October is National Cooperative Month! 

October is National Cooperative MonthThis year’s theme for National Co-op Month, “Co-ops See the Future,” embodies what co-ops envision and work to achieve every day—a more sustainable and inclusive tomorrow.

Celebrated by cooperatives nationwide during the month of October, Co-op Month is an opportunity to celebrate the many ways cooperatives are using innovation to create shared prosperity for their members and communities.

With 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.

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

“With clear signs of increasing interest in the cooperative model, it’s easy to see a future where cooperatives leverage their influence and impact through the shared resources of our movement to engage, partner with and empower people from all walks of life,” said Doug O’Brien, president and CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA).

“As drivers of an economy that reflects those values, we see a future in which people have more equitable access to sustainable jobs and can more broadly participate in the economy and create better world for their families, communities and future generations.”

VistaComm celebrates National Cooperative Month

VistaComm applauds these principles and the more than 100 cooperatives we have the pleasure of calling business associates. In celebration of the powerful contributions our partner cooperatives have made to the ag industry, we’d like to introduce you to two general managers we highly respect and enjoy doing business with: Joe Schauf of Central Prairie Co-op in Sterling, Kansas, and 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. VistaComm would like to share those messages—each one tremendously supportive of the cooperative business model.

We’ll begin this week with Joe’s message and encourage you to return next week to read what Pete has to say about “. . . when customers become patrons.” Enjoy.

Where would we be without your co-op?

Joe Schauf manages a Kansas cooperativeby Joe Schauf, General Manager
Central Prairie Co-op
Sterling, Kansas

Imagine our industry without the local co-op. If you purchased all your inputs and marketed al­­l of your grain through major corporations, local farmers would lose their collective bargaining power…and much more.

For example, how would the terminals treat average producers if those terminals didn’t have competition from co-ops? What kind of prices would they be offering you?

Without local elevators, you would have to haul to regional terminals. Would those terminals open up on Sunday afternoons, or stay late to take your grain? Would they offer help if your truck broke down or got stuck in the field? I’d be willing to bet that your local cooperative does all those things.


Who else can sell you fuel for your farm, propane for your house, inputs for your crops, a place to dump your grain and marketing power to sell that grain? You can get all those products and services somewhere—but not all at one location like you can with a co-op.

Adding value to local communities

It’s also important to note that a local co-op has an economic ripple effect in the communities it serves. Full-time employees, as well as numerous seasonal workers, deposit their paychecks at local banks and spend their earnings at local businesses, adding to the economic well-being of local communities. Plus, local cooperative and their many individual locations spend money for supplies, utilities, insurance and local taxes.

National Cooperative Month celebrates the many contributions of ag cooperatives

Local cooperatives support numerous non-profit organizations and schools in their service areas. This includes financial support for FFA chapters, 4-H programs in surrounding counties, and scholarships to high schools, local technical and community schools and colleges in the area.

Cooperatives are a unique business modelWhile local cooperatives have certainly evolved from the small grain elevator where your grandfather or great-grandfather took grain, they all still seem to operate on the same principle:

To give co-op members the advantage of economies of size and the bargaining power to obtain goods and services at the least possible price and pass those savings on to members at a competitive price. Plus, members share in the earnings of the co-op through patronage.

As a producer, when you consider your options for doing business, think about the value of doing business with your local cooperative. After all, where would we be without them?