June 22, 2022

One Year Co-Op Anniversary

As of this month, we're celebrating one year as a co-op.

A recent Sunday morning on the farm

At our June monthly co-op meeting, I mentioned the anniversary and that I was still sometimes amazed at how smoothly it had gone. The barn owner laughed and said, "I'm amazed too, I didn't know if this was going to work out at first, but it really has!"

It's not just amazing that it worked at all: it's amazing that it worked so well. This has been the smoothest year of boarding I've ever had. Certainly the most work as well, but never so much work that it felt like I couldn't get away. 


My mom doing stalls on Christmas morning

In that year, not a single shift has been missed. Service complaints have been minimal, and when they happen they're something benign like someone left Shoo Fly Leggings on a horse inside when they should've been off. We've seamlessly dealt with 10 day vacations, multiple unexpected week-long absences due to family emergencies, extreme weather, holidays and business trips, and never missed a beat.

Waiting for the hay guy on my day off this week


Even drama has been at nearly zero. We had one moment where something could've gotten petty, but instead of letting it happen, I set a firm precedent that we are not going to use me (the co-op manager) to hide behind rather than directly sharing valid complaints and thoughts with the group. Direct and honest communication is what makes this co-op work, and I'm going to preserve it fiercely.

This isn't something we HAVE to do, but sometimes the BOs can't keep up with the landscaping and I take it upon myself to help out

The top picture to the bottom picture took me an hour!

I think for me the biggest lesson here is that with the right group of people and the right motivations, this might be the most sustainable boarding model of all, at least in this economy. I've seen so many full care facilities close around here recently for various reasons. I've seen so much drama boarding over the years. I've seen so many entitled boarders ask for truly ridiculous demands. 

And we have almost none of that, because we all have skin in the game of keeping the facility open and running smoothly. If one boarder asks for a change that will impact all of us, we discuss it and agree to it, or if there's disagreement we figure out a compromise. It just works.

Neatly organized feed room from last fall

This post is long enough, but sometime soon I'm going to make a list of all the things that did and didn't work in the first year of our co-op, since I've had readers come to me for ideas. Am I an expert, no, but I did write our model and have a year of experience under my belt at this point, which I think is worth sharing.


  1. I agree you probably really have to have the right type of people but sounds like it's really working out there!

  2. Since you started talking about it, I've always wondered if it would be possible for more places. Not sure if it will ever be on my radar but it's something I wouldn't pass up if given the chance!

  3. So glad things are running so well there! I definitely think it helps to have the right people, and it sounds like you do!

  4. I would love to read a post on how your co-op works. We are considering a change how our barn runs, and a co-op has been discussed.

  5. We have a co-op. It generally works well. Right now we are undergoing a bit of a shift of people leaving with no one in the wings to take their place. That is a but unsettling but it will work out the way it does.