Cooperative Farming in Mississippi Lesson Plan

Martha Hutson


In the mid-1930s, a visionary experiment in biracial living was begun in the Mississippi Delta. Though short-lived, the program had an impact on later events in American history, including the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  To fully appreciate the story of this uncommon endeavor, students must have an understanding of key words and concepts associated with the “cooperative” movement.  After learning about the purpose and history of the Delta and Providence cooperative farms, students will evaluate the merits of this remarkable venture undertaken in Mississippi during the 1930s.


Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 2, and 8.


Grades 4 (with modifications)  through 12.


  • Can of almonds produced by the Blue Diamond Growers of California
  • Mississippi History Now article
  • Example crossword puzzle
  • Access to internet 
  • Paper and writing utensils 


The students will:

  • indicate an understanding of key words and concepts relating to the "cooperative" movement;
  • identify fundamental principles and values of American life that should be practiced in a cooperative effort;
  • describe the formation and purpose of the Delta Cooperative Farm;
  • detail the activities of the cooperative;
  • determine the advantages/disadvantages of participating in a cooperative effort such as these farms;
  • identify obstacles that led to the demise of Mississippi’s two cooperative farms;
  • realize the impact of these cooperative efforts on later state and national history.


Teacher will bring to class a can of almonds produced by the Blue Diamond Growers of California.  Inform students that the almonds were grown and packaged by an almond cooperative which sells in the United States and in 88 other countries.  As teacher distributes an almond “snack,” students will speculate on the meaning of the term “cooperative” and should realize the similarity of the term to the word “cooperate.”


  1. Teacher will initiate an activity to help students learn the meaning of key words and concepts by writing the following on an overhead or on the board:
    1. sharecropping/tenancy
    2. New Deal
    3. socialism
    4. cooperatives/cooperative farms
    5. biracial
  2. Allow students first to speculate on the meaning of the terms, then to use texts, dictionaries, internet, etc., to write definitions/descriptions of the terms.   Lead a class discussion to clarify meaning.  Now ask students to write the meaning in their own words, using only terms that they understand. Let them share their definitions with each other and change as needed.  Working in groups (or for an overnight assignment),  students will develop a crossword puzzle to assist them in understanding the terms. To evaluate their learning, students will respond to a teacher made crossword puzzle.
  3. Place students in small groups to make a list of attributes necessary to make a cooperative farm successful.  Have students relate their answers to their work in the group, in clubs, etc. Ask them to consider their list as they explore the history of the cooperative effort in Mississippi.
  4. Using a “5-Ws Chart,” students will learn the story of the Delta Cooperative Farm.  Students should construct a chart with the following headings in their notes and complete the chart as they read the Mississippi History NOW article.
    • WHO?   (started the Delta Cooperative Farm)
    • WHAT?  (was the event)
    • WHEN?  (was it established)
    • WHERE? (was it established)
    • WHY?     (was it established)
  5. Ask students to add to their chart a list of the types of work in which the farm was involved.
  6. Lead a class discussion for clarification and evaluation.  Have students write a paragraph about their understanding of the Delta Cooperative Farm.   As an assignment, let them draw a picture of one or more of the daily activities of the farm. Display them in the classroom.
  7. Students will now develop a double-bubble web to show  the advantages and disadvantages of participating in a cooperative.  Teacher may wish to allow students to brainstorm in small groups, then develop an overhead to share with the class.  Have them listen for elements that are repeated and add them to their notes.
  8. Now, refer to the closing of these cooperative farms. Ask students to remember the success of the Blue Diamond Growers of America cooperative and share with them other successful cooperatives:  the Associated Press, ACE Hardware, etc.  Ask students to determine reasons for the failure of the cooperative farms in Mississippi in the 1930s.  Let them consider whether or not such an effort would be more successful today.   Ask students to determine any positive impact the cooperatives had on later U.S. history and to add this information to their notes.


Ask students to begin thinking of a plan for a “cooperative” that would appeal to their age group.  They may wish to acquire a teen center for the community or provide a recording studio for budding musicians, etc.  In groups, let them set up a cooperative to meet the need and establish the rules, assignments, etc.  They also must determine how the money to begin the cooperative will be raised and how profits will be distributed.  This assignment should assist students in again realizing both positive and negative aspects of the cooperative movement. At some point, they will share their ideas with the class and will write a paper evaluating the “cooperative” movement as it related to the Delta and Providence Farms and to their own project.


  1. Crossword Puzzle  (student- and teacher-made)
  2. Completion of 5-Ws Chart.
  3. Paragraph for understanding
  4. Picture
  5. Double-bubble web/graphic
  6. “Cooperative” project
  7. Paper evaluating the “cooperative” movement


  1. Some students may wish to research other cooperatives, especially others in Mississippi.
  2. Research the “Rochdale Principles” adopted by the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society, a consumer’s cooperative begun in England in 1844.
  3. Students should ascertain if members of their families belong to cooperatives.
  4. Find examples of local cooperatives by searching in the classified ads and the business section of local papers.
  5. Interview someone who belongs to a cooperative in the community.


  1. Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Wilson, Charles Regan, and Ferris, William, The University of North Carolina Press, 1989.  (Has numerous related articles)