Assistance Grants

Feb. 20, 1998

Rural Health, Food Co-ops Awarded Assistance Grants

River Falls, Wis.-The North Central Emergency Medical Services Co-op serving the Twin Cities and five states in rural health care, and the Farm Market Cooperative Kitchen of Kewaunee County, Wis., have been selected to receive specialized training and technical assistance over the next couple of years.

The two fledgling cooperatives will be aided by the Cooperative Development Initiative at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Cooperative to Serve Emergency Medical Service Providers

Significant cost savings and other benefits resulting from some informal cooperation among three Minnesota-based emergency medical service providers, Rice Memorial Hospital Ambulance Service of Willmar, HealthEast in the Twin Cities, and GoldCross, which serves several mid-sized communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin, led to the incorporation of the North Central EMS Cooperative.

The Co-op, which is still in its formative stages, sees itself as a joint purchasing cooperative for any public, nonprofit, private, or volunteer emergency medical service provider in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota or South Dakota.

The incorporating board of directors of the Co-op is concerned that emergency medical services continue to be available to the public, especially in rural areas. In an era when Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements are being dramatically reduced, containing costs is one way to ensure that EMS providers can remain viable. Joint purchasing of supplies and gasoline, for example, is one way to enable all EMS providers, large or small, to realize significant cost savings. Better information sharing, government relations, and training are other potential ways the co-op will help EMS providers.

The UW-River Falls Cooperative Development Initiative will assist the Co-op in developing strategic and business plans, designing a membership recruitment plan and dues structure, and laying out a communications and marketing plan. While the Co-op is not ready to accept members yet, additional information can be obtained by calling the North Central EMS Cooperative at 888-603-4426.

Creating a Cooperative Commercial Kitchen

The Farm Market Kitchen Project located in Kewaunee County, Wis., is an outgrowth of the Kewaunee County Agricultural Tourism Association, and is planning to establish a licensed kitchen facility with commercial processing equipment. It will be owned and used by growers/producers in the area who wish to do value-added processing of their food products for retail sale.

The kitchen would allow producers to process food during the peak season for sale at a later date, or to do one stage of processing during the season for further processing at a later date. This would extend the marketing season, allow producers to utilize existing down time for processing, and improve farm profitability.

The Farm Market Kitchen is also seen as a way of enhancing the local farmers market. Vendors from the farmer's market will be some of the key cooperative members/owners and will be able to expand their product lines. The cooperative kitchen will also enhance the Kewaunee County Ag Tourism Association's Land to Learning Project. This is an educational program that focuses on broadening students' awareness of present and future farming practices, agricultural careers, and land stewardship. The kitchen provides a means to expand that project by incorporating food processing, preservation, ethnic cooking and hands-on activities for students.

Completing a feasibility study, identifying potential members, and developing the best organizational structure for the Farm Market Kitchen Project are among the types of assistance the UW-River Falls Cooperative Development Initiative will be providing to the group. Persons in and around Kewaunee County are encouraged to call Mary Pat Carlson at 920/487-2709 for additional information.

The Cooperative Development Initiative is a project of the UW-RF Rural Development Institute made possible by a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Its goal is to provide training and technical assistance to multi-community groups in Wisconsin and Minnesota who are collaboratively addressing common problems. For additional information on the Cooperative Development Initiative, contact Professor David Trechter at 715-425-3129.

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