After many success stories from all over the world, it is now time for an example of youth involvement at a cooperative from The Netherlands; the country where Agriterra finds it origin and established its wide network of cooperatives and farmers organisations.
Let’s take a look at horticultural cooperative Growers United. A professional cooperative society for vegetable growers specialized in cultivating peppers, eggplants and cucumbers. The cooperative counts 53 members and supports them on sales, marketing and innovation. Moreover, members are assisted in IT, finance, food safety, quality control and business development; the cooperative develops initiatives to help members grow more quickly and to be more efficient. By connecting with exporters and service providers, the vegetables find their way to retail,- and food services.
The Dutch horticultural sector is well known for its family businesses and when the chairman of the board Jan Opschoor is asked whether he is worried about the average age of the cooperative’s members, he explains: ‘We are not worried, but we try to anticipate on our ageing member base by focusing on including youth. That is why we recently invited 60 children of members, who have affinity with horticulture, to get to know our cooperative. We noticed that not everyone of these youth sees his future in the greenhouse. Yet, there are many job opportunities for youths in disciplines related to horticulture, like marketing, human resources and logistics.
Eventually, this was the start of our Young Potential Program, in which we encourage young people between the ages of 18 to 25 to think along with us about today's issues like farm succession, robotization, big data or internationalization. We assist young successors in running a business in horticulture and getting insight into what kind of entrepreneur they are. It is also a nice way to get in touch with other young entrepreneurs, to exchange ideas and get inspired.'
Eggplant growers Tom de Jong & Luuk van Duijn participate in the Young Potential Program
Since 2 years, the cooperative invites the member’s children (age 18-25) twice a year to inform them about the cooperative and to have thematic discussions together. Potential farm successors who are part of this group will have extra activities on more specific themes like innovation and building a network.
When the chairman is asked what is most important, he answers: 'Keep looking at what makes your members happy; business-wise and personally. We are always looking for ways to facilitate space for young people in the cooperative. In case a member farmer is quitting his business without having a successor, the cooperative investigates ways to keep the acreage within the cooperative by looking for young people that are interested to take on this opportunity.'
On top of this, cooperative Growers United cooperated with other businesses to develop a game for youth which is permanently part of the exhibition in the World Horti Center.
It is designed for young people to gain insight into their competencies, by means of a game. There are questions on the floor and the based on their personal answers, the youth are guided to suitable internship, graduating and career opportunities at the cooperative or one of its 53 members.
"Discover your opportunities for growth" - the game of cooperative Growers United