The month of October is recognized as National Cooperative Month to highlight and celebrate the significant impact that cooperatives have on the community. There are more than 40,000 cooperatives in the U.S. in a multitude of industries including credit, housing, child care, insurance, and healthcare. In agriculture alone, there are nearly 3,000 cooperatives, four of which are in the top 10 in terms of business activity and economic power.
There are multiple types of cooperatives within the farming industry itself. More than 2 million member-owners are active in marketing, farm supply, bargaining, credit and grower cooperatives. Some of the cooperatives in California such as California Dairies, Blue Diamond Growers and Sunkist Growers have served as examples of the successful growth of cooperatives in agriculture.
The theme for this year is “Cooperatives – See the Future,” acknowledging the importance of sustainability moving forward. Festivals, conferences, and other events across the country are planned throughout the month of October. Planning for the future and working to ensure longevity is one of the backbones of American agriculture; California farmers, in particular, know the value of sustainable practices.
According to the Co-op Month website, farming cooperatives provide more than 190,000 jobs with more than $8 billion in annual wages. Agricultural cooperatives also account for $246 billion, or 62 percent, of all U.S. agricultural sales of $395 billion. Food co-ops also generate more than $1.4 billion in annual revenue, as every $1,000 spent in a local food co-op generates $1,604 in economic activity in the local economy.
National Cooperative Month originally began in Minnesota in 1948 and was nationally recognized in 1964 when U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman made the proclamation. Now, one-third of all Americans have ownership in some type of cooperative. Close to a million American farmers belong to a cooperative, accounting for 55 percent of U.S. agriculture sales.