You may be aware that Co-Op Month is celebrated in October, but are you aware of some of the history behind the holiday? Several states across the United States began celebrating the holiday in the mid-1930’s, but it wasn’t until Minnesota declared the month ‘official,’ with a proclamation in 1948, that Co-Op Month was designated in that state. It would take 16 years to gain national recognition, but in 1964 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Orville Freeman, also a former Minnesota governor, proclaimed October Co-op Month for the entire country. The first theme of the national celebration of Co-op Month was “Cooperatives: USDA Helps Build a Better America.”
Since that time, co-ops have been excitedly celebrating Co-Op Month each October across the country working together to build, grow and be more resilient in their respective communities. Many also use it as an opportunity to tell their stories and share the collective impact co-ops have throughout the country.
According to the Cooperative Network, “It is a time for cooperative businesses to reflect on their shared principles and to educate others about the value of belonging to a cooperative.” Today, we continue to celebrate the over 40,000 cooperatives, that provide more than $25 billion in wages in the United States alone. It is also estimated that there are 350 million members of cooperatives nationwide, including those members that belong to more than one cooperative.
According to a 2021 report from the USDA, “the largest number of farmer cooperatives are in Minnesota, followed by Texas, North Dakota, California and Wisconsin. Farm cooperatives did the most business in Iowa ($18.3 billion) followed by Minnesota ($16.2 billion), California, Illinois and Wisconsin.”
This year’s theme, ‘Co-Ops Build Economic Power’ brings to light the power of cooperative business to strengthen the economy. According to the National Cooperative Business Association, “As businesses face inflation and supply chain challenges, cooperatives provide stability and opportunity. As employees question their role in the economy, cooperatives are creating dignified, empowering jobs with paths to ownership and wealth-building. As communities tire of rhetoric, cooperatives are creating the meaningful diversity and equity at the heart of an inclusive economy.”
Here at The Ohio State University South Centers, Center for Cooperatives, we plan to celebrate Co-Op Month all October long with informative articles and podcasts, information from our partners and much more. Be sure and follow our Facebook page, as well as our Twitter account so you don’t miss out on how we celebrate!