Monopoly Model
January 11, 2018 9:53 AM   Subscribe

“All in all, Westby is a corner of rural America that’s still modestly prosperous. And while its legacy of locally controlled cooperative businesses isn’t the only reason, it’s a big part of the story. Local farmers are not totally at the mercy of giant agribusinesses when they bring their products to market. Their ownership of the Westby creamery allows them to cut out middlemen and bargain collectively with food processors and retailers to get a fair price. The rest of the town benefits as well from the creamery and the other locally owned co-ops, as money and power that would otherwise flow to the absentee owners and managers of distant corporations instead stay within the community. But Westby is the exception, not the rule. “ How Rural America Got Milked - Leah Douglas, Washington Monthy
posted by The Whelk (6 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Huh, I get cheese curds from them. Didn't realise westby was that co-op based.
posted by Ferreous at 9:58 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]

My grandparents were diary farmers in New York in the 50s, 60, and 70s. They were part of the Dairymen's League; member farmers marched in local parades carrying a hand-painted standard which my mom still owns. My grandmother was a representative to the League in Syracuse, and would read the dairy farm report on local radio. The League became Dairylea in the late 60s and a few years ago was bought by (sorry "merged" with) DFA.

What a great article - thanks.
posted by gyusan at 10:07 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]

I come from a long milking tradition.

Growing up in rural Kentucky, my grandfather milked. He had mostly taken over the land that his father had owned, and had milked on as well. My grandpa wasn't just a milker, not a regular farmer, but he was a smart and shrewd businessman, as much as one could be with no formal education past the 8th grade in a one room schoolhouse and a GED. He might not have known calculus, but he knew what that milk check was going to be in his head before it got to his door.

Back in times before I was born, he was on the boards with Dairymen, Inc. and Southeast United Dairy Industry Association. He fought a lot for the farmer, and against "Big Milk", but there was a lot of value in the common farmer milking 100 head joining with the farmer next door (x15000) to value their own production in line with what made sense for the bottom line for everyone. About the time he got out of dairy in 92, the writing was on the wall for change. The big corporations were starting to move in, the pool method was pulling control of the prices from the farmers to the processors, and the aforementioned DFA started coming in and taking over the small cooperatives. There's a lot of dairies back home that decided to exit once the margins got thin here in the last few years. Milk isn't as profitable as it once was. As a family, my dad got out of the milking equipment business about 15 years ago, as farmers were later and later paying their chemical bills and buying less and less new equipment.

I'm glad to see this one co-op still survive.
posted by deezil at 10:52 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]

All government subsidies to farmers should be abolished ASAP.

The majority of small farmers will see more income.
posted by NeoRothbardian at 10:01 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

See also Cabot Cheese. Well worth a quick tour if you're ever in the area.
posted by koolkat at 1:16 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

I like Cabot's products but had no idea they were a coop. Neat!
posted by tobascodagama at 8:03 AM on January 12

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