Organic Valley: Our Co-op

Co-op of the Month: April

In recognition of the International Year of Cooperatives, we will be sharing the stories of different cooperatives throughout the year.  This month, we're highlighting Cooperative Creamery (McMinnville, Oregon) and Darigold (Seattle, Washington). Read on and enjoy!

Farmers Cooperative Creamery and Darigold: Cooperating in the Pacific Northwest

Cooperative success is a hallmark of the Northwest dairy industry. It grew from small pockets of dairy farmers (known as dairymen’s associations) that joined together to process and market their product. Many of these associations are a part of the history of the northwest dairy cooperatives we feature this month: Darigold in Seattle, Washington, and Farmers Cooperative Creamery (FCC) in McMinnville, Oregon.

Like our own CROPP cooperative and like FCC, Darigold is owned by the dairy farmers who supply milk for the co-op’s branded products and ingredient sales. Brian Linney, Darigold’s senior vice-president, Consumer Products, points out that when a business is owned by the families who make the product, “they tend to make decisions from a long-term perspective. They’re not in business to make a lot of money today so they can sell the company tomorrow. They’re building something that lasts and that they can pass to their heirs. Over half of our co-op owners are third or fourth generation dairy families.”

The farmer-owners of CROPP Cooperative couldn’t agree more!

How do our cooperatives, well, cooperate?

Part of CROPP’s foundational structure was to exist without owning much in the way of brick-and-mortar facilities. Instead, it was in our cooperative hearts to partner with other businesses that could provide certain services for CROPP farmer-owners. This would allow us to efficiently process milk from our farmers regionally where that milk was produced.

When Organic Valley farms in the Pacific Northwest were ready to come on the milk truck in 1996, we partnered with cooperatives like FCC and Darigold who could take the organic milk that our farmers produce and package it in the iconic Organic Valley cartons that consumers grew to recognize and trust on their grocery shelves. Organic Valley Northwest Pastures Milk goes from farms to tables across the northwest via a network of cooperatives that work with each other in spite of the fact that they are also competitors.

This is the foundation of agricultural cooperatives that FCC’s CEO, Mike Anderson, finds particularly important. “There’s real value that co-ops bring to the table for this diverse group of independent businesspeople.”

And the Northwest dairy industry continues to flourish today because of its strong, cooperative structure. Anderson points out that “Approximately 80% or more of the product here in the Pacific Northwest is processed in cooperative plants. Even as separate coops, Darigold and FCC work together on matters of common interest to assure the best outcome for the cooperatives as well as their member-owners. This cooperative attitude extends to the longstanding relationship these organizations have with CROPP-Organic Valley.”

We are grateful to be just one of the strong ties that bind the agricultural producers and processors in Washington and Oregon.


Previous Co-op Features

March: Equal Exchange

Who knew the purchase of some of the tastiest chocolate on earth or the finest “cupping” coffees could be so deeply satisfying? Equal Exchange fans tend to sum it up perfectly: “It’s easy to choose organic and fair trade when it tastes great!”

February: La Montanita Co-op

Founded in 1976 by 300 families seeking healthy food, La Montanita Co-op Food Market now tallies about 15,000 members and serves New Mexico out of six locations in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Gallup. Learn what sets La Montanita apart from your basic grocery store.

January: CROPP Cooperative

Most folks think of Organic Valley and Organic Prairie as sources of delicious and healthful organic foods. What they don’t know is that the key to our success is our cooperative business model known as Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP).

Everything's Better Together!

In recognition of the International Year of Cooperatives, we will be sharing the stories of different cooperatives throughout the year. Please join us this year to celebrate the benefits of working together!
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