Working for a cooperative

What is a cooperative?

A cooperative is an organization owned by and operated for the benefit of those using its services.

In our case, we connect dairy farmers directly to consumers around the world by delivering the simple pleasures of real dairy​. We’re all about serving our family farmers and working hard as a team to blaze new paths and find new ways to encourage success for our family farm-owners.

As a  cooperative, we are owned by the dairy farmers we serve​.​

Our family farm-owners are personally invested in every product, decision and step we take as an organization and our DFA employees take pride knowing their commitment benefits hardworking U.S. dairy producers.

Ultimately, our Cooperative’s purpose is to:​

  • Find secure markets for our family farm-owners’ milk and pay them a competitive price​
  • Invest in manufacturing capabilities that allow us to produce a variety of dairy products and deliver returns to our farmer-owners​
  • Offer access to valuable resources and services​
  • Connect our family farm-owners with consumers by sharing their stories​

Founding of Dairy Farmers of America

DFA was formed in 1998 through the merger of four dairy cooperatives​:

  • Southern region of Associated Milk Producers Inc.​ ​
  • Mid-America Dairymen Inc.​
  • Milk Marketing Inc.​
  • Western Dairymen Cooperative Inc.​

Consolidation was occurring at a rapid pace throughout the industry – as more and more processors merged, the farmer-owners of four regional dairy cooperatives agreed that they would be able to accomplish more by working together with a national presence​.

Leadership from each cooperative came together to address the needs of producers across the country and to give dairy farmers a fair voice in national policymaking​.

Paxton and Paul Windemuller

Cooperative versus a corporation​

Paul Windemuller speaking to his boys in the parlor

We talk a lot about our farmers; that’s because our work starts and ends with them.

There are two key differences between a corporation and a cooperative:

  • Objectives​
  • Ownership

A cooperative is an association of individuals voluntarily cooperating for mutual benefit, whereas a corporation operates with the objective of earning a profit.

Just as the stockholders or shareholders of a business have a say in how the business is owned and operated, our family farm-owners have a say in how our Cooperative is run.

The crucial difference is that in the case of other types of corporations, how much of a say or how much control an owner has over the company is determined by how large their ownership stake is. That’s not the case with a cooperative, where each member-owner gets one vote. The opinion of one cooperative member does not have more weight than the opinion of another cooperative member.

Cooperatives often elect a board of directors. Members of DFA’s Board of Directors are members of the Cooperative itself, similar to other cooperatives. The responsibilities of the Board include ensuring that the Cooperative is working towards achieving its mission, following the by-laws, setting up operational policies for the and hiring any outside managers or other employees.

Success of the Cooperative

DFA is the largest supplier of raw milk in the world, the third largest global dairy company and the largest U.S. dairy company.

The Cooperative is rated investment grade by the world’s leading ratings agencies, on par with some of the most recognizable food and beverage companies.

YC look at the meeting agenda during breakfast