By Kenneth Quinnell
A couple of unions and a worker-owned co-op are teaming up to grow a new sustainable farming model in Cincinnati, and Stephen Dienger couldn’t be happier. An apprentice farmer at the Our Harvest Cooperative, he came to the co-op in 2012 after working at farms in St. Louis and Cincinnati, where he developed a specialty in sustainable agriculture. His supervisors say he’s enthusiastic and hard-working and that he is now a major force on the co-op’s farm team. In the warmer months you might see him working the farm, free of socks and shoes.
“The thing I enjoy most about my gardening job is being able to work barefoot,” Dienger says. “There is no better feeling than sinking your toes in the dirt and connecting yourself directly to the earth.”
Dienger is a member of the growing team at Our Harvest, a worker-owned sustainable farm in Cincinnati that serves as a distribution center for locally grown products for grocery stores, restaurants and area families. The Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative (CUCI), a prototype union co-op incubator created by Mondragon International USA and the United Steelworkers (USW), sponsors the co-op. CUCI is based on a highly successful Mondragon cooperative in the Basque region of Spain. Over the past 57 years, Mondragon Corp. has developed a worker-owned and -run co-op that the company wants to replicate in the United States. The USW and other unions think the Mondragon model can work in this country, and the early successes of CUCI suggest they are right.
Read the story from the AFL-CIO’s Our Values @Work.