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Feb. 2013 Reports from the Classroom

Co-ops Rock Practicum

by Jessica Rowland, Lecturer & Education Support Coordinator
The spring semester has just begun at UNM, and theSustainability Studies students are already hard at work! There is an exciting and relevant new course being offered in our program: Maggie Seeley'sCo-ops Rock Practicumpresents a hands-on exploration of New Mexico co-ops and their impact on the local and regional economy.
The course made its debut last fall, and is now back by popular demand. Last semester, students studied the cooperative business model - which is based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equity and solidarity - and explored how co-ops reinvest profits in their members, staff, organizational infrastructure and the community. Ultimately, students created 14 case studies on food, housing, electricity, farms, credit unions, schools, art, biodiesel and seed cooperatives. Some of the co-ops that were researched include:
  • Fairfield Farm & Market, an Albuquerque-area farmer co-op that is comprised of five young growers who have found their land through theCentral New Mexico LandLink Program. See the feature article above for more on Fairfield Farm & Market.
  • La Casita, a parent cooperative school in Santa Fe that provides a positive, creative learning environment for students in preschool and kindergarten
  • Bountifuel Energies, a biodiesel co-op with 23 members who collect waste veggie oil from restaurants in Albuquerque, and recycle it into clean-burning fuel
  • Yucca Art Gallery, a 40-member artist cooperative in Old Town Albuquerque that returns the majority of the art sales to individual artists
  • Greenbriar Townhouses, a housing co-op in Albuquerque that provides quality, community-based, low cost homes
  • CODECE, a northern New Mexico cooperative of about 70 families that promotes organic agriculture, cultural tourism and affordable housing
  • The Permaculture Credit Union, a financial cooperative in Santa Fe that fosters sustainable lifestyles through low interest micro-loans for environmentally-friendly investments, educational opportunities, and farmer development programs
This semester, UNM Sustainability Studies students have been asked by theLa Montañita Food Co-op Board of Directors to first study a variety of international, national and state co-ops, and then provide some recommendations and market assistance to the UNM Grab & Go location and the Nob Hill store. Students are looking forward to being consultants, advocates and volunteers for La Montañita. The class is also planning aLocalization Campaign that will raise awareness of local products and services. The aim is to educate the campus community about the connection between co-ops,triple bottom line business practices, and permaculture principles -- as well as to underscore the importance of the economic multiplier of local business. Stay tuned for more details!



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