Area co-ops celebrate International Year of Cooperatives

Over 20 cooperative business organizations have their roots in Rockingham County, from large credit unions and agricultural marketing co-ops to smaller beef producer co-ops and worker-owned restaurants. Together they are joining in celebrating the United Nations’ declaration of 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives.

Two joint luncheons of the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Co-op Roundtable this year have already generated collaboration on plans for ways in which the co-ops can work together this year and into the future. Cooperation among co-ops is one of seven guiding principles of cooperatives.

The cooperatives serving Rockingham County have over 200,000 member – owners, each owning an equitable share in their business, and over 650 employees. To put that number in perspective, there are approximately 76,000 residents in Rockingham County.

One of our area’s oldest cooperatives is Farm Credit of the Virginias – part of the Farm Credit System formed through the Federal Farm Loan Act in 1916.  Farm Credit of the Virginias provides more than $1.6 billion in financing to over 11,000 customer-owners in Virginia, West Virginia, and western Maryland. Farm Credit organizations provide loans and financing expertise to farmers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners for land, equipment, operating and home purchases.

Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative was the first electric cooperative chartered in Virginia. Chartered in 1936, SVEC serves more than 92,000 member/owners’ accounts in the counties of Augusta, Clarke, Frederick, Highland, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Warren and the city of Winchester in Virginia.

Rockingham Petroleum Co-op spun off from the Rockingham Co-op in 1942 to provide fuel for agricultural producers in the area, and now has over 2700 members and 14,000 non-member patrons.

The Food Processors Water Cooperative, Inc. is owned by 2 food processing companies in the Timberville area who recognized a shared need for water supplied to their facilities and formed a cooperative to ensure that those needs would be met.  FPWC, Inc. was founded in 1946.  They are a public water supply and provide potable water (1 – 2 million gallons per day) to our member owners, which include Pilgrim’s Pride and Cargill, as well as providing water to some of the businesses and residents of Timberville and Broadway.

Credit Unions in the area include: Park View Federal Credit Union, Commonwealth One Federal Credit Union, DuPont Community Credit Union, and Mosaic Federal Credit Union. A credit union is a not-for-profit financial cooperative organized to serve the ever changing financial needs of all the members who own it.

The Little Grill Collective is a worker-owned restaurant where many of the workers share in decision making, production, maintenance and service in the very popular North End establishment.

The Virginia Poultry Growers Cooperative (VPGC) was incorporated in the summer of 2004 and is owned by 154 grower members.  The cooperative employees about 550 local employees and has a processing plant in Hinton, VA, a feed mill in Broadway, VA and a Grain Unloading Station just north of Harrisonburg, VA.   VPGC provides turkey products to more than 200 processors and distributors worldwide.  VPGC has a strong commitment to the local community.  Along with its employees, VPGC has donated thousands of dollars and volunteer hours to various organizations throughout the community, including the United Way, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and the American Cancer Society.

The newest co-ops in the area are the Shenandoah Valley Beef Co-op and Friendly City Food Co-op, which both got started last year. The Beef Co-op sell locally produced grass-fed/grain-finished beef and has quickly found markets for their excellent products. Friendly City Food Co-op is a consumer co-op, owned by 1400+ area consumers who enjoy shopping there for locally-grown, natural, organic and environmentally friendly products.

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