Cooperatives in the Community

Cooperative businesses are diverse and embedded in many communities across the United States, including in rural and urban communities. They operate in a variety of sectors like housing, insurance, agriculture, grocery, financial services, and many more.

Forms of cooperative ownership include:

Purchasing cooperatives – In many communities, independently owned hardware stores cooperatively own wholesaler suppliers. For example, Ace Hardware and Do It Best are wholesale cooperatives supplying lumber and hardware to member businesses. Supply purchasing cooperatives have helped “fast food” franchises and restaurants (like KFC, Dunkin’ Donuts, Arby’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, and others) more efficiently procure the supplies they need to operate.[1]

Producer cooperatives – Producer cooperatives provide important business functions like marketing and distribution, supply production and purchasing, and services to members like farmers, artists, and others. In Ohio, Heritage Cooperative markets grain, provides crop inputs, energy, and feed, and operates country stores selling consumer products across the state with about 5,000 member-owners. (Heritage Cooperative Check out the “video tour” of Heritage Cooperative made as part of a youth cooperative program below!

A Tour of Heritage Cooperative – YCLE

Consumer cooperatives – Consumer cooperatives help people and households come together to buy goods and services. From electric utility cooperatives to community-owned groceries and credit unions, these types of cooperatives are as diverse as the communities that use them!

Food co-ops may be one of the most recognized types of consumer cooperatives. According to National Co-op Grocers, itself a business services cooperative of retail food cooperatives across the country, over 1 million Americans are food co-op members and the average food co-op works with 178 local farms and producers!

Additionally, over 800 rural electric cooperatives serve over 20 million users and power 56% of the U.S. landmass, according to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. In the webinar recording below, Doug Miller with Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives shares how the electric cooperative community in Ohio and beyond has embodied the cooperative principle of self-help by building a strong network of cooperatives across the United States!

Building a Self-Help Network of Cooperatives: The Electric Co-ops Story (September 2, 2021) Speaker: Doug Miller, Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, VP of Statewide Services

Social and public service cooperatives – In some communities, people have formed cooperatives to provide the vital functions they need in ways that are affordable and accessible. For example, in housing cooperatives, residents own and cooperatively govern their housing and related community facilities, including models where residents live in a complex or in single family homes. Learn more about housing cooperatives by viewing the recording of the webinar, “All About Housing Co-ops: What are they and how do they work?” hosted by the CFAES Center for Cooperatives.

Appalachia Cooperatives Initiative Call – March 2023

Worker cooperativesWorker cooperatives are businesses where worker-members own most of the equity and control the voting shares of the business, while participating in profit sharing, oversight, and sometimes, management, using democratic practices.[2]

Worker owned cooperatives in the Appalachian region include worker-owned restaurants and coffee shops, bookstores, music stores, bakeries, and more. In a 2022 report, the Democracy at Work Institute estimated that there are 612 worker cooperatives or similar democratic workplaces employing just under 6,000 workers across the United States. These businesses tend to be small, with a median firm size of six workers. Approximately 12% of these businesses originated as ownership transitions.[3] Learn about a long-standing worker-owned restaurant in Athens, Ohio, in this “video tour” of Casa Nueva made as part of a youth cooperative program below!

A Tour of Casa Nueva – YCLE

[1] “Co-ops 101: An Introduction to Cooperatives.” (2012). U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, Cooperative Information Report 55. Retrieved from

[2] Hoover, M. & Abell, H. (2016) “The Cooperative Growth Ecosysem: Inclusive Economic Development in Action.” Project Equity & Democracy at Work Institute. Retrieved from

[3] “2021 State of the Sector: Worker Cooperatives in the U.S.” (2022). Democracy at Work Institute. Retrieved from