Co-ops have been around for a long time. Many co-ops trace their origin back to a food co-op store started in 1844 in the town of Rochdale by 28 workers who were tired of having to buy their goods at high prices that delivered a profit to wealthy shop owners. They opened a shop that would buy goods in bulk to on-sell to their members. The goods were cheaper in the co-op shop because it did not have to pay profit to an “owner”. The members were the owners.


Beechworth Food Co-op is your modern-day equivalent to this original food co-op.


The Beechworth Food Co-op is not for profit. We sometimes think of a not for profit or community organisation as being a bit like a charity. Co-operatives are a special kind of not for profit. They exist not to pay profits in dollars to their owners but to provide a service to their members.


This makes you, the members of the owners of your co-op.


A really interesting thing about co-ops is that they were the first organisation to allow women to vote. In 1846 Eliza Brierly wanted to join the Rochdale Co-op. In the 1840s women were not allowed to own property. She had her 1 joining fee and the Rochdale rules did not discriminate on gender: every member has one vote. So she was able to become a member, buy her goods from the co-op, and vote at their general meetings.


Co-operatives work best when members use them and take an interest in how their business is running. By supporting your co-op and understanding what makes it work you are helping it to grow and to serve you better, after all, that is what your co-op is designed to do.


Your board of directors has the responsibility to make sure that the co-op is running smoothly and that it is doing what its member-owners need it to do. If you have any questions or want to know more about how your co-op is working then please drop us an email or a note and tell us!


If you are interested in the Rochdale Co-op then there is a FAQ page on their website

some of the answers will be very familiar to those of you who have been part of the Beechworth Co-op from the beginning.