What is a food co-op?
Cooperatives are special forms of business ownership in which the
receivers of a good or service own and control the organization with
no one profiting at the expense of others.
How did they get started?
Most people think of co-operatives as a new idea, however, the first
one began in England in 1844 by flannel weavers. The principles and
practices known as the Rochdale Principles established by the weavers
are still in place today.
Two of the most important co-op waves started in the 1930’s during the
Depression and in the 1960’s during social unrest. During the 30’s, as
many as 3,000 store fronts and buying clubs existed in California
alone, but few of these remain today. Those that still exist are know
as ‘old wave’ co-ops and tend to be larger and more business-like.
Co-ops that cropped up in the 60’s tended to adopt strong political
and social positions on issues such as whole and natural foods. These
‘new wave’ co-ops were not as business oriented as their parent co-ops
of the 30’s. In the 1970’s a ‘third wave’ was born – a uniting of the
two co-ops. They maintained many social and political aims of the new
wave, but accepted the business orientation as crucial to their