Posted October 22, 2015
In 1915, a group of Garden City farmers banded together to purchase a single wooden elevator with no storage, forming the Garden City Cooperative Equity Exchange. Unfortunately, the area was still in transition from grazing to farming and tough times forced the cooperative to disband in 1917. But, the same group of farmers joined back together in 1919 to form the Garden City Co-op, which today shares their founders’ same steadfast belief in the cooperative model of success.
According to the Garden City Co-op website, “We came from a group of people who were strong and determined and full of hope through drought, hail and dust storms, and continued to believe that there would be rain.”
Molly Witzel, communications director with the Garden City Co-op, explained that the cooperative model gives every member-owner a stake in the success of not only their own operation, but also their neighbors and community.
“A cooperative is often formed out of a mutual need in a community,” Witzel said. “The member-owned company is proud, committed to success, and happy to share their success with others because this is their home, too.”
Witzel explained advancements in farming technologies and overall increases in crop production have allowed the cooperative to grow from that single country elevator to an extensive network of facilities and services. Today, approximately 150 employees serve more than 2,050 members. The grain division now includes 20 elevators from Ulysses to Shields with a total storage capacity of nearly 28.3 million bushels. Other divisions of Garden City Co-op include crop production, petroleum, transportation and safety..
Most recently, Witzel reported the cooperative has invested in grain storage facilities and precision agriculture services, as well as seeking out “skillful and talented staff to work in all divisions of the co-op.” In this effort, Witzel said cooperatives must continue to grow and adapt to address the needs of the future.
“Cooperatives need to keep up with technology if they are going to meet the needs of the agriculture industry,” Witzel said. “They must operate as an extension of the farmer, while offering ever-changing services to meet the farmer’s needs.”
After nearly a century of success, Garden City Co-op has fulfilled that requirement time and time again as agricultural technology has shifted from horse-drawn wagons to auto-steer tractors and yield mapping. Throughout, the cooperative has thrived according the advice of one its founding members, R.J. Ackley, in a historical account, “Our success in the future depends not so much on how hard others fight us, as how well we conduct our own business and the type of service we render to our membership.”
By Julia Debes