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national cooperative month

Empowering America: USDA's Cooperative Month Celebration

October is National Cooperative Month, and this year, USDA is helping to focus attention on the multiple ways cooperatives help build more vibrant communities and improve the livelihoods of their members. USDA’s theme for the annual celebration is: “Co-ops Empower America, USDA Empowers Co-ops.”

Cooperatives are a versatile business model that can address many needs, such as affordable housing, utility services (including electricity and broadband), agriculture production (including local foods) and can help convert existing businesses to worker ownership.

Preparing for a 'Silver Tsunami'

October is National Cooperative Month, and we’re highlighting several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development’s Cooperative Services.  This Co-op Month blog courtesy of Deborah Craig, co-op development specialist with the Northwest Cooperative Development Center, discusses the need for senior health care options in rural America and how the co-op model is rising up to meet the challenge.

A new homecare cooperative is being formed to bring client-centered care to the elderly and handicapped in the coastal town of Port Townsend, Wash., population of just under 10,000. A sense of community runs strong here, and is especially felt for elders. When local caregivers, dissatisfied with current homecare options, met to discuss alternatives, a central concern was the ability to create locally owned, quality homecare services.

Agua Gorda Co-op Provides Latino Farmers with Means to Acquire Land

October is National Cooperative Month, and we're happy to spotlight several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development's Cooperative Services. Jaime Villalaz, a business development specialist with the Latino Economic Development Center in Minneapolis, Minn., provided us with a glimpse into how USDA funds are being used to promote agriculture and cooperative development in the Latino community in Minnesota. 

In 2011, staff from the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) in Minneapolis met with about 30 residents of Long Prairie, Minn., to discuss starting a farmer cooperative that would improve their income and promote economic development. After meetings throughout that winter, the cooperative became a legal entity in April 2012. The eight original members each contributed $250 to start the Agua Gorda Cooperative.

Celebrating National Co-op Month: Ohio Farmers Join Forces to Grow their Market Reach

October is National Cooperative Month, and all this month we will be shining a spotlight on several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development's Cooperative Services. One fine example is Great River Organics in Ohio. Kimberly Rous and Hannah Scott work for our partner, the Ohio Cooperative Development Center in Piketon, Ohio and provided us some insight on a successful cooperative venture that is producing organic produce throughout central and north-central Ohio.

Great River Organics formed as a farmer-owned cooperative in December of 2014. Comprised of seven certified-organic farmers in central Ohio, the cooperative aggregates, markets, and distributes the organic produce grown by the farmer-owners through programs like the Great River Market Bag, a community-supported agriculture program that includes about 300 subscribers across central Ohio. They're also actively involved in the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network, which promotes the development of food hubs in the region.

Building Local Food Systems, Cooperatively

As part of USDA’s ongoing celebration of National Cooperatives Month, please join us for an upcoming webinar exploring the intersection of two important economic trends: a new wave of cooperative development and the rapid growth in demand for local foods.

This webinar – The Role of Cooperatives in Local Food Systems Development, on Thursday, Oct. 30, 1 pm Eastern Time – will feature national cooperative leaders and development specialists and USDA experts discussing the critical role co-ops play in developing local and regional food systems. Among the USDA staff on the panel will be Ag Economist Jim Barham; Elanor Starmer, our national coordinator for local and regional food systems; and Margaret Bau, a co-op development specialist who has helped launch over 30 co-ops nationwide. Also joining the panel will be Jan Tusick, director of the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center in Montana; Karl Sutton, a farmer/member of the Western Montana Growers Cooperative; and Robin Seydel, Community Development for La Montanita, a retail and consumer co-op in New Mexico.

Collective Courage: New Book Relates History of African-American Co-ops

Note: Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, was published this year by Penn State University Press ( The following is one in a series of blogs being posted in observance of National Cooperative Month in October.

Scholars of cooperative topics are praising Collective Courage: A History of African-American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, by Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, a faculty member at John Jay College, City University of New York. The book has been called “the most complete history to date of the cooperative economic struggles of African Americans.”

The author reminds readers that large proportions of the African-American community have had to struggle with familial, social, political and economic difficulties due to a history of enslavement, racial segregation, discrimination and violence. This experience has resulted in solidarity within the African-American community and helped facilitate social-action organizations.

Co-op Month: Much to Celebrate, But Much More to Do!

There is so much to celebrate during National Cooperative Month in October, as the U.S. co-op business sector is generating about $650 billion in annual sales and accounts for more than 2 million jobs. But the cooperative business model remains a “best-kept secret” for far too many people who could be benefitting from membership in co-ops.

It is thus imperative that everyone involved with cooperatives make co-op education and outreach a major priority in the year ahead. That was one of the primary messages of a National Co-op Month forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Oct. 22, sponsored by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA).

Co-op Provides Help for Premature Babies, Generates Income for Moms

Note: This is one in a series of entries USDA is posting to our blog in observance of National Cooperative Month in October.

Mothers Milk Cooperative (MMC) is believed to be the first cooperative in the country that aggregates and markets human milk. The cooperative was incorporated in 2012 to achieve two major objectives:

Michigan Hispanic Growers' Co-op Helps Improve Viability of Small Farmers

Editor’s note: Thomas is Extension educator and innovation counselor at the Michigan State University Product Center, Michigan Cooperative Development Program. This is one in a series of blogs USDA is posting to help celebrate Cooperative Month in October.

Farmers on the Move (FOTM) is a cooperative of Hispanic farmers, incorporated in June 2009, which is working to create a quality retail brand of fresh blueberries and vegetables for the Michigan and Midwest markets. Guiding this effort is Filiberto Villa Gomez, co-op board president, who has consistently striven to enhance member knowledge of both growing and marketing practices.

Together, the farmers process, package, deliver and share marketing expenses. The co-op sells to retail and wholesale markets, as well as through farmers markets.

Co-op Month Celebrates Member-Owned Business Model

October is Cooperative Month, and this year's theme is “The Co-op Connection,” an apt reference to the virtually unlimited number of ways in which co-ops connect their members to marketplaces and services they might otherwise be unable to access.

America is home to more than 30,000 cooperatives, including farmer, rural utility, credit/financial services, food stores, housing and many other types of cooperatives. To get an idea of just how flexible the co-op business model is in meeting virtually any need, see the Co-op Month special section of the Sept.-Oct. issue of USDA’s “Rural Cooperatives” magazine at: (under the “Spotlights” section of the home page).