Co-op would give farmers more resources

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

SOUTH POINT — A new venture planned at The Point industrial park could bring more money into the pockets of regional farmers, many of who have been financially crippled by the dwindling agricultural economy.

Non-profit South Point company Sustainable Visions has proposed a cooperative for farmers in the Southern Ohio area, including the counties of Lawrence, Scioto, Gallia and Brown.

The co-op will work toward providing local, state and federal resources and identifying the most successful options for replacing tobacco farming, said Dave Dunfee, the founder of the group. The co-op will work with farmers of all farm products.

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“We really think is one of the needs in the area,” he said. “This is not a ‘get rich quick scheme’, we are looking for long-term solutions.”

Dunfee, a long-time entrepreneur formerly of Indianapolis, is joined by his sister, Getaway resident Andrea Leffingwell, in the venture. They will be getting the project off the ground, but farmers will be in charge of the co-op after it’s up and running.

The co-op is planning to have a facility based at The Point, he explained, serving as a distribution center providing cost-effective packing, distribution and transportation for products.

Dunfee has also proposed a state-of-the-art farmer’s market, which will provide fresh food to places such as businesses, restaurants, schools and canneries.

The co-op will also give farmers the access to computer labs and online training classes and will give them benefits such as financial planning farm mortgage advise and banking assistance.

Dunfee is paying close attention to corn as a marketable commodity and is keeping tabs on the proposed ethanol plant planned for The Point.

McNational Inc., the holding company of McGinnis Inc., and the Gahanna-Based Slane Co., are planning to build its plant — Buckeye Ethanol — on a 60-acre site at the industrial park.

The $150 million plant is in the design phase and the companies are completing the necessary paperwork and permits for the plant’s approval through the Lawrence Economic Development Corp.

It is estimated that construction could begin early next year.

Plans call for the facility to produce more than 100 million barrels of ethanol each year and employ approximately 65 employees. The ethanol will be used as an additive to gasoline, but it will also produce about 300 tons of dried grain for animal feed,

More than 18 months have went into the planning of the co-op, Dunfee said, and he feels it will be a success with the help of community partners.

Already, Lawrence Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Bill Dingus has signed a letter of support for the co-op.

Both Dunfee and Leffingwell came to Thursday’s Lawrence County Commission meeting asking for their support, as well, something that was given unanimously.

Sustainable Visions has applied for grants and hopes to kick off the co-op next spring.