Hempen Organic is a UK hemp farm that is set up as a worker co-operative. This means that the employees run the co-op, the workforce are also the members and directors. There are a few different types of co-ops!
Last week we sat down with Hempen’s Marketing Coordinator, Sophia Lysaczenko and Hempen’s Primary Production Coordinator, Theo Chambers. Two, very valued members of our co-operative who shared their opinions and experiences about being part of a co-op on a UK hemp farm!
Hempen is proud to be a cooperative and here’s why…
Co-operatives or ‘co-ops’ are organisations that are owned by its members, working cooperatively to meet their goals. Anyone can be a member of a co-op! From customers to employees, residents or suppliers, anyone who is passionate about a co-op can have a say on how the co-op should run. Co-ops across the nation must follow these sets of principles and values.
For Co-op Fortnight 2021 celebration, co-operatives around the UK are working together to show people what it truly means to be a member of co-op. What better way to hear about it from our very own members here at Hempen? This fortnight we will be getting to know different members of our co-op and what their personal experience has been.
How did you hear about Hempen?
Sophia: I was talking about Hemp to lots of people, and they suggested I should go to Hempen. The Hempen Harvest was on at the time. So I volunteered and got involved further ever since.
Theo: A good friend of mine introduced me to Joe and Paddy in October 2015. Then by the end of the year we decided on Hempen as a co-operative.
Why did you join the Coop?
Sophia: I thought the project was very inspirational. For me, it was very important to have some sort of ownership in what I’m doing. To have the decision-making power, to learn about the business and to know how the main business functions. It’s a way of being involved in what you’re working with, in much a deeper way.
Theo: It felt like a good thing to do. Dedicating my energy towards something that would bring a meaningful impact to the world and be beneficial to people and provide a set of solutions to many of the world’s problems like climate change and people’s health. It felt like a worthy dedication of my effort.
What makes Hempen unique?
Sophia: We are working with such an interesting plant, and it’s still early for UK Hemp Farming. That’s incredibly challenging in itself, and then you also have the fact that we are a co-op, which can be very difficult for people to understand.
Theo: I think all co-ops are unique in their own way. But what makes us unique is that we are surrounding one plant, as a UK hemp farm. Our way of bringing health and happiness to the world is growing it, then giving it to the customer at the end of the day.
What does the Coop have to offer to someone?
Sophia: A co-op means you can voluntarily join, so anyone who is an employee at the co-op can actually apply themselves to become a member if they wanted to. We’re drafting up what our membership really means to us and getting that more defined. The coop can also provide more training for its members.
Theo: I think a co-op offers a piece of mind to an organisation which you won’t always get out of more conventional organisations. By that, I mean we are ultimately all equal, and we have an equal amount of responsibility to.
What would you advise people who are wanting to join a coop?
Sophia: Do it! Co-ops support one another, that’s the idea! It’s always very friendly and open. How I see it, is that it is a model that already works in the system that we already have. It’s where an employee in a company or business can feel more empowered.
Theo: I would say take pride in the fact that you are subscribing to a model that is going to bring much more happiness to your heart, rather than some other models that are unsustainable and are unethical.
How did Hempen and its members respond to the Covid-19 Crisis?
Sophia: We didn’t think the change was going to be so dramatic at first, but it was. We normally have regular business meetings together, but we actually had to have more (online) meetings to make sure we were all looking after each other and communicating well. We do have a live-in community as well as the business. So it was tricky finding the balance between the different sides. The needs of the business came first a lot of the time. But we really needed to think of safety, and how we can continue working together differently. There was some resistance to having meetings online, so we had to try and work out a way where everyone was comfortable and that we could still come together and make decisions.
Theo: We are a community that live on the grounds, so we gave each other a lot of support. We tried to respond to it in the correct way we knew how. Making sure our products were safe for our customers, but also that we were too. We felt a lot stronger as a co-operative having gone through it together.
Where is Hempen heading?
Sophia: There are lots of opportunities and challenges with hemp. But we are constantly adapting with whatever is happening so far. We would like to see hemp and CBD be household products! We are launching our hemp seed products very soon and hope that will be a household product. People need to understand the value of the food and well-being aspects of hemp, in general. We would love to help grow hemp in an ecological way around the UK, as it would be of great value for the UK’s hemp farmers and the economy.
Theo: I think the future of Hempen is bright! I see hemp is such a great way of being a solution to so many problems, and if we can educate the world and help them understand that, then I think the future of Hempen is bright.
So if you would like to know more about how to be a member or different, head on over to Co-operatives UK