Celebrating the Cooperative Spirit

Ag cooperatives were formed to benefit farmersEvery October, National Co-op Month is celebrated. Despite the month already being half gone, I didn’t think it’d be too late to reflect on the importance of all cooperatives. In fact, I believe this is something that should be done more than just a month out of the year.

I was introduced to co-ops at an early age. Each year during my youth, my mom enrolled me into a camp focused on teaching kids about the cooperative philosophy. While that was probably just my mom’s way of getting me out of her hair for a week, the camp helped me develop a deep understanding and respect for the cooperative way of doing business and the benefits these co-ops bring to their rural communities.

There really is a lot to appreciate about the unique business model co-ops follow—a model with values that allow a business to be equally owned and operated by all members. It’s a philosophy that has proven itself successful. In 2012, the USDA reported that farmer, rancher, and fishery cooperatives posted record sales and income in 2011, surpassing the previous record sales of 2008 by $10 billion. The 2,285 surveyed cooperatives had sales of $213 billion.

That amount of sales not only is a positive for the co-ops, but for the communities they serve. Growing up in rural America, I have seen the positive benefits that a small community gains from a cooperative. First, the cooperative in my small community is a primary employer. In fact, statistics say that cooperatives account for as many as 300,000 jobs worldwide and a total payroll of more than $8 billion. While I’m not directly employed by a cooperative, I am able to bring home a paycheck due to the many outstanding cooperative clients VistaComm has.

Ag cooperatives also have a positive impact on the economies of rural communities. As the members see the benefit of returned profits, that money is circulated back into the community as co-op members spend money at other local businesses. And there are many other ways that rural communities profit from ag cooperatives. Co-ops are often lead contributors to community organizations, and they’re always happy to lend a hand—whether it’s through volunteering or donations.

And those reasons are why the cooperative spirit is something to celebrate. Happy Cooperative Month!