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Coops must Empower Young Farmers

04 November 2015
Coops must Empower Young Farmers

Macra na Feirme National President Seán Finan spoke this week on the social panel at the 39th ICOS National Conference in the Convention centre Dublin. The main focus of the discussion on the panel was about getting more young people and young farmers involved in Coops.

Speaking at the ICOS conference Mr. Finan said, "Young dairy farmers are the most engaged with their coops as they have more contact with their coop. They supply their product, it is processed and sold by the coop and the price is set by coops. As a result, it’s easier to empower young dairy farmers to get involved in the coop structures. Young farmers have less contact with their livestock marts coops and they see the mart as providing a service but have less involvement in the mart business, therefore it is harder to engage them. Some young farmers perceive mart boards as closed shops."

Education and awareness is very important to getting more young farmers involved in Cooperatives. 

Mr. Finan said: "Macra continues to develop leaders and young farmers through participation in our programme areas and activities. Macra continues to provide leaders to coops who go on to take on leadership roles. We have run successful young farmer dairy and mart director courses in conjunction with ICOS for four years. The next young farmer cooperative leadership course commences in December."

Mr. Finan said: "Co-operatives should establish young farmer board committees that would be populated by enthusiastic young farmers with the main purpose of educating those young farmers in Coop structures, corporate governance and leadership. The committee boards could interface with coop boards to learn about their industry and also feed information up the line to senior board members. This would give young farmers a grounding in the operation of boards and cooperatives structures. This is a pro-active approach to nurturing young leaders."

For a cooperative to be successful there is a need for constant evolution of structures within the organisation, constitutional rules that are more reflective of bygone times need to be adapted to a more modern society that reflects better communication and connectivity.

Mr. Finan concluded, "Coops have travel opportunities and board members and management often engage in travel to countries where potential markets are available or existing markets are. If coops were to engage young farmer shareholders it could be a proactive approach to nurturing future leaders in cooperatives."