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?  Because we want an Old Creamery that is going to continue to put a priority on providing excellent goods and services to its member-owners and our broader community.  Because we want to maintain local control of the Old Creamery and keep jobs in the local economy.  Because we believe any profits earned by the Old Creamery should remain in the community.  Because at the Old Creamery we believe it is important to support local businesses, crafts people, and farmers. Because at the Old Creamery we value social responsibility, caring for others, and following business practices that support our community, our environment and our world.  While you do not need to be a member of the Old Creamery Co-op to shop there, your membership helps us preserve, sustain and add to all of the very many ways the Old Creamery supports this community. Care to join us?  Great!  Check out our website or for more information email

Goings-On at the 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 Goings-On at the Old Creamery Co-op every third Wednesday of the month.

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