According to USDA statistics, the average age of farmers continues to rise, while farm incomes continue to decline. In Colorado and across the U.S., the phrase “succession crisis” indicates that many farms are at risk of being lost forever unless there is some way to make farms more profitable. Organic farms face additional economic barriers and are thus often further marginalized. 

Fat Pig Society is a worker-owned co-op and “research and development think tank,” incubating innovative and resilient farm business models, with a mission of preserving certified organic farms for future generations. They were one of the first CBD producers in the U.S., and one of the first hemp registrants in Colorado. 

Hemp’s recent legalization as an agricultural product under the 2018 USDA Farm Bill opens unprecedented doors to economic opportunity for farmers. CBD sales are currently a $1B global market, with some projections showing as high as $22B globally by 2022. A vertically integrated co-op model of CBD production allows for a “farm to table” product that could pay farmers up to 20 times more per acre (than they can currently make by selling hemp as an agricultural commodity). CBD extracted from hemp is a unique agricultural product in that it is nonperishable and can be sold directly online, making vertical integration a unique advantage. Additionally, “organic and whole plant” CBD products will command a premium in the marketplace. 

Anticipating this opportunity, FPS has innovated an on-farm, vertically integrated model for a “farm to table” organic CBD product, generating over $1M per acre in sales on a 2-acre farm, by cloning, growing, curing, extracting, infusing, bottling and packaging finished CBD product. This pilot was developed with the intent to transfer the model to a statewide farmers’ cooperative to bring it to scale (pursuant to FPS’ mission), as soon as the farm bill passed. FPS’ R&D efforts indicate an unprecedented economic opportunity for cooperation among Colorado’s 130+ certified organic farmers, enabling them to make organic farming economic sustainable, with the potential for this to spread and serve many more farmers across the nation.

Along with a handful of other pilot growers across Northern Colorado, they have requested support from the Cooperative Development Center at Rocky Mountain Farmers Union for technical assistance resources to form an organic growers co-op, called Colorado Organic Farmers. Participation of the Cooperative Development Center is critical to ensure third party neutral  coop formation that is democratic and equitable. Specifically, there is an urgent need to publicize this opportunity to potential farmer-members, organize informational meetings, and take steps towards incorporation. As a co-op of growers, the CBD market and vertically integrated strategy, as well as other revenue streams for hemp and hemp waste products will be explored according to the interests expressed by the member-owners, democratically. 

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