October is National Coop Month, a time when we celebrate all it means to be a co-op.
130 million Americans, about one third of the country, are members of a co-op. Our goal at Oryana is to help educate our community on the virtues of the cooperative business model and its positive effects on business, the community and the environment.
While co-ops may be community-oriented, they are also big business. Co-ops employ more than 600,000 Americans, and generate annual revenues in excess of $273 billion. Agriculture alone boasts more than 3,000 cooperatives, with 2.8 million members, accounting for one-third of all U.S. farm products.
But how are co-ops different from the traditional capitalistic big business structure?
Firstly, co-ops exemplify the American ownership principle – surplus co-op revenue is distributed to its member-owners rather than to outside investors whose only concern may be the quarterly bottom line. And while the governance of most stock companies is closed to all but the largest shareholders, cooperative governance is open and democratic.
Cooperatives have more than one bottom line, with social as well as economic goals. Co-ops have a lot of economic savvy, but they also represent in their very structure some of the attributes Americans value most – self-help, individual responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others are all fundamental qualities that co-op members proudly exemplify. Here at Oryana we are particularly proud of our cooperative structure and our connection to the more than 29,000 coops in the United States.
As for our community involvement, we typically provide thousands of dollars toward sponsorship of great local events like the Traverse City Film Festival. We donate a great deal of food and other products such as Food Rescue produce and gift baskets to worthy causes, as well as promotions for great local charities and non-profits. Our community grant program is one big giveaway every year where we donate a portion of our year-end proceeds to a local nonprofit organization.
Help us celebrate the cooperative difference by becoming an owner if you aren’t already.