Seven Principles of Cooperatives

Why a Co-op in Cummington?

In the first few months of working as the Outreach Coordinator of the Old Creamery Co-op I’ve been asked many times, “Why a Co-op?  Why not just keep the Old Creamery as a private business with new owners?”  Well, good questions!  And while we’re at it, “What is a Co-op?”

There are many types and sizes of cooperative businesses and most are structured as for-profit businesses.  Whether it is a small worker owned co-op (like Collective Copies),  a financial organization (like Greenfield Cooperative Bank), or a large producer co-op (like Pachamama Coffee Company), all co-ops have many of the same characteristics as traditional business, and they are unique in several important ways.  One of the biggest and most important differences is that they are democratically controlled by their member-owners, usually on a one-membership/one-vote basis. The fundamental principle of cooperatives is voluntary and open membership.

Another important difference is that co-ops are not motivated by profit alone.  Instead, co-ops exist to provide high quality goods, services, and support and to meet the needs of their members.  The very first co-op was started in Rochdale England in 1844 by a group of 28 weavers and other artisans.  At this time, the advent of mechanization was forcing many skilled workers into extreme poverty. The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers was formed when these workers banded together to open their own food store so that they would be able to purchase food they could no longer afford. — Read more about the history of the cooperative movement on Wikipedia.

Co-ops are also formed by businesses that come together to meet a common need.  The Old Creamery started in 1886 as a Co-op of local dairy farmers who needed an affordable and accessible way to churn their dairy cream into butter.  Cabot Cheese, sold today at the Old Creamery, is produced by Cabot Creamery a 1,200 farm family dairy cooperative with members in New England and upstate New York.

All cooperatives adhere to Seven Principles:


  1. Voluntary and Open Membership
  2. Democratic Member Control
  3. Member Economic Participation
  4. Autonomy and Independence
  5. Education, Training and Information
  6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
  7. Concern for Community

Co-ops are families, friends, and neighbors who come together to support each other.  Co-ops support the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.  Cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others both locally and globally.

So, why a co-op in Cummington?   Read the rest of this entry »

The Goings-On at the Old Creamery Co-Op: A History

Holy Cow! A Creamery Co-Op!

The Old Creamery in Cummington, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The Old Creamery in Cummington began its long presence in the Hilltown community as The Cummington Cooperative Creamery in 1886.  At that time, a co-op of dairy farmers brought fresh cream from their farms to be churned into butter.  During the Co-op’s most active period, 145 dairies produced 20,000 pounds of butter per month. With the advent of widespread refrigeration and motor trucking in the 1940’s, the needs of the community changed and The Old Creamery began a long legacy of transforming itself to respond to those changing needs.

The Old Creamery has at times been a restaurant and at times a general store.  In 1988, the Berenson family merged these two functions when they purchased the building and business and made major renovations including the addition of the sunny café area.  Current owners, Alice Cozzolino and Amy Pulley, purchased the Old Creamery in 2000 and have worked to transform it into a vibrant community hub in the Hilltowns where people love to gather year round to sample the Old Creamery’s delicious fare, shop for groceries, visit with friends, grab a quick breakfast or cup of coffee, read the paper, or more recently surf the internet.

When Alice and Amy began to think about transitioning the Old Creamery to new ownership, they wanted to insure that it would continue as a place dedicated to the needs of the Hilltown community.  Thus began the dream to return the Old Creamery to its cooperative roots.  On January 31st this year, Alice and Amy held an open community meeting to discuss their co-op idea and gauge the response of the community.  The response was overwhelming.  Over 300 community members attended the meeting.  A steering committee was formed and began to work enthusiastically on pursuing the plan.

Throughout the spring, the steering committee made site visits to other local co-ops including Berkshire, Wild Oats, Greenfields Market, Leverett, and Putney VT.  They put together business and communications plans, analyzed the financial history of the current store, created future financial projections, and compiled estimates for purchase and start-up costs.  On July 30th, the founding member-owner drive was launched with a goal of signing up 300 founding member-owners by December 31st.  This goal was reached on October 21st, more than two months ahead of schedule!

