Celebrating local cooperatives
The Freistatt Farmers Exchange is on the main street of Freistatt directly across from the volunteer fire department and a cluster of outdoor post office boxes. Members of the community regularly stop in to purchase a sandwich and chips from the deli counter or a load of feed from the storerooms. Some customers call the store to find out if the mail has been delivered before subjecting themselves to the bitter cold of a winter day. When an ice storm cut power for two weeks a few years ago, the Freistatt Farmers Exchange kept the community supplied with kerosene from an antique pump. These are just a few examples of what some like-minded MFA-affiliated cooperatives across the territory mean to the communities they serve.
In 2016, four MFA local cooperative affiliates celebrated milestone anniversaries. Freistatt celebrated its 50th. At MFA, we often talk about our cooperative history—of the people who recognized the benefit of working together to leverage buying power and their collective voices in the pursuit of “equality for agriculture.” MFA and its local affiliates have always existed to benefit our rural communities, making agricultural goods and services accessible to farmers in the area.
“We’re owned by our members for the purpose of serving our membership and to provide services that aren’t normally available in small towns this size,” Freistatt Farmer’s Exchange Manager Doug Arnett said.
“Our local affiliates often have a long history that directly aligns with MFA’s. When MFA founder William Hirth began proposing the idea of farm clubs, these communities took action and began organizing. Many locations have withstood time, weather and politics to continue serving their neighbors—and that’s worth some recognition,” said Ernie Verslues, President and CEO of MFA Incorporated.
Freistatt Farmers Exchange’s anniversary celebration drew almost 300 people. In a town with a population of 163 according to 2010 census data, those attendees demonstrate the impact this local cooperative still has on its community 50 years later.
"Being an MFA affiliate helps supply the local community with products that might not be available otherwise in a town this small. I think there is a certain level of trust. People can come in and talk to us and not feel like we're just trying to sell them something. We're in this together. They know we're trying to help because we're members of their community" Lester Jett, manager of Birch Tree said.
Lockwood Farmers Exchange
"A lot of the reasons we do business as an MFA local affiliate is the tradition and history that MFA embodies" Lockwood Farmers Exchange Manager, Robert Johnson said. "The progress that MFA has made over the last 100 years has changed the face of agriculture. It's a recognized supplier and retailer that has made it known it's out to stay."
Rhineland Co-op Association #130
"We've been here for 95 years," said Gregg Lamb, the general manager of Rhineland Co-op Association #130. "We have a long history of being with MFA and flying the shield. Being a small co-op, we can't do everything ourselves. By being affiliated with a larger organization, there's a lot more resources available to us."
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