RUTLAND – In addition to the pomp and circumstance that come with celebrating our nation’s birth every Fourth of July, co-ops in our community and around the world will host celebrations of their own Saturday, July 4, in honor of International Co-op Day in a tribute that began in 1923.
Celebrated on the first Saturday in July, Co-op Day joins Independence Day in offering a unique opportunity to celebrate our democratic values. Based on the principle of one member one vote, co-operative enterprises reflect American ideals of democracy, self-help, self-responsibility and social responsibility. And because they are focused on meeting member needs rather than maximizing profit, co-ops focus on goals identified by their members.
This year’s theme, “Choose Co-operative, Choose Equality,” highlights the contribution of co-operative businesses to more fair, equitable, and participatory communities.
“It is very timely that Co-op Day is focused on equality,” said Erbin Crowell, executive director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), a federation of 35 food co-ops and start-up initiatives across New England that are locally owned by over 90,000 people. “It is also an opportunity for our food co-ops to share the work they do every day to make our economy more fair for everyone.”
The Rutland Area Food Co-op (RAFC), which is also celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2015, reports strong community support in recent years. Membership has grown by 28 percent since 2012 and members hold almost $200,000 in equity in the Rutland Area Food Co-op, according to a release June 25. Such growth is a strong indication that the community is eager to participate and support its business model. Sales in 2014 broke the $2 million threshold, and as membership and sales increase, so do the ripples of benefit in the region: RAFC purchases more product from local producers, increases investment in infrastructure and staff benefits, and more dollars circulate in the local economy. The Co-op also supports the community more directly through thousands of dollars in food, product and monetary donations to area food shelves and non-profit organizations annually.
In announcing Co-op Day celebrations, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) also noted a Credit Suisse report estimating that the top 1 percent of the globe’s population possesses nearly half of the world’s wealth, while the bottom half of world’s population holds less than 1 percent of its riches. This trend results in broken economies, declining infrastructure, social instability, and reduced political democracy.
The Co-op will be open 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. on July 4. Stop in and celebrate the democratic, egalitarian values and strengths represented in Independence and Co-op Day!