Each October since 1964, cooperatives across the United States have been celebrating the cooperative difference, business model and the contributions of cooperatives to their communities, during National Cooperative Month.
One of the best examples of an agricultural cooperative that makes a difference is GROWMARK, based in Bloomington, Illinois, and chairman of the board Dan Kelley says after more than 80 years their operations now span 30 states and Ontario, Canada.
“Our entire board is made up of farmer producers so we bring the farmer focus and the farmer message to the corporation,” he said. “GROWMARK has been very fortunate to have several years of success, growing from a billion dollar corporation about 12 years ago to this year over $8 billion in sales.” A substantial amount of those profits gets returned to the member owners of the cooperative, which is what it’s all about.
Dan says cooperatives in general are important to not only the economy of the United States, but the entire global economy, which is why they are looking forward to being a part of the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives, which officially begins on October 31. “What we intend to do is participate with other cooperatives here in the United States through the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives,” Dan says, adding that they will be focused on telling the cooperative story to a broader audience.
Dan says cooperatives are especially important to developing countries and some GROWMARK board members and managers were able to go to Ghana earlier this year to offer some advice to producers there. “It was an eye-opening experience to see people who are getting by on a subsistence standard of living and with some minor improvements could really improve their lives,” he said.
Listen to my interview with Dan here: Dan Kelley Interview