Farm Machinery Cooperatives (FMC) and Sustainable Development
July-August 2010

It’s true, our farm machinery cooperatives are new and relatively few. But they still deserve our attention. They warrant our discussion and our support because they draw a straight line in our vision of sustainable development. Based on the notion of sharing, it naturally leads to a logical way of farming in terms of economics, environmental conservation and maintaining good neighbour relationships.

Not surprisingly the economic question is the most documented aspect of FMC. And probably what motivated most farmers to subscribe to FMCs in the first place. In fact, this choice of formula has an impact on the budget that can easily be proven: By sharing the equipment’s ownership, the cost of using such equipment is also shared. And this directly improves operational results, which show greater profitability, thus allowing more room to manoeuvre to meet other budgetary obligations. 

In terms of the environment, farm machinery cooperatives encourage responsible consumption (usage). In fact, the equipment’s entire life cycle indicates that their production requires huge amounts of energy and, when obsolete and discarded, they become a blot on the landscape. Limiting individual consumption by sharing material is therefore a responsible gesture for the environment. But there is more.

Associating farmers as a small local team allows for the emergence of ingenious projects, for which the FMC may become a gathering place as well as an incubator for ideas. I recently found out that the FMC of Abitibi-Ouest has been, since 2007, involved in a pilot project aimed at turning a profit on the region’s tree bark and tree remains collected from old parks. In fact, several sawmills used to supply farmers with residuals, giving them access to inexpensive, good quality bedding (litter). Sadly, as we all know, for the past few years the forest industry has been experiencing a crisis that has resulted in the shut down of several of these plants. The La Sarre and Macamic hospitals have also endured the loss or lack of residuals to supply their biomass boiler, which are used to heat their buildings. In an effort to respond to the specific need of its community, the FMC of Abitibi-Ouest launched a pilot project to recover and turn a profit on the region’s tree bark and tree remains’ parks. This is certainly a great example of an environmental initiative.

Finally, in social terms, the contributions of a FMC are innumerable. From lending a hand to a neighbour to sharing some useful information or sharing contacts. FMCs unobtrusively cut through the isolation and create a network of assistance. When you’re part of a FMC, you don’t have a choice: you need to talk to each other, make compromises and you need to be respectful and responsible. It’s a learning process that is part of a member’s personal development but also serves the group as a whole; the FMC becomes a more easily accessible endeavour that can respond to other needs that have yet to be met within the community. Obviously, this increases everyone’s quality of life.

Naturally, most of these comments could also apply to any other cooperative because cooperation means sharing. Let’s be realistic: sharing a mill or a hardware store is great, but in terms of member proximity, sharing machinery used at the farm takes us into another dimension. It requires a very strong capacity to live in cooperation on a daily basis. That is the challenge met by some 1750 member-farmers in our FMCs when each spring, the sowing season begins.

 

Colette Lebel, agr.
Director Cooperative Affairs
and Board Secretary Assistant
La Coop fédérée
Email: colette.lebel@lacoop.coop
Fax: 514 850-2567
 



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