Sunday, March 13, 2011

Radical Sharing

Mark and I celebrated the meeting of a goal yesterday. For about, just under a year we have been purchasing many of our hardware needs from The Farmington Farmers Union. It is a local hardware, farm supply store. Each time we made a purchase we diligently saved our receipts. Small purchases, like the denatured alcohol for a our little camp stove when we first moved in, and larger purchases, like the new pressure tank we needed back in October, accounted for some of the 500.00 we needed to spend in a year to purchase a share at the Farmers Union.

Our local Farmers Union is a non- profit cooperative. Each year the board of directors gets together to see how much money the Union made. Then they determine a percentage that each member will receive. Last year each member received a check that was 10% of the total amount of money they spent at the Union.

In this "capitalist" economic system the idea of a cooperative system seems like a pretty radical idea. Almost, dare I say, socialist. The very idea that members and not a lone entity should share in the profit sorta dispels the idea that a business is only in business for one reason , the bottom line. As a member if the company does not do well, my share will be less. So it serves my own interests, my own bottom line, to spend my dollars as the Farmer's Union than the local big box hardware store that "might" have a lower price.

My own bottom line may include the check that I will receive at the reckoning every year. But my bottom line also includes the social capital of a healthy downtown, the money spent staying in my own community. Because the Farmers Union is located downtown it contributes to the vitality of the downtown. Whereas the large retail hardware store is along a highway. Not an easy location to walk to if you only need a handful of nails. My bottom line includes the better quality of tools and service that I find at the Farmers Union.

We belong to another cooperative already. It is our credit union. I have belonged to buying clubs for food and yarn as well, these are other forms of coops. Some of these coops have storefronts and some extend no further than a friend's kitchen table and a catalog. But both weave a fabric of interdependence that creates community, financial savings and community resilience.


Wendy said...

Two thumbs up! This is exactly the kind of community sharing that we need to see more of. Reminds me of George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life - it's not about the "bottom line", but about the people who contribute to the whole. Great lessons for our very money-oriented society.

Linda said...

It would be a dream for us to find a cooperative farm and hardware store! I've been using the model more and more in less official ways and would like to see it gaining momentum, especially around the kitchen table.

Robj98168 said...

I have always hated the fact there is nothing like the Farmer's Co-op in the cities for the reasons you pointed out. In the small town in ND they always had the best stuff to look through. And my Uncle always made sure I had a New "Co-op Cap" (Later Cenex)

Today I find that for hardware needs, I go to Ace Hardware in my own town, the prices might be better at the Big Box hardwre stores, but there is something to be said for shopping locally. Ace may be a Medium Box store, but it is owned local, and I feel better about spending the $$$ right here in town. That and they hire local people too!