Creating Opportunity Through Cooperative Development and Networking

  • Date: Friday, Oct. 27
  • Time: 2-3:15 p.m.
  • Speakers: Michael Peroni, Northwest Agriculture Business Center; Charlie Michel, Mission West Community Development Partners
  • Location: Bldg. 202, Room 3
  • Track: Track C

This panel discussion will explore cooperative enterprise through the lens of producer-owned marketing cooperatives and regional food hub networks.

Session moderator Mike Peroni (Executive Director, Northwest Agriculture Business Center) leads a team dedicated to strengthening local agriculture through cooperative development. Drawing on more than three decades in the field, Mike’s facilitation will surface first-hand insights from the producer-member, food hub director, and network manager perspectives.

Andrew Yokom (Executive Director, Puget Sound Food Hub Cooperative) will detail the success factors driving the rapid growth of the region’s largest farmer-owned food hub cooperative and describe how his team keeps benefit to local food producers at the heart of their business model.

Charlie Michel (Program Manager, Mission West Community Development Partners) will provide an inside look at the Northwest Food Hub Network’s approach to sharing resources to expand market access for producers and offer communities a sustainable sourcing alternative.

Grounding the discussion and providing growers’ perspectives on the value of cooperative endeavor to regional producers will be:

  • Dorcas Young: Owner operator of Lesedi Farm in Langley WA, and member of the Whidbey Island Grown Cooperative
  • Griffin Berger: Puget Sound Food Hub member and Board member and owner/operator of Sauk Farm in Concrete, WA
  • Jay Gordon: member and Board member of Southwest Washington Growers Cooperative & owner/operator of Gordon Farms

Attendees will come away with an understanding of how cooperatives offer a for-purpose path to profitability and food systems resilience on the basis of economic democracy and shared equity.

About the Speakers

  • Michael Peroni

    Northwest Agriculture Business Center

    Michael Peroni is the Executive Director of the Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC). NABC provides professional-level business development and expansion resources and hands-on technical support to agricultural producers and other agriculture-related business. Mike has a passion for building collaborative relationships and managing the delivery of services that fulfill the mission of the organization. Mike has over 30 years of experience in leadership roles in regional agriculture in western Washington, and extensive knowledge of agricultural business formation and management, brand support, public/private partnerships, market development, and regulatory compliance. Mike has worked in the private sector as well as for public agencies and private non-profits.  As the leader of a team dedicated to developing solutions to issues facing agriculture in western Washington, Mike facilitates the organizational development and ongoing management of producer-owned cooperatives; the development of agricultural infrastructure; and the management of multiple complex and ambitious grants serving the agricultural community.

  • Charlie Michel

    Mission West Community Development Partners

    Charlie Michel is the Regional Food Systems Program Manager at Mission West Community Development Partners, a non-profit cooperative development center that strengthens local food economies through people-centered, democratic enterprise. Charlie’s role is dedicated to managing the Northwest Food Hub Network, a collective of farmer-owned cooperative food hubs representing more than 200 farmers, ranchers, and value-added food processors across the region. His background includes picking fruit, educating and organizing beginning farmers, and promoting the cooperative business model. Charlie is also a part-time student in the Master of Management in Cooperatives and Credit Unions program at St. Mary’s University (Halifax, Nova Scotia) where his research focuses on cooperative approaches to food production, marketing, and distribution.