Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools
At A Glance
|What:||Organic Valley: Organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, produce, juice; Organic Prairie: Organic beef, pork, chicken, & turkey|
|Founders:||Several Wisconsin farmers|
|Number of employees:||500 staff; 1,332 farmers|
“This is a social experiment disguised as a business,” says George Siemon, chief executive officer of the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP).
Today, after 20 years of this “social experiment,” CROPP has over $500 million in annual revenue, 1,300 member/owner farmers, and 500 staff. It is arguably one of the biggest and most successful organic producer cooperatives in the country. It specializes in organic products, including eggs, dairy, soy, produce, and orange juice under the Organic Valley brand, and meat under the Organic Prairie brand, and represents more than 10% of the organic producers in the United States. It owns and operates its own shipping company (Organic Logistics), and maintains partnerships with more than 80 processing facilities across the country.
This huge success story began with a single visionary entrepreneur. In 1988 George organized a meeting with his organic farming neighbors in southwest Wisconsin to see if they could help each other during the farm crisis. They called themselves the Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool in recognition of their home region. The “Coulee Region” gave way to “Cooperative Regions,” and the cooperative has since expanded from produce to milk and other dairy products; most consumers now recognize the company by its brand name, Organic Valley.
Today, as in 1988, CROPP is committed to delivering a stable and premium price to its members. It also has a robust profit sharing program, which provides major incentives for recruiting and maintaining member-farmers.
Jerry McGeorge, director of cooperative affairs, is philosophical about the company’s remarkable financial achievements. What matters, he says, are not the numbers: “Certainly for consumers who want our organic food, it’s that we’re ensuring a supply. For farmers, it’s that we’re providing a market that can sustain them.”