Did you know there is a National Co-op Month?   I didn’t, either.  Well, there is, and it’s NOW.  In fact, National Co-op Week is Oct. 16-22 this year.

(Before I get too far, be sure to check out this week’s East Aurora Advertiser: my FIRST article is in there–front page!–and the mural on the side of the co-op office is featured in there as well!)

Back to your normally scheduled programming…Co-op Month!

(All information in this post was taken from www.coopmonth.coop.  Co-op Month is supported by the National Cooperative Business Association)

This year’s theme is: “Cooperative enterprises build a better world.”

Andrew and I are so excited about joining the co-op here in East Aurora, and while it would be fantastic if it were already a functioning store in which to shop, we’re getting a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a part of something really special.  Starting the co-op here was the brainchild of a couple ladies, and it’s grown into a board of directors and working groups, all ‘staffed’ with people who truly care about food and their community.  One day, Andrew and I will be able to walk down the co-op’s aisles knowing our efforts helped open the doors for everyone.

If you’re still not quite sure what a co-op is, (or want some succinct bullet points to share with friends) check these out:

Cooperatives are businesses that—

  • are owned and democratically controlled by their members—the people who use the co-op’s services or buy its goods—not by investors.
  • return surplus revenues (income over expenses and investment) to members proportionate to their use of the cooperative, not proportionate to their ownership share.
  • are motivated by service to their members, not by profit.
How cool is that?  Growing up, my only experience with something like this was being a member of the Navy Federal Credit Union.  Interestingly enough, I just read on the Co-op Month website that the Navy Federal Credit Union is the nation’s largest credit union, with 2.4 million members.
Here are some other ‘household’ names you might know that are co-ops:
-Land O’ Lakes
-Florida’s Natural (I ONLY buy orange juice from oranges grown here in the US–it’s important!)
-Blue Diamond (yet another reason to eat almonds!)
-Ocean Spray
-ACE Hardware
-Carpet One
I’ve always been a very ‘thorough’ shopper in terms of reading labels for nutritional information, etc…at the grocery store.  However, now I pay even more attention to WHERE my food is coming from.  Are the oranges for the orange juice grown here or in Brazil?  Where did the milk I’m buying come from?  Ever since I found out about Cabot being a co-op, I head right for their section in the cheese cooler.  There is just something incredibly satisfying about buying good, wholesome, REAL food, and knowing the money I spend is going straight to the producers, farmers and their local communities.
I know your attention span is waning, but take a minute to read the list below.  As a member-owner, it important to embrace what the co-op is about by taking advantage of the benefits afforded to membership.
The Seven Principles of Cooperatives:
Cooperatives around the world generally operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Cooperative Alliance in 1995. The International Cooperative Alliance is a global membership association of co-ops and co-op support organizations. Cooperatives trace the roots of these principles to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale, England in 1844.

1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2. Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.

3. Members’ Economic Participation
Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.

4. Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.

5. Education, Training and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.

6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7. Concern for Community
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.

And lastly, here’s some brief history of Co-op Month:

-‘Co-op Month’ became an (unofficial) October event in 1930 after Co-op Trading, in Waukegan, Illinois, began promoting cooperatives annually

-The Minnesota Association of Cooperatives petitioned then-MN Governor Luther Youngdahl to proclaim October as an ‘official’ Cooperative Month in 1948, which led to states.

-Cooperative Month became a national event in 1964 and events were sponsored by the government for the next 7 years

-Co-op Month was turned over to the cooperative organizations themselves in 1971

In honor of Co-op Month, don’t forget to attend the Pizza Party at Elm Street Bakery Saturday, Oct. 22!  Be sure to RSVP and bring a friend who’d like to get more information about joining the co-op.

Whether you’re a foodie (like me) and want fresh, local, organic food, or you just want to support your local economy (who wouldn’t?!), we’re glad you’re reading!  If you’re interested but still have questions, ask me or visit our website or  www.coopmonth.coop for more information.