How to form a cooperative
I am looking for information on how to get neighbors involved in a sharing cooperative for tools, lawn equipment, and so on. I would be interested in a guide about to how to organize and any legal considerations we need to be aware of. Thanks!
Johnson County Iowa
This sounds like an interesting idea and project. In general, a project like this starts with a gathering of four to six of your interested neighbors to learn about everyone's shared interest—an opportunity to "get everyone on the same page." If everyone agrees that this is something that would be of value to your neighborhood (which could be defined by close proximity or could be more regional, depending on the equipment to be shared, such as a very specialized machine), then you begin to study what is feasible. The group should make decisions about considerations such as distance, rules and protocols for sharing, upkeep and maintenance responsibilities, expenses of repairs and maintenance, how long someone can keep a particular piece of equipment, where will the co-op equipment will be stored, and so on. You have to imagine this co-op in operation and create the scenarios on paper before you invest a lot of money to get started. Capitalization of this co-op will be a vital component to success. How will your group fund the purchase of equipment, repairs and maintenance, and so on?
There are examples of conventional farm-equipment sharing already in existence, and it might be helpful to study how these businesses were put together. You have a great resource on this topic at Iowa State University! Georgeanne Artz has done a considerable amount of work on machinery-sharing cooperatives, and I would suggest that you contact her for more information: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/coops/news/machineryandlaborsharing.html. Ms. Artz can also direct you to a unit at ISU that has experience in helping cooperatives in start-up or expansion.
Please don't hesitate to send me a personal email should you have more questions.