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 the Westby Co-op Credit Union. Read on and enjoy!
In tough economic times, it's the cooperative spirit and dedication to their members and communities that sets credit unions apart from other banking institutions. Because they are cooperatives like CROPP Cooperative—Organic Valley/Organic Prairie, credit unions don’t belong to shareholders hoping to turn a profit. Rather, credit unions are member-owned, and any earnings are returned to members in the form of competitive rates and lower fees.
Westby Cooperative Credit Union (WCCU) was organized by a group of farmers in 1939 right here in Vernon Country, Wisconsin. Today, WCCU has seven offices in southern Wisconsin, $330 million in assets, over 150 employees and over 23,000 members.
As Kerri Theige, WCCU’s marketing director, explains, “Our relationship is rooted in education. When I started working for WCCU 23 years ago, we provided payroll deduction services, Christmas Club accounts and held “credit union days” where we came to the CROPP office so that folks could sign up for an account on the spot and ask questions. I remember thinking how small your operation was then. But you guys expanded really fast. I never would have guessed that would happen all those years ago.”
Financial Wellness is still a valuable part of CROPP’s overall Wellness Program. Over the last 2 yrs WCCU has worked to provide financial service and education to CROPP employees. Theige says, “When it comes to personal finances, a lot of people don’t have the time to research or they don’t know who to turn to for the information. We felt that by partnering with businesses to incorporate education into the workplace, it would be more convenient for employees.”
Financial professionals come right to our workplaces in La Farge and Cashton so that folks can take advantage of these educational opportunities more easily. Subjects covered in the past year include:
“We focus on service first, not profit,” Theige says. “You can make or break a person’s day by giving good service. I love the relationships we’ve built with people and businesses in our community.”
There’s nothing like doing business in your own back yard…cooperatively!
This month we are privileged to write about our hometown cooperative grocer. The Viroqua Food Cooperative (VFC) has grown up with CROPP Cooperative here in the Driftless Area of southwest Wisconsin. Actually, "grown up" is an understatement. Because this amazing "engine that could" has grown phenomenally in the short 17 years of its existence.
Since its beginnings in 1976, Frontier Natural Products Co-op® has been a member-owned cooperative dedicated to supporting and advocating the values of the cooperative community: integrity, openness, social responsibility, and respect for the environment. In other words, they have chosen to grow and prosper by contributing to the world rather than exploiting it.
The wonderful thing about food co-ops is that they belong to their communities in ways that go far beyond the footprint of the store itself. As Elizabeth Archerd, membership and marketing manager of the Wedge in south Minneapolis, Minnesota, puts it, “We are so much more than a grocery store.”
Forgive us if we get a little teary on this one, because this month’s profile highlights a partnership with an organization that was there for us from the get-go. While our partnership today with National Farmers Organization (NFO) is more equitable, we are nevertheless “joined at the hip,” as CROPP CFO Mike Bedessem likes to say.
All of our cooperative partners who work to get Organic Valley and Organic Prairie products from farm to table are crucial to our success. However, consumers don’t see the result of that hard work until they walk into stores like the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op and find our products on the shelves.
Organic Valley's 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 month we spotlight two fellow cooperatives who make our own regional milk program possible.
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!”
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.
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).
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!