What is a Co-op?


We all have childhood memories of parents, teachers and others encouraging us to work together. A co-op is what “working together” looks like all grown up. From the outside, many co-ops look like any other business, since a co-op provides products and services like conventional businesses do. But it’s what goes on behind the scenes that makes it different.

A cooperative exists to serve its members, but what makes co-ops unique is that the members are also the owners. So, in addition to getting the products and services you need, you also have a say in the business decisions your cooperative makes.

History of Co-ops

Cooperation is not new. Early human societies cooperated by sharing hunting, fishing, farming and shelter practices to improve their chances of survival.

Cooperatives began to take more formal shape in the late 18th century as people moved from farms to cities. No longer able to grow their own food, they relied on privately owned stores to provide nourishment. Often, the prices were high and the selection was limited.

As less powerful members of these new cities, the workers, consumers, farmers and producers banded together to gain economic clout. They improved their options through joint purchases of supplies and services, and kept their costs low. They answered to themselves, and when change was needed, it was made. They became a co-op – a business run by the people, for the people.