Cooperatives – See the Future

October is National Cooperative Month, and VistaComm is celebrating with the more than 40,000 cooperatives creating stable jobs and a more sustainable economy across the U.S. Co-ops represent a proven way to do business and build communities.

This year’s theme, “Co-ops See the Future,” embodies what co-ops envision and work to achieve every day—a more sustainable and inclusive tomorrow.

In this blog, VistaComm applauds the more than 100 cooperatives we have the pleasure of calling business associates. And we’re introducing two of our favorites to you:

  • Joe Schauf of Central Prairie Co-op in Sterling, Kansas
  • Pete Schmitz of Farmers Co-op Association in Canby, Minnesota.

Both Joe and Pete send regular profound and helpful messages to their producers, patrons, employees and neighbors—in magazines, newsletters, emails and on their websites. You can read Joe’s message: Where would we be without your co-op? in a VistaComm blog sent earlier this month

Read On for Pete’s message: Customer or Patron?


 Customer or Patron?

by Pete Schmitz, General Manager
Farmers Co-op Association
Canby, Minnesota

I often use customer and patron synonymously, but there is a difference between the two. Customers and patrons alike are great for our cooperative business and we love serving both. A patron, however, understands he or she owns a piece of the co-op, and that they share in the profits of the business.

As an owner, the patron also knows that they have risk, but that risk is shared with many others, reducing their ownership liability. The patron owner also understands that a board of directors represents them and their interest in the cooperative. Finally, the fact that the cooperative was formed in the community it serves and supports its community with employment opportunities, products and services is clear to the patron. They realize that these products and services may not have been provided had the cooperative not existed.


There are 2,106 agriculture co-ops in the U.S., with more than 2 million member-owners.

It isn’t difficult for customers to become patrons. Anyone who does business with their local cooperative, is added to the membership list and completes a very short application can be an owner. So, it serves the management of all cooperatives well to thank all your customers and hope they strive to one day be active patrons in your cooperative. You’re always welcome!