Dairy Co-ops Keep Farms and Families Together

By: Co+op

Jacques and Pauline Couture purchased their Westfield, Vermont dairy farm in 1970, and have been raising a family and contributing to their community ever since. Besides dairy farming, they also produce maple syrup and run a bed and breakfast. The Coutures truly love what they do, and their passion for producing the “World’s Best Cheddar” as part of the Cabot Creamery Co-op helped them earn Vermont’s Outstanding Farm of the Year in 2004.

The Coutures value the support and trust that comes with the cooperative way of doing business, and are proud to contribute to the wide range of products that Cabot Creamery Co-op produces, including cheddar, jack, mozzarella, American and Swiss cheeses; yogurt; cottage cheese and butter. Through Cabot, the Coutures are connected to over 1,200 other farmer-members who are active in their local communities, helping to revitalize small town economies and protect the environment. Take a virtual tour of Cabot farms.

Thousands of other small family farms around the country are also benefiting from the scale, training, marketing and other support that dairy co-ops offer.

Tyler and Melanie Webb are members of the Organic Valley Cooperative.

Organic Valley is a dairy cooperative created with a mission to save family farms through organic farming. They have been hugely successful in helping to keep small, sustainable farms in business. Organic Valley has 1,762 farmers in 35 states and three Canadian provinces, producing certified organic milk, eggs, cheeses and meats. It is now America’s largest co-op of organic farmers and one of the country’s most recognizable organic brands, sold in food co-ops and beyond. Organic Valley’s members produce and package their food products regionally, in order to support local economies and ensure there are fewer miles from farm to table. Be sure to visit for recipes, information and great facts about organic food and eating.

Rochdale Farms products, produced in the coulee region of the upper Mississippi River, are another example of cooperation in action. Populating the landscape of Wisconsin’s Driftless region, Amish farmers who practice traditional grass-based dairying and hand-milking bring their product to market. The milk is turned into cheese and butter, labeled as Rochdale Farms, and delivered exclusively to food co-ops throughout the upper Midwest by the Co-op Partners Warehouse. Several creameries are involved in making different cheeses, and four of them are co-ops. Rochdale Farms products include organic cheddars, baby Swiss, cellar-aged grass-fed Gouda, string cheese, mozzarella, provolone, cave-aged blue and hand-rolled butter.

Bentley Lein, one of the owners of Farmhouse Kitchens, the worker co-op that markets Rochdale Farms, says their purpose all along has been to source products that meet the values of food co-op consumers. This includes strongly supporting the cooperative economy. Rochdale Farms is named after the Rochdale Pioneers, the group of people who launched the first consumer-owned grocery co-op over 150 years ago. “Our modern co-ops are part of that heritage,” Lein said. “Through Rochdale Farms we are building the food system we want.”

What’s unique about Rochdale Farms is that from the day the cows are milked to the day a consumer purchases the cheese and butter, a cooperative has nurtured the food’s journey from beginning to end. What’s not to love about that?