More than 135 students from the United States and Puerto Rico representing 35 colleges and universities participated in the National Farmers Union (NFU) College Conference on Cooperatives (CCoC) held February 13-16 in Minneapolis, MN., making it the largest CCoC in history.

Three of the students hailed from Kansas, they were: Bart Karls and Roberto Chavez-Juarez, business management students at North Central Kansas Technical College in Hays; and Brandi Smith, sustainability student at Flint Hills Technical College in Emporia.

The students learned how cooperative businesses are adapting to changing environments in order to succeed and heard from cooperative experts from across the nation on why member-owned businesses are thriving in industries ranging from senior housing to healthcare.

“This is an opportunity for the cooperative community to teach young people about cooperative business principles and to show them that there are great careers in these dynamic, ethical and community-minded businesses,” said NFU President Roger Johnson.

To bring cooperative education to life students toured housing, retail, and marketing cooperatives in Minneapolis and St. Paul. They visited the headquarters of CHS Inc., the nation’s largest agricultural cooperative. Students heard from cooperative leaders, farmers, and government experts who explained current challenges they face.

The conference evaluations revealed 48 percent of the students in attendance were from farms or ranches, 17 percent were rural, 21 percent were from small towns, and the remaining 14 percent were urban.

Presenters ranged from members, directors, employees and managers of traditional and value-added agricultural cooperatives to representatives of electric, housing, and worker-owned co-ops, as well as consumer cooperatives such as credit unions, REI and natural foods co-ops. These professionals offered insights on cooperative development here and abroad.

“I truly value the diversity of CCOC, learning the history behind cooperatives, and how cooperatives have evolved over time. Cooperatives are a rich part of Farmers Union’s history, and students learn, after attending this conference, cooperatives will remain a rich part of Farmers Union’s future,” said Nick Levendofsky, KFU communications and projects director.

The conference was organized by National Farmers Union and sponsored by the CHS Foundation, CoBank, Farmers Union Industries Foundation, NFU Foundation, The Cooperative Foundation, SPIRE Federal Credit Union, CHS Inc., Minnesota Cooperative Education Foundation, Federated Youth Foundation and Organic Valley.

To learn more about CCOC, visit or