An Old “New” Kind Of Corporation

Created over a century ago, The John Lewis Partnership ( JLP) in England is the largest department store chain in the country with 35 department stores and 272 Waitrose grocery stores.  It is 100% employee owned.  It was created with fairness in mind.

As Marjorie Kelly notes in her article “The Good Corporation” in Yes! Magazine, there are economic alternatives to capitalism, akin to JLP, emerging as cooperatives, employee-owned firms, social enterprises and community land trusts.  Ownership by its employees unites these new models.

Our current economic system is crumbling.  As old systems break down, corporations and individuals alike would benefit from redefining their company purpose.  Instead of only answering to shareholders, enabling a “few” to profit, holding a shared vision of keeping the planet and all its inhabitants thriving would be a welcome change.  Embracing healthy sustainability and fairness empowers employees and their communities to flourish.

How do we make the switch to this alternative?

Fortunately, companies like JLP and Organic Valley serve as examples.

Organic Valley is a farmer-owned cooperative where the owners are the suppliers.  Kelly points out the shared benefits of this model:  ” Farmers benefit from healthy income. Employees benefit from stable jobs and rewarding work. Customers benefit from chemical-free food. Investors in the firm’s preferred stock benefit from dependable rates of return. Farming communities benefit from the return of vitality that flows from farmers’ prosperity.”

Change emerges through unity by holding the highest intentions for all involved – whatever the business, idea, or project.

A New Generation of Farmers: From Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots

An inspiring article written by Robert Mellinger in Yes! Magazine highlights veterans who are getting a fresh start through several different projects around the country.

The Farmer-Veteran Coalition (FVC) was formed by Michael O’Gorman, a successful organic farmer for 40 years. The FVC “connects veterans to the resources they need to start their farming careers.”   The FVC established the Farmer-Veteran Fellowship Fund which provides “individual grants of up to $10,000 for education, supplies, and equipment.”

The University of Nebraska – Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture has designed “Combat boots to Cowboy Boots” to assist in training military personnel, their families and armed forces veterans to become farmers, ranchers, and business entrepreneurs.

I can imagine how healing it is for veterans to find necessary, meaningful work.  Many soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Not only do these programs contribute to the healing and transition out of combat for our veterans, but farming also serves the needs of a larger community.  Rebuilding dwindling rural counties and creating new farming communities  will be necessary to sustain us in the future.

As the average American farmer (many baby-boomer farmers born between 1946 and 1964) is nearing retirement age, we welcome a new generation of farmers.