What is a Co-op?


A co-op (short for cooperative) is a business that is owned and controlled by the people who use it, rather than by stockholders.  Cooperatives exist in every industry and can be owned by consumers, producers, farmers, workers, businesses, organizations, municipalities, governments, and even other co-ops. The Portland Food Co-op is a consumer-owned cooperative. 

Consumer-owned co-ops are formed by and for the benefit of the consumer. They exist to meet the needs of their member-owners instead of generating profit for distant investors. Increased local control keeps the co-op in the community, thus keeping money within a community and building the local economy. 

Whether it is the commitment to community, the democratic approach to business, or the appeal of being a part of a locally-owned business, anyone can benefit from joining a co-op! 


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5. Education, Training and Information

Cooperatives provide education and training for member-owners, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Member-owners also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.

6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives

Cooperatives serve their member-owners most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7. Concern for Community

While focusing on member-owner needs, Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies accepted by their members.



1. Voluntary and Open Membership

Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2. Democratic Member-Owner Control

Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their member-owners, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. The co-op rule is one vote per member-owner.

3. Member-Owners’ Economic Participation

Member-owners contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits member-owners in proportion to the transactions with the cooperative rather than the capital invested. 

4. Autonomy and Independence

Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their member-owners. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the member-owners and maintain the cooperative autonomy.