From Corporate to Coop: Story Series 3
When we talk about working at a cooperative, it almost always happens that the question would be “Ano ang ginagawa nyo doon?” or “What do you do in a cooperative or what does it do?”
According to a blog from cooperativesfirst.com¹, “Every business is different and reflects the concerns and interests of their shareholders. Plus, corporations come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from non-profits to global conglomerates. In fact, cooperatives are corporations, but with a specific structure that has a lot of applications.
This versatile structure can produce a coop that looks a lot like a large, investor-driven corporation — or one that is very much like a small, charitable non-profit organization that provides community service.”
In our Corporate to Coop Story series, we would like to hear it from people who have been working in a Cooperative setting and let them share their own story about their shift from corporate to cooperative.
Transition from Corporate to Coop
Gerry Andrew Cain, Agri-Business Group Head
I am Gerry Andrew Cain, the President & General Manager and concurrent head of Agri-Business Group of T’nalak Cooperative, an affiliate of Asiapro Cooperative. I graduated cum laude in BS in Agricultural Engineering from Xavier University and completed the academic requirements of Masters in Business Administration from Ateneo de Davao University. Growing up in Cagayan de oro, we always passed by Del Monte’s Cannery and Farms, exposing me to pineapple cannery and fields. At the same time, my parents had their own farmlands, particularly growing coffee, and mango. This has shaped my interest in agriculture. When I entered college, I got a scholarship from Del Monte Philippines through their prestigious H.E.A.R.T. program.
I started my career in the finance industry where I had a short stint in Land Bank of the Philippines as an Analyst II. Then I was hired by Dole Philippines Inc., Stanfilco Division as an Agri Operations Foreman. This was the start of my career in Dole, and I then moved up the corporate ladder as Farm Supervisor, Financial Analyst, Financial Analysis Department Head and Production Planning Department Head. Thereafter, I was selected as an exchange Management Employee to Dole Japan. I was exposed to the Dole Japan operations and Japanese market for six months. In 2004, I was promoted as a Zone Manager where I was in charge of Asparagus and Solo papaya production. Later, the company decided to convert these farms for Cavendish Banana Production. Then, we also planted Lakatan and haas avocado. We also signed up with Banana and Solo papaya growers. Our zone has grown to a total area of 5000 hectares. I had a production team with 20 superintendents and 70 supervisors who was recognized with an achievement as having lowest cost per box and highest productivity per hectare in our midland banana for five years in a row. I left Dole-Stanfilco Division after 21 years of service with an accomplished team. Later, I joined Lapanday Foods Corporation as Manager for Production Operations and Compliance for four years, I was head of internal production compliance department responsible for inspecting overall operational control of the company’s banana and pines plantations towards Good Agricultural Practices and technical recommendations.
Being in the corporate industry for more than 2 decades, has exposed me to the disciplines of corporate management and corporate social responsibility. The latter always emphasized our responsibility towards our workers, communities, and environment. This concept has somehow provided me an avenue to promote and helped organize at least four of Dole Phils, Inc. employee’s cooperatives that helped workers source out their daily needs through the coop while helping themselves as their cooperatives grow.
An invitation came for me to join the cooperative as its agribusiness head. At this point in my life, if I want to have a meaningful job while serving the people. So I accepted the offer. Today, I am heading the T’nalak Cooperative, a partner cooperative of Asiapro, the pioneer multipurpose workers cooperative in the Philippines.
The Agri-Business Group
I began my journey in the cooperative industry in 2019 with Asiapro Multi-Purpose Cooperative as the Group Head for its Agri-Business platform. In Agri-Business, we provide end-to-end farm management solutions to our clients in sugarcane and banana plantations. This includes crop and fertility planning, cultural practices management, pest and disease control management, harvesting and logistics. Our Agri-Business is composed by a team who are experts in managing plantations and farms based on Good Agricultural Practices. In managing and maintaining the farms, we ensure to introduce process improvements to set standard for our member-farmers’ efficiency.
As the cooperative continued to expand, in 2020, I was appointed as President and General Manager of t’nalak Multi-Purpose Cooperative, which is a partner cooperative of Asiapro under tipón Federation. Our agricultural business has since expanded from South Cotabato to Davao.
Realizations about the cooperative
Being in the cooperative for 2 years now, I realized that the best way to confront things is to handle the bull by the horns. As a social enterprise, you must manage the cash generation of the cooperative. If there are more people deployed than what the client or the business requires then the business will go south. So, I must find ways to right size the business with desirably less effect to the cooperative. In turn, you are helping the members by providing what is good for the majority who are the member-owners.
Vision for Agri-Business
Our cooperatives are constantly changing as we adapt to the regulatory environment. With this, the Agri-business will continue to conform with good agricultural and business practices. We have now started an engagement of Production Outsourcing Services in Papaya Production. This contract allows our cooperative to do the farm plans, budget and implementation of a production system for the client’s Papaya farms. Land and materials are provided by our client. Our coop will handle Labor and management following GAP. These contracts allow us to continuously provide our members with livelihood opportunities with the benefits like that of a regular employee and additional benefits as member-owners of the cooperative they belong to. With that, we are achieving our purpose of continuously inspiring meaningful and fulfilled lives with our members.
1st Workers Center, No.70 San Rafael St.
Brgy. Kapitolyo, Pasig City, Metro Manila Philippines