Food, Farming, Banking, Energy And More: NCGA Offers Ideas for Other Types of Co-ops to Join

Sep 25, 2007

October is National Co-op Month, a time set aside to celebrate the positive economic and social impact of a co-op on a community. The National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) – a business services cooperative for 110 consumer-owned food co-ops – suggests community members consider joining or learn more about a variety of other helpful types of co-ops during the month.

“Members of food co-ops already enjoy access to quality food and wellness products; share in success of a cooperative business; and take pride in the vital contributions of their co-op to their community,” said Robynn Shrader, chief executive officer for NCGA. “But food co-ops aren’t the only co-ops out there. October is a good time to evaluate whether there are additional ways for you to incorporate co-ops into your lifestyle.”

Shrader noted that a variety of co-ops recently developed www.gocoop.coop, a Web site devoted to helping individuals learn more about local cooperatives.

In particular, NCGA suggests these co-ops to explore:

  • Need a loan or want to start a savings or investment account? Eighty-six million people belong to cooperative credit unions in this country. Assets total $668 billion, with $443.5 billion in outstanding loans.
  • When it’s time to sign up (or transfer) utilities, don’t overlook utility cooperative options in your area. Electric utility co-ops alone serve 37 million people in this country.
  • Looking for a place to live? Housing co-ops have a combined budget of $11 billion and are available in many cities.
  • Support consumer goods co-ops (like REI), purchasing co-ops (like Ace Hardware), and producer-owned co-ops (like SunKist) when shopping for products not available through your local food co-op.
  • Evaluating your insurance needs? Mutual insurance companies, whose policyholders share in the company’s earnings, offer life insurance, health insurance, homeowner’s insurance, car insurance and other insurance.
  • Vacation at a cooperative camp. Available for kids and adults, cooperative camps teach cooperative principles in a fun atmosphere.
  • Does a non-profit, consumer-governed health care system sound appealing? The first health care co-ops were formed in this country in 1921. Some serve a wide variety of people; others are organized according to geographical areas, careers, or age groups—such as farmers, writers, or the elderly.
  • Save energy and money by joining a local transportation co-op – like a simple carpooling group or a worker-owned cab company.
  • Farmer cooperatives. There are almost 3,000 agricultural co-ops in the United States, accounting for 300,000 jobs and annual volume of more than $111 billion. But your small local farmer may offer cooperative membership in his or her farm, too, enabling you to share in the bounty of a local harvest each season.

For unmet needs in your community, consider creating your own co-op. Whether it is a clothes swap, book share, or co-op to support neighborhood use of sports equipment or lawn, home or garden tools, co-ops are fun and economically smart way for people to work together to fulfill their needs.