Like most farmers, Ben wears many hats. He is also the director of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, which is an arm of long-time Farm Aid funded group Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. Born from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the Federation works in sixteen states across the southeast, with particular focus on Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina, to increase the income and enhance community development in some of the poorest parts of the south.
For farmers, this includes to outreach and education programs that help create and support credit unions and farmer owned cooperatives. Regardless of size or scope, all cooperatives share certain elements in common. Membership is voluntary and democratic. The goal of a cooperative business is to meet the common economic, social and cultural needs of its members - a concept that was very important to the founders of the Federation.
Federation staff provide training and technical assistance to seventy-five farmer cooperatives, like the one that Ben Burkett belongs to in Mississippi, the Indian Springs Farmers Association. "There are a lot of benefits to belonging to a co-op," explains Ben. "The market is more regular and there is camaraderie. Every time I go there, I learn something new [from the other farmers]. There is a sense of fellowship." read entire article here>>>
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