Ogallala Commons started through the foresight of two men: Vince Shively and Bob Mailander. We regret that Vince passed away in 2008, but his legacy lives on through the work of our organization. We are grateful to have Bob as a current OC Board Member.
OC Co-Founder Bob Mailander at a Board Members’ Meeting in March.
Bob was born and raised in Holyoke, Colorado. After graduating college and serving in the Peace Corps for two years, Bob returned to his home state to follow in his family’s footsteps and raise wheat, corn, and beans.
In 1997, Bob became the Director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union-Cooperative Development Center. The Center is dedicated to helping sustain the viability of rural producers and their communities, by establishing value-added agricultural cooperatives. Bob’s job description also entailed working closely with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, an organization that has existed since 1902. RMFU sees family farms as a cornerstone of the American economy and works to preserve rural communities.
Along the way, Bob became acquainted with Vince Shively, who was ranching and raising cattle in Eckley, Colorado. The two shared a bond of an agricultural background, a love for rural communities, and a desire to live in a way that benefited the common good. Vince also had a long-term vision of what rural America could look like…if things were structured according to the principles of cooperation: shared responsibilities, burdens, and resources—in order to build up the common good.
Both men had lived through the Farm Crisis of the 1980s, when crop disasters, poor farming methods, and economic struggles forced over half of the population of family farmers to move to urban areas. They realized that in order to preserve rural areas, it was necessary to educate people to become more self-sufficient and to better steward the resources that could one day disappear. With his background in water conversation and management, Bob recognized the importance of the Ogallala Aquifer. Both he and Vince understood that proactive steps would be required to preserve this precious resource. Fortunately, this duo developed other key pieces of the puzzle. In particular, Bob’s work with the Rocky Mountain Cooperative Development Center connected him to the knowledge and funding necessary to begin Ogallala Commons.
From the values and beliefs held by these two men, Ogallala Commons was born. Today, OC continues to uphold the spirit of cooperation, with programs built upon the 12 Key Assets of Commonwealth and a belief that thriving communities must be economically, ecologically, spiritually, and culturally sustainably. We can’t be certain about what the future holds, but we will find it by following the legacy established by our two founders.