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The Mobile Farm and Food Workforce

In this still relatively new century, labor rights in the United States—the right to a living wage, the right to safe working conditions, the right to fair-labor practices, the right to work-life balance, the right to professional development—are not ubiquitous. Profit-driven corporations continue to create divides between haves and have nots. Profits are not realized in a vacuum—in order to generate profits, a company must leverage intellectual capital, ecological capital (i.e., natural resources), and human resources capital, all visible and quantifiable elements within a supply chain.

A time-tested approach to establishing economic workplace equity is the cooperative model. According to the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI) and the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC), worker-owned cooperatives have seen a 35.7 percent net growth since 2013.

In 2017, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Cooperative Development Center (RMFU), Veterans to Farmers, the Good Food Collective, and UpRoot Colorado (UpRoot) partnered to pilot a mobile farm workforce project, designed to provide supplemental, on-demand, and efficient labor to Colorado producers.

Now in its fourth year, the Farm & Food Mobile Workforce pilot has provided Colorado producers with extra hands that have supported local producers by completing a variety of on-farm tasks, including the harvest of more than 750,000 pounds of market-ready product with a market value of more than $2 million.

The question is answered with respect to whether the mobile workforce idea has merit and value.

To answer the question of Now what?, RMFU and UpRoot held an informational webinar in April to suss out community interest in evolving the pilot into a worker-owned agricultural services cooperative that will also support local processing facilities. The result is a new steering committee and a list of both potential worker-owners and clients.

If you’re interested in following along with the progress of this potential new cooperative, or if you’re interested in becoming a worker-owner of a client, please contact David Laskarzewski at dave@uprootcolorado.org.