A Page of History
October 2007
I cannot let the 35th anniversary of the Coopérateur agricole go by without a saying something. Especially since the communication mission Québec’s agricultural cooperation has given itself is based on a tradition that is almost one hundred years old. In the book “Histoire de l’agriculture” written by Firmin Létourneau, we learn that one of the three founding cooperatives of La Coop fédérée published, as early as 1916, the Bulletin de la Société coopérative agricole des fromagers du Québec – this same newsletter was to later become the Bulletin des agriculteurs. Moreover, in that same era, the Comptoir coopératif de Montréal, another of the three original cooperatives of La Coop fédérée, also had its own newspaper: Le Québec agricole. Mr. Létourneau recalls that in 1922, soon after being founded, the brand new Coopérative fédérée de Québec started publishing the Bulletin de la ferme. In fact, our own archives contain about a dozen editions of the Coopérateur agricole published in 1948! Although this year we are celebrating the magazine’s 35th year of publication, these thirty-five years are only the Coopérateur agricole’s most recent achievement!

What can I say about the Coopérateur agricole? A quick glance at the various issues published over the past 35 years is enough to appreciate the rich legacy to be left by our magazine. By conveying the views of agricultural cooperation’s executive month after month on various current affairs features, by introducing news stories from the farm and by dealing with issues in an in-depth fashion, Le Coopérateur agricole will have written a well-rounded chapter in the history of Québec agriculture as it turns the page of this century. And in doing so, tomorrow’s cooperators will find within its covers an important message of solidarity and determination.

In January 1972, George-Étienne Turcotte, General Manager, wrote his first editorial: “Le Coopérateur agricole is reborn at a time when La Coopérative fédérée, as a federation of agricultural cooperatives, is rethinking its future. (…) The question to ask is simple: how will agricultural cooperation advance into tomorrow without fear of rejection and be part of this entity in motion that is Canadian agriculture…?” Mr. Turcotte was referencing the profound changes affecting agriculture at that time: government transforming into an omnipresent arbiter, unionism bursting out of its standard functions, consumers instructing farmers on how to conduct their business. He was a visionary who encouraged his troops to begin a phase of reflective thinking and planning, a phase in which the magazine would be asked to play a leading role.

History has proven that cooperation adapts well and has not been rejected, far from it. Today, La Coop fédérée has a position of choice among other leading Québec enterprises. In fact, according to the business magazine Commerce, it held the number 9 rank last July. Discreet and ever humble, cooperation marches forward. Here, just like all over the world. However, it is sad to see how much the presence and vigour of cooperatives are underestimated. Did you know that in Canada, one out of every third person is a member of a cooperative? You might think that this is exceptional? Not as much as you might thing: in the United States, statistics show that it is one out of four. Just like in Germany. And in Japan, it is one out of every three families. And so on, and so forth. Cooperation is much more popular than we imagine!

The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) has recently published the results of a survey illustrating the importance of cooperation around the world. There is a solid movement deeply rooted in every continent on this planet. A movement that provides a gigantic contribution to the quality of life of some 800 million members while providing work to more than 100 million people – which means that cooperatives provide 20% more jobs than all multinationals put together. In fact, thanks to a study conducted by the Québec government, we also know that cooperatives have a life expectancy that is twice as long as any other type of enterprise. Isn’t this enough to erase scepticism once and for all?

I feel privileged to be associated with such a wide network of enterprises whose sole objective is to better the lives of its members. I also feel privileged to write for Le Coopérateur agricole as it celebrates this anniversary. I feel like my contribution is a small milestone in time. As the saying goes: “nothing is as lasting as the written word”. That is what the Coopérateur agricole is all about, as the years go by, it is a key witness of history. His and her story – in which you are the hero. Because it is your history, the story of all Québec cooperators.


 

Colette Lebel, agr.
Director of Cooperative Affairs
La Coop fédérée
Email: colette.lebel@lacoop.coop
Fax: (514) 858-2025
 



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