History and Facts about Cooperatives

Cooperatives are based on the idea of cooperation. Since the beginning of civilization mankind has had to work together to ensure their survival. For this reason we can say coops have been around as long as modern man has.

Cooperatives as we know them today got their start in the late 18th century in Europe. One of the first documented successful cooperatives was the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society. After a text mill strike in 1840s England had failed, 28 workers decided to improve their lives by opening a cooperative store that allowed them to buy in bulk and thus get better food and supplies for less money.

In America, coops began in colonial times primarily for the benefit of farmers. These coops allowed farmers to lower cost by joint buying of supplies such as feed and equipment. As a result of the depression of the 1930’s, coops once again began to proliferate in both rural areas and cities. These efforts resulted in lower prices of necessities for members.

Today there are over 29,000 cooperatives in operation in every sector of the economy. The basic principal of the cooperative business structure continues to allow people to improve their lives for themselves and future generations.

Cooperative Facts

  • 1 in 3 Americans are co-op members
  • 1.2 million rural Americans are served by 260 telephone cooperatives in 31 states
  • 1 billion people are members of cooperatives worldwide
  • Benjamin Franklin assisted in the creation of America’s first formal cooperative in 1752
  • Agricultural cooperatives in the USA have approximately a 28% stake in the processing and marketing of agricultural production
  • 29,000 cooperatives operate in every sector of the U.S. economy
  • Approximately 233 million people are served by insurance companies owned by or affiliated with co-ops
  • U.S. cooperatives generate 2 million jobs each year
  • South Dakota Farmer Union was formed over 100 years ago to create cooperatives