2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives. In 2009, the United Nations passed a resolution declaring 2012 the year of the cooperative business concept, and in 2011 the United States Senate got on board as well. Jenni Gentry is CEO of Cooperative Council of North Carolina and explains what the International Year of Cooperatives means:
"Basically, overall it is just a huge movement, a huge publicity opportunity, to make more people aware of what cooperatives are and to internationally push the coop movement because it is a unique business structure."
To the non-farming public, a cooperative could be a seed and supply store, but Gentry says that’s simply not the case:
"People have no idea that they buy coop products almost daily, even insurance. Nationwide insurance company is a coop. When they buy Welch's grape juice or Florida's Natural orange juice or Blue Diamond's almonds, Land o'Lakes, Cabbot's Cheese, REI… they're getting a coop item there."
Designating 2012 as the International Year of the Cooperative, says Gentry is an educational effort, as well:
"There are so many goals here but one is education. You know, to try to educate everybody on what a coop is and to recognize a coop so that when they are shopping at one or ordering something or getting some type of service, they understand that they are getting that from a cooperative."
And in the education process this year about the cooperative business structure, Gentry says that how cooperatives and what they do that’s different than other businesses will be important:
"Cooperatives offer really good benefits and services and they are very involved in their communities and they give back. They're not deemed non-profits but they work similar to one because a lot of their money goes back to their members and a lot of the money goes out to charities and to community work. They're structured to do that and you won't find that with a lot of businesses, so it makes them really unique."
Jenni Gentry, CEO of Cooperative Council of North Carolina