February 2017
Co-op Matters

Roland Roberts, former associate editor of AFC Cooperative Farming News, passes at 82.

In 1971, Roland Roberts was recognized as the associate editor and a writer for the first issue of the AFC Cooperative Farming News. He wrote for the publication for over 30 years.

I wanted to call Roland around Christmas to check on him, but I’d misplaced his phone number. When I went online to get information, I found he’d passed away back in September.

Roberts was born Jan. 5, 1934, in Taft, Texas. He was a 1955 graduate of David Lipscomb College where he met his wife of 39 years, Edith "Honey." He received his master’s degree in Biblical Studies from Harding University. He and his family made New Hope their home in 1963 where lifelong friendships were made and treasured.

Roberts taught school at Madison Academy and Owens Cross Roads Jr. High. He was also a gospel preacher and wrote a short history of the Church of Christ in central Tennessee and north Alabama.

He was a good guy and we will all miss him.

This is the first article Roberts had published in the AFC Cooperative Farming News.

 

Cooperative Efforts Great and Small Pulling Together for the Good of All

As a boy, I remember my father telling of harvest time on the farm where he was raised before the turn of the century. He would describe how the neighbors would come from miles around to gather the crops. It was a festive occasion with large tables of food spread at mealtime under the oaks in the yard. In the evening, the young people would sing while the older folk would sit about and reminisce of bygone days. Yet there was hard work to be done and it was done, although it seemed to me like Sunday dinner on the ground, the Fourth of July and Christmas all rolled up into one. When the work was completed on the Roberts’ farm, all would go to a neighboring farm and so on until all the crops were gathered.

With the coming of mechanization and the mobility of the migrant worker, the advantage of such communitywide cooperative efforts in the harvesting of the crop gradually vanished.

However, the advantages to be gained from cooperative efforts among the farmers of this nation did not cease but increased with more sophisticated means of farming. Many new advantages have been found.

When asked today what the biggest advantage to buying farm supplies through a cooperative, the first reaction of most farmers would be to say price. Could an advantage bigger than price be found?

It cannot be denied that price is important, but it is, by far, not the biggest advantage of buying farm supplies cooperatively. Of greater importance than price is the quality of the supplies and service a cooperative offers its patrons.

The need for a dependable source of consistently high-quality farm supplies is the reason for the establishment of most farm supply cooperatives.

John Ruskin, the noted British writer, once said, "There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey."

Farmers have been in the past, as no other group of people in this nation, the lawful prey of those who manufacture poor-quality merchandise.

There are perhaps several reasons for this. One reason is that no one can tell whether fertilizer is of high quality or woefully, inferior quality by looking at the outside of the bag or sifting its contents through one’s fingers. The farmers’ habit of trying to meet the cost-price squeeze by considering only price when they purchase their farm supplies has been costly.

The raising of the quality standards of farm supplies has been pioneered by farm cooperatives. The farmer can confidently buy co-op feed and fertilizer and know that he is getting the best quality obtainable, even though he cannot tell by sight, smell or feel whether it is of low or high quality.

The quality of farm supplies used by the farmer can often determine the difference between a profitable and an unprofitable year. The extra crops produced by top-quality fertilizers much more than make up for the marginal difference in the original cost. The cost for top-quality feeds is more than offset by the extra inch or two of milk in the pail or those extra eggs produced as a result of using co-op feeds.

The fact that top quality does not always come at a premium price is an added advantage of purchasing farm supplies cooperatively. It is true that top-quality, co-op farm supplies cost more than low-quality brands. The top-quality co-op products are usually found to be lower in price when compared with other quality brands.

 Most farm cooperatives had as their original purpose the making available to their patrons a line of supplies that would ensure more profitable farming. Because the farmers own and control these cooperatives, they are never tempted to cut the quality in order to reduce the prices of their supplies.

 In times past, it was a real problem for a farmer to find high-quality feeds, seeds, fertilizers and other farm supplies. Co-ops, with uncompromising standards of quality, have brought about a solution to that problem and have made their greatest contribution to a more profitable agriculture by solving that problem.