This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first nationally honored Co-op Month, which was proclaimed in 1964 by then U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Minnesota Governor Orville Freeman. Minnesota, however, was one of the first states to enact laws authorizing cooperatives and the first in the nation to officially declare October Co-op Month in 1948. Minnesota is currently home to the largest number of cooperatives in the nation, including three Fortune 500 companies and the two largest cooperatives in the United States.
The oldest co-op elevator in Minnesota that remains in continuous operation is Dawson Grain Co-op, founded in 1887. Another elevator, the Co-op Country Farmers Elevator based in Renville, still operates a branch location at a site in Sacred Heart that dates back to 1886. In the 1920’s, there were close to 300 local co-op grain elevators around Minnesota, but after years of firms going out of business, merging or consolidating, there remain only 94 local cooperative elevator companies (including over 160 branch locations) operating in Minnesota today.
The following are a few other facts that can be found on the Cooperatives Network website:
- The first national theme in 1964 was “Cooperatives: USDA Helps Build a Better America.”
- The U.S. Government sponsored Co-op Month from 1964-70.
- Since 1971, cooperatives, statewide associations and the National Cooperative Business Association have fueled their own events and promotions. Cooperative Network annually develops a custom theme, logo and campaign collateral for Co-op Month.