On August 6th The Old Creamery Co-op was incorporated as a legal entity in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the steering committee became the Co-op’s first Board of Directors.  The Board of Directors is now engaged in developing a business plan and in raising equity through continuing to sign up founding member-owners — and through grants and loans to the co-op.  There are new founding member-owner goals:  350 by Dec 31, 2010 and 500 by the summer of 2011.  Currently there are 336 founding member-owners.  If you would like more information about what the Co-op is doing, please visit our website or email the Co-op’s Outreach Coordinator Stay tuned for more exciting news to come!

Old Creamery Co-Op by Cherylann Richards

Cherylann Richards is the Outreach Coordinator for the Old Creamery Co-op and writes about the ongoing adventure of working to transition the locally beloved Old Creamery in Cummington into a community owned food cooperative. Cherylann is a past employee of The Old Creamery and completed her Masters of Divinity from Andover Newton Theological School this past May.  She is in the process of becoming an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and a board certified chaplain with the ultimate goal of working as a medical chaplain.  Cherylann loves Old Creamery made chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and all things outdoors; cross country skiing at Notchview, hiking or swimming with her dog Tula, camping, and bicycling.- Check out Old Creamery Co-Opevery second Wednesday of the month.

Old Creamery Co-Op Welcomes Founding Member-Owners!

On behalf of the Old Creamery Co-op Steering Committee, Kimberly Longey of Plainfield, MA, writes:

Greetings: Just 6 months ago we gathered in Cummington to launch the effort to transition the Old Creamery (Cummington, MA) into a community owned cooperative. Today we’ve reach a major milestone – we are now welcoming founding member-owners to join the Co-op!

By joining now you will help us keep the momentum building and move us closer to the goal of purchasing the Old Creamery store from Alice and Amy. Your support will ensure that our vibrant local store remains in service to this community for years to come.

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Guinea Pig Co-Op

Felice Wolfzahn of Shelburne Falls, MA writes:


We have two lovely female guinea pigs (mother and daughter): Peppermint and Sparkle. As with a lot of pets, the family members are excited and interested for a while, but often the interest fades and they become more of a chore than a fascination. BUT……….. there’s hope other than trying to get rid of these cute, cuddly creatures.

Here’s the idea:

  • We get a few families (maybe 6) together who are interested and willing to care for and enjoy the guinea pigs for maybe two months at a time.
  • Each family is responsible for the care and well being (and one way of the transportation) of the GP’s for their time and then they pass them on to the next family.
  • (We could establish a small contribution from each family in a pot somewhere, in case the G.P.’s need any medical care).

If you’re interested please e-mail me:

BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag!

River Valley Market Co-Op Update

CMYO: Come Make Your Own at the River Valley Market Bag “Sew-cial”

Show the kids a way as a family we can be sensitive and proactive in the conservation of our resources! The next River Valley Market bag sew is scheduled for April 15 from 6-8:30 pm at the Rocky Hill Co-Housing Common Room in Florence. Come make a unique cloth shopping bag and sew on your very own River Valley Market logo patch.

No sewing experience is necessary – experienced people will be on hand to help you. Bring sewing machines, fabric, and thread if you have them. Our first co-op bag sew-cial took place in March. About a dozen people came, and we had a GREAT time. Many people made bags to take home and use themselves, and those who were speedy enough to make extras left some behind for future co-op shoppers.

For more information and directions, contact Nan Childs at 586-1071.

Supporting Local Agriculture

River Valley Market Orientation on October 10th

River Valley Market Orientation FlyerCome this March the doors are planned to open at the River Valley Market Co-Op (RVM) in Northampton, a consumer-owned cooperative whose key goal is “a thriving sustainable local food system …”! They broken ground last March and are working on their “green” building. Doors are scheduled to open in March 2008!

Are you a member-owner? Want to become a member-owner? There will be an orientation for new and potential co-op member-owners on Wednesday, 10/10/07 at 7pm in Florence at the Civic Center. Bring your family and come check it out. Check here for updates.


RVM is a grass-roots organization of families from Western Mass that have united to develop a natural foods grocery store that not only specializes in local and organic foods, but also provides a just marketplace that supports sustainability. Click here for answers to some FAQ’s.

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