Anybody know what October is known for? A great month for football? Yep. The Major League Baseball playoffs? Also, yes. Halloween? And one more yes to that. As fun as it would be to talk about each of those items…October is also a big month for the agricultural community (and other industries, alike). Any guesses now? If your mind went to cooperatives (or co-ops), you are on the right track. October is National Cooperative Month.

Why is this a big deal? Well, first…there are more than 40,000 co-ops nationwide operating in almost every industry including agriculture, rural electric, child care, financial services, food retail and distribution, housing, healthcare, insurance, telecommunications, and many more. AND…using Iowa as just an example, the grain and farm supply co-ops in the state generate significant income, employment, and revenue. They operate in more than 700 communities, employ more than 8,000 people, and pay more than $32 million in property taxes locally. If you know anything about Iowa and the Ag industry, you know this is significant.

To break down what a co-op is, it really looks like any other business. However, co-ops exist to serve their members — who also happen to be owners and have a say in the business decisions. Co-ops are owned and democratically governed by their members interests. They serve on the principle of one member, one vote.

There are several common types of co-ops (as well as hybrids — which combine more than one type), including co-ops owned and operated by:

Co-ops dedicate substantial human and financial resources to serve their communities beyond their core business functions. Just as one example, many co-ops take part in charitable giving that meets the needs of underserved populations.

I wanted to bring up the topic of co-ops for two reasons:

Until the next time, Happy National Cooperative Month!