70 Years Ago Today

Terry Appleby, General Manager of the Hanover Co-op, of which I am proud to be the current board president, wrote:

On January 6th, 1936, in the middle of the Great Depression, 17 families
from Hanover, New Hampshire and Norwich, Vermont gathered to discuss the
creation of a society of cooperation to meet their common needs. According
to founding member Charles Bagley, “at the close of the meeting they signed
the register, paid the initial fee of one dollar and became charter
members.” They thus formed the buying club that later in the year would be
incorporated into the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society, and joined with
consumers in Berkeley, and Hyde Park in Chicago and many other places who
were also inspired by the idea of the transforming power of cooperation.

One of the first purchases by the club was for fresh citrus fruit from
Florida, scarce in Northern New England at the time. Hanover Co-op still
celebrates that purchase with an annual citrus sale in January. Here’s
hoping you’ll join in a symbolic toast (of orange juice!) to the visionaries
at each of our co-ops who have kept alive this dream.

Cooperatives present an alternative model of providing goods and services. They are member-owned, and organize around serving member needs. Sometimes members are workers, sometimes the members are customers – sometimes they are both, thereby tying together the combined self-interests of producers and consumers. In an era of so-called “customer-focused organizations” with un-navigable voicemail menu systems, cooperatives provide an honest alternative to greed.
If you’re interested in learning more, or even starting a new Co-op, there are some good resources listed in the “Cooperatives” topic on this weblog, particularly around July 2003.