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.