Pictured from left to right:  USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Program Director Brent Donnelly, MCDC Board Member Erik Somerfeld, MCDC Vice President Ryan Hall, MCDC President Greg Jergeson, USDA-RD Acting State Director Janelle Gustafson, MCDC Executive Director Janice Brown, MCDC Board Members Paul Tuss and Ranel Smith.

By Guy Gregory
MCDC Communications Specialist

“Cooperatives Commit” is the theme of this year’s National Co-op Month. The Montana Cooperative Development Center (MCDC) honored several new co-ops that opened for business this year at their October 10 Co-op Month Celebration in Great Falls. At the event, MCDC Executive Director Janice Brown discussed several new cooperatives that formed across Montana with technical assistance from MCDC.  They included Montana’s very first worker cooperative located in the Bozeman area; a new grocery cooperative in Geraldine; and a consumer-owned bookstore cooperative in downtown Billings that has attracted as members both regional authors and avid readers.

“Crucible” is owned by four wood and steel craftsmen who formed a worker cooperative to pool their talents and create a truly democratic workplace.  They are now creating unique and functional rustic-style furniture using mostly Montana made materials.  Clients can order custom pieces directly from the co-op, whose shop is located west of Bozeman in Four Corners, Montana.

When the town of Geraldine (pop. 261) lost its only grocery store, concerned citizens of the tiny farming community in North Central Montana came together to form the Fresh Start Cooperative.  The grocery co-op opened its doors for business this summer after two years of extensive planning.  Now the town has a grocery store that serves both Geraldine residents and those farming in the surrounding area as well as and tourists passing through town.

After Brown gave her update on newly formed cooperatives, other featured speakers discussed their support of MCDC.  Deputy Director of the Montana Department of Agriculture Kim Mangold described the agency’s historic partnership with MCDC and the value of co-ops to the state’s rural and agricultural economy.

Officials from USDA Rural Development’s Montana state office also were present at the MCDC’s Co-op Month Celebration.  Acting State Director Janelle Gustafson expressed the agency’s continuing support of MCDC’s efforts in co-op business development throughout rural Montana. Rural Business-Cooperative Service Program Director Brent Donnelly presented to MCDC President Greg Jergeson and Executive Director Janice Brown a $200,000 Rural Cooperative Development Grant award for 2017-18.