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Galleria and co-op case studies

Region: Kootenay

Co-ops in action

Co-ops in history

Region overview

Kootenay regionThe west and east Kootenay regions of BC have enjoyed nearly a century of co-operation. The diversity of the co-ops formed reflects the diversity of individuals, interests, and economic situations of the area. During the first half of the century, co-operative development was characterized by traditional co-op development: marketing co-ops for the fruit industry of the East Kootenays, credit unions, and retail co-ops. Particular to this region was the formation of transportation co-ops during the 1930s.

With the onset of the counter-culture in the 1970s came the kinds of co-ops that many anti-co-op people fear. Close to a dozen food buying co-ops were formed, indicative of the growing natural and organic foods movement, as well as a number of land co-ops and intentional communities.

The carry-over of the counter-culture movement still resonates in the co-operative philosophies still practiced. One of the most successful businesses in Nelson, the Kootenay Country Foods Co-op, began as a tiny hole-in-the-wall food buying co-op in 1975. The kinds of co-ops that have formed in the 1990s and 2000s are very much "second-wave’" co-ops and are reflective of the new economic and social sectors co-op development is being used for. Co-ops have been formed in the areas of community forestry, NTFP, and value-added wood co-ops. Service co-ops such as a co-op radio station, film and video co-op, a car sharing co-op, as well as a co-op for people with barriers to work have formed.

Doukhobors

To escape religious persecution in Russia, a number of Doukhobors settled in the Kootenays and many formed co-ops. Retail co-ops were formed in the Slocan Valley and in Grand Forks in the 40s and 50s, which were stocked with items that were in-line with the vegetarian diets of Orthodox Doukhobors.

Quakers

A group of Quakers and other consciencous objectors of the 1950s left the United States and migrated to Argenta, a remote hamlet on the north end of Kootenay Lake. Together they started Delta Co-op, which was a cross between a workers co-op and an intentional community. Eventually, this co-op evolved into the Agenta Friends School, a high-school for grades 11 and 12 that taught principles of consensus-based decision making and ways of living in small, family-centred communities. It operated from 1959 to 1982.

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