The Devcor Farmer-Consumer Food Cooperative

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Photo by Fotolia/lynnealbright
A serious attack on the high cost of food, land and money is being made by a group of School of Living members. Don Newey, a member of the board, has formed an organization to establish a series of farmer-consumer cooperatives based on the principles he's developed for egg buying co-ops in various cities.

Reprinted from Green Revolution.

Food cooperatives … and for the folks who want to see a thousand co-ops blossom, or who want to set up a homestead, raise organically grown food and be assured of a market, here’s news of . . .

A serious attack on the high cost of food, land and money is being made by a group of School of Living members. Don Newey, a member of the board, has formed an organization to establish a series of farmer-consumer food cooperatives based on the principles he’s developed for egg buying co-ops in various cities.

The consumer end of the operation is simple. Anybody who is interested can start a buying club and arrange to purchase food direct from the producers at substantially reduced prices. Most buying clubs start with a single item of produce and gradually expand as their organization and understanding of the operation grows. It will be possible to commence operations with more than one product now because of the new organization which can arrange all the needed paperwork and other details.

This new organization, called Devcor, is a part of the International Independence Institute. During 1970, Devcor will be able to offer at least the following products: apples, peaches, oranges, eggs and some vegetables.

Consumer Food Cooperative Basics

The buying clubs will take orders for the produce at prearranged prices and collect money for the shipments. There will also be a service charge to cover the cost of delivery and administration, and each member of the buying club will be required to subscribe an additional 10% of the produce price as a capital contribution.

For example, apples are 3 dollars per bushel at the orchard. The buyer wishes to have one bushel. There is a service charge of 50 cents for delivery and administration. The savings investment will be 30 cents. This makes a total price of 3.80 dollars per bushel.

The basic 3 dollars will be paid with the order, the service charge will be due on delivery and the savings investment will be paid with the next order. At present in the Baltimore area apples are selling at about 12 cents per pound. On a forty-five pound bushel this amounts to 5.40 dollars. Thus the total saving, including investment, would be approximately 1.90 dollars.

It should be emphasized that organically grown fruits and vegetables will be supplied.

There are three ways in which a person may become a co-op shareholder: The first is through the purchase of shares by investment when buying through a buyers club as already explained. The second method is through investing money in cash in a lump sum. This is not an investment in the normal sense of the word as the shares are non-interest bearing. The final way in which people can invest is in the form of work. The various co-op groups have a great deal of work which needs to be done and while you can be paid for doing them you might like to take shares in place of some of the money.

Farmers Food Cooperative Basics

The farm end of the project involves being able to give the farmer a guaranteed market for all his produce at a good rate of return, thus removing him from dependence on a varying market with all its hazards. Prices negotiated with a farmer are being carefully calculated to ensure that he will be able to produce the highest possible quality and enjoy a good living from his labors.

Each farmer in supplying Devcor with the produce will be requested to contribute a similar savings element to that made by the consumer clubs. This investment will be available to the farmer in the form of loans at the cost of administration or about 1% to purchase additional land or to improve his farm and home.

Money accumulated in this way will also be used to establish packing houses and other distribution facilities. When sufficient capital has been contributed — and the amount will depend on local needs to a large extent — the local group of farmers will form their own wholly owned co-operative to handle all the details with Devcor only retaining one seat on the board of management to act as a coordinator for all the groups.

The same principle of capital accumulation will be followed by the various consumer buyers clubs who will be able to establish their own distribution points and similar facilities. They will also be able to use capital funds for home purchase and other improvements. Again these loans from their own capital will be made at cost or about 1%.

If you are thinking of moving into the country and establishing your own community, Devcor – through this program — will be able to help you obtain cash income for your support and give you advice on the planning and growth of your community. Included in Devcor’s plans are the establishment of rural communities which will have both an agricultural and an industrial base. We hope to create markets for many industrial products which can be produced by small rural communities when they have an assured market for their product.

Any land purchased for a homestead community through the assistance of Devcor will be held in trust and will not be resold, although individuals who have built their own houses and made other capital improvements will, naturally, be free to sell them.

The organizers of Devcor do not want to become controllers of vast enterprises. Each local group will be locally controlled; indeed we would not even want to see a buyers group operate more than one store or distribution point.

Our objective is the creation of an. alternative economy in which each individual is able to control the actions of those who supply him with his needs. This is in contrast to the present situation in which we are all at the mercy of large scale enterprises which treat us merely as consumers or suppliers without any consideration of our unique individuality.

We are very interested in hearing from people who have products that they would like handled and from those who would like to organize buyers clubs and homestead communities. Naturally money is always needed and Devcor welcomes contact from those who are interested in making loans or subscribing to the capital funds of the co-operatives which are being formed.