participants who will be joining the e-learning course as a group, please indicate in your registration form that you would like to be placed together.

If you require any accommodations to make this program accessible, please reach out to us at


1 – What is the Co-op Model? How Can It Support A Just and Resilient Food System?
We will explore what makes a co-op and how they differ from other organizational forms. The co-op model provides a unique opportunity to collectively address the gaps present in the food system using a more just and democratic approach.

2 – Decision Making
How does decision-making work if every person in the group is equally responsible, but people hold differing opinions and priorities? Contrary to popular belief, cooperative enterprises don’t have to be bogged down by a series of endless meetings and not everyone has to participate in every decision for the co-op to operate democratically. In this session will explore various tools for group decision making and various strategies for effective operations

3 – How to Deal With Being Human!
By definition, if you choose to operate in a co-operative model then you are choosing to work closely and collaboratively with other humans. Co-ops don’t facilitate a sense of ownership, they enable actual ownership of an enterprise. We will explore what it means to share ownership, what it takes to build trust, and how to navigate the fears that come with being interdependent. What does it mean to truly share in the risks and rewards with other humans? Come join us to find out!

4 – Resourcing Co-ops
Cooperatives are an organizing project, where you co-create an enterprise that provides a solution to a shared need. The success of the enterprise depends on thoughtful consideration of the resources required to sustain it. We will explore how to accurately assess what resourcing needs a co-op will have, what types of resources already exist within the co-op, and how to access additional resourcing needs the co-op may have.

5 – Nuts and Bolts of Starting a Co-op
In our last session, we’ll bring it all together! We will examine the process of incorporating a co-operative, and how organizations like the BC Cooperative Association can support the development of a co-operative. We explore the importance of Annual General Meetings, and the roles fulfilled by a Board of Directors, and how these are integral to the structure of a co-operative.


Frédéric Thériault is one of 10 members at Tourne-Sol Cooperative Farm in Québec.

Founded in 2005, the farm was one of the first workers cooperatives in agriculture in Québec and now employs 15 full-time and 5-6 seasonal workers, producing vegetables flowers and certified organic seeds on 7 ha. Frédéric has a Bsc and a Msc in agriculture. He has taught phytology, ecological agriculture and composts at McGill University and Alfred College. He is also co-author of the book “Crop Planning for Vegetable Growers”, which deals with crop planning. He is involved as a volunteer with the Québec Family Farmer Network, an organization that aims to promote and develop CSA farms in the province.



Michelle Tsutsumi started her organic farming and community building adventure in 2010 with Pilgrims’ Produce (Syilx and Secwépemc territory, Armstrong) before moving to Golden Ears Farm (Secwépemc territory, Chase) in 2014. Michelle is passionately curious about organizational culture, shared leadership, and facilitating processes that support principled practice in service to equitable, inclusive, and anti-oppressive ways of being. Michelle has used this systems lens within the nonprofit, food justice, and co-operative business sectors for over 25 years and is keen to share Cultivating Safe Spaces and sociocracy facilitation with groups who are interested in meaningful, transformational systems change.

Laura Boyd-Clowes and Chelsea Abbott are both members and staff at Cow-Op (Cowichan Valley farmer and food processor co-operative), a non-profit farmer and food processor cooperative with an online marketplace of locally grown and harvested food grown or produced throughout the Cowichan Region.  

Laura is a market gardener, gardening teacher, and local food advocate. In her role as Cow-op’s Community Facilitator, she assists in the weekly operation of the co-operative’s online marketplace, provides communications and marketing support, engages with and solicits feedback from members to grow the business for the benefit of all, and coordinates member-led initiatives such as group purchasing.

Chelsea is a beekeeper and owner of Lenora Bee Apiary. She is the general manager of Cow-op, handling the nuts and bolts of the operation including staffing, accounting, logistics, and tech. She is the point-person for the co-op’s close to seventy members. 

Joy Emmanuel has been involved in the co-op sector since 2004 as a researcher, writer, project manager, educator, co-op developer, member and board member.

 She has worked on projects from the local to international level.  She has helped incorporate over 40 co-ops and worked with many more. In the Agricultural sector she has worked with several marketing co-ops – where farmers come together to sell their product through an on-line platform and sometimes through other channels; several community Ag-co-ops: such as a community farm co-op that was stewarded by a land trust, an urban food security co-op and a farmer association; and other multi-stakeholder models, one composed of farmers, distributors, and consumers. Joy lives in the Cowichan Valley and is experimenting with growing her own tree farm and native plant micro nursery.



To fully participate in the program, participants should have reliable access to a computer and a stable internet connection (to join Zoom video calls). Please contact us at if you need any technical support.


We love supporting new and young farmers to grow! To ensure that this program is accessible, we offer sliding scale payment, which means that you are able to select how much you pay to participate.

The suggested sliding scale cost is $250, which is $50 per session. If you are not able to pay on the suggested sliding scale, you are welcome to contribute an amount that works for you. No one will be turned away from our programs for lack of funds. 

We base the price range on the cost of running the program (coordination, speaker fees, facilitation, program development, and online infrastructure). When you register you are able to enter any amount as a registration fee. If you’d like to learn more, please go to “What is sliding scale payment? Why do we use it?”.

If you have any questions, would like to pay without using a credit card, and/or want to arrange a payment plan, then please contact us at Teams that join the program together can register as one entity.


Weekly live and asynchronous cohort sessions will be 2 hours. There will also be optional reading and supplemental material for self-study provided. We recommend allocating 3-5 hours/week to get the most out of this course. 

All participants will have access to course materials and recordings of the live sessions. However the course is structured to enable participants to make the course material come alive through practice and discussion. If you are not able to attend a session, we ask that you inform Emi ( so that we can adjust the course materials. 

All farm-allied, or farm-adjacent individuals or groups are welcome to join the course. This might include individuals or groups who purchase, use, or distribute farmed products, use farmed products to produce goods. 

Absolutely! You’ll have access to the program website, which has all the videos, resources, and discussion questions after the course is done.

Yes! Many of the topics we cover in the course address common issues faced by farm or farm-adjacent/ farm-allied cooperatives. 

Yes! Many of the topics we cover in the course address common issues faced by farm or farm-adjacent cooperatives, no matter where you are based.

Five live sessions on January 23rd, February 6th, February 20th, March 5th and March 19th. We meet from 6:00-8:00 pm PT / 7:00-9:00 pm MT / 8:00-10:00 pm CT

Four cohort sessions on January 30th, February 13th, February 27th, and March 12th. We suggest that your group meets at the same time as the live sessions, but you are welcome to coordinate a new time! 

This program has been designed for people who want to explore what it means to co-create a farming or farm-ally co-operative. You do not need to have prior experience in forming organizations nor as a farmer to participate in this program! 

Cooperatives require a willingness to be curious and open to new perspectives. We encourage everyone to come prepared to show up as their whole selves and explore the intricacies of collaborating with other people.

We would love to have you in the program, regardless of your age!

Our aim is to provide resources for new and aspiring farmers. If you are 18 or 81, or anywhere in between, you're welcome to join us. Young Agrarians is for the young at heart!

Our program materials are not specifically developed for a youth audience (13-18 years old), so younger new farmers may benefit from participating with an adult to support them.

Looking for other programs and resources? Check out our other E-Learning programs!