Celebrate in October
The date was March
14, 1910 when seven farmers from the Brunswick area met to discuss
an article written by farm editor William Hirth. Those seven were among
the first in Missouri to launch a new breed of business, the cooperative.
By pooling their
orders for baling twine, the seven saved $400. Word spread from farm
to farm about the promise of cooperation. Farmers already knew things
could be bought cheaper by the dozen. They just needed someone like
Hirth to get things organized. Hirth’s encouragement led to
the formation of MFA, Inc.
Today MFA is one
of the state’s most
successful agricultural businesses — and
still a cooperative.
This month people
all across the nation will celebrate the achievements brought on by
the formation of cooperatives. Cooperative Month truly is a cause worth
celebrating because cooperatives have made a profound impact on the
lives of their members.
a connection between the many cooperatives founded in Missouri it’s
that all had a need that could not or would not be met by private enterprise.
About 25 years after Hirth’s words became reality similar meetings
between small groups of farmers led to the creation of the first electric
In the case of those
1930s farmers, it was the desire for electricity that brought them
together. No one would bring electricity to rural areas. There was
no profit to be made from wiring the countryside.
But service, not
profit, is the motivation for the cooperative business model. No strangers
to hard work, farmers across Missouri began organizing their own
cooperatives to turn on the lights. Like MFA, Inc., those cooperatives
remain in service today, stronger and more committed to their ideals
than anyone who formed them could have imagined.
Lest you think cooperatives
are a footnote to history, they remain as vital to the economy and
the American way of life as they were in the beginning. In fact,
so called “new generation” cooperatives are offering farmers
the opportunity to once again control their destiny by adding value
to their crops.
Never has the formation
of a cooperative been easy. They have succeeded because the movement
came with determined leaders like MFA’s Hirth, Bob Partridge,
a Missourian who headed the National Rural Electric Cooperative
Association and fought tirelessly for electric cooperatives, my predecessor
Frank Stork, who unified our state’s rural electric cooperative
family and John Eggleston, a Missouri farmer and co-op director who
tirelessly promoted the concept of cooperative ethanol plants to all
who would listen.
These are just a
few of the hundreds who made the cooperative movement happen and remain
vital in this century. The new leaders coming into the cooperative
program share the early leaders’ vision
for the role of the cooperative. As a result the cooperative business
model looks strong for the future.
To those who made
the cooperative movement possible and keep it strong today, we extend
our heartfelt thanks during this cooperative month celebration.
Hart is executive vice president of the Association of Missouri