CEO Report

Membership: The Heart of a Cooperative

Valley Wide Cooperative recently conducted three Annual District Meetings - one in each District – for the purpose of communicating to the membership the financial results of the previous year’s business as well as discussing current and future projects and goals. Overall, the meetings were well attended and the reception to the presentations were well received. Once completed, the Board and I always take time to reflect back on what we could have done better or different to make those meetings well worth the time and effort of those who make them possible and for those who attend. The answer to that questions lies in understanding what is at the heart of the cooperative itself – the membership - and what our responsibilities are to them. This company’s success hinges on serving the needs of customers, patrons and members alike. Obviously, without them, we don’t exist and I can’t underscore the fact that all of them are vital to what we do every day, but there is a distinct difference between all of them.

Am I a “member” of the Co-op? An interesting question that many people don’t know the (correct) answer to. Valley Wide Cooperative is legally recognized as a “Producers Cooperative”. In order to maintain that distinction as recognized by the IRS, we must hold to the requirement that each member is a “producer” as well. As defined in our Bylaws, a Member is one that is involved in production agriculture and makes purchases from the Co-op in the minimum amount of $2500 per year. A fairly wide definition by design as we don’t want to limit membership to only the large producers. An important distinction of being a member is in regards to voting on co-op business and in elections. Voting privileges are limited to members only and are not open to all patrons or customers. This way, the Co-op stays true to its roots and original intent in business. The cooperative structure is founded on “one member, one vote” and the integrity of that system must be protected. If your farm is incorporated, the “farm” is the member and can have one representative. If you still operate as a sole proprietor, the one whose name is on the account is the member – not all the family members.

What is a Patron? A patron is one that consistently purchases from the Co-op from year to year. They can be a member or not. Generally, they have an account with the co-op and believe in and enjoy the cooperative system. They can receive patronage as well. Often times, a former member who has retired but still uses the co-op for heating oil, propane or gasoline could be considered a patron. Family members or employees of a farming operation that is a member and use the coop for products and services are patrons. Those who stop by the coop on their way to work as part of their routine are patrons. Anyone who considers the co-op a regular stop or source of products and services is a patron. This co-op loves its patrons – members or not!

Who is a Customer then? A customer is the broadest definition of those who buy from the co-op but maybe not in a consistent manner. They might be those passing through on vacation or simply are
those who only need the coop for ancillary items or services. They too are important to the co-op and fill a need that we have – especially at our retail stores. Remember – ANYONE can buy from the co-op!

Back to the District meetings. The District meetings are held for the membership because of their purpose – voting, financial reporting and reporting on the direction of the company. While this company very much appreciates all of its members, patrons and customers alike, the vision, direction and oversight of this producers cooperative, must be limited to those involved in production agriculture.

Mission - Message - Member Participation - it's the Cooperative way!

Thank you for your patronage!
Dave Holtom, CEO


Next Story: Chairman's Message