Successful co-ops could lead to successful rural communities

Irish farmers should not underestimate the power of their local co-ops nor take them for granted, the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland has said.

Speaking at the 40th annual ICOS (Irish Co-operative Organisation Society) National Conference Kevin Vickers spoke about his background in Canadian dairy farming and co-op movement.

Vickers grew up in the Canadian state of New Brunswick on the site of the Northumberland Co-op Dairy, which was founded and managed by his father Bill.

He said that the farmers involved in the co-op embraced all aspects of the movement which was what made it a success. The co-op grew from nothing to a 70 vehicle operation in just over 40 years.

The processing plant was located right next to his house and was destroyed by fire when Vickers was 17 years old. This traumatic event has not shaken Vickers’ belief in the value of co-op movements, especially in rural communities.

Co-op communities

Vickers said that often the most basic example of a co-op can be found on family farms where people are working together for more than just individual financial gain.

He said that the formation of a dairy or agricultural co-op represents an expansion of the family farm model. This means that the communities will profit not only financially but socially too.

Vickers believes that these benefits will help to reduce migration of young people from rural areas into urban centres.

In order for the farming families to reap such benefits from co-ops the farmers involved must invest fully into the idea, according to Vickers. Even if this means paying extra for goods and services in the short term as he believes such negatives are outweighed by longer term benefits.

Ask not what your co-op can do for you but what you can do for your co-op.

Vickers believes strongly that if Irish farming communities support co-op movements they will in turn support many aspects of rural life.