Retail cooperatives in Finnish Minnesota were economic ventures clearly tied to worldwide movements with social and political aspects. As told in the autobiographical The Story of the Virginia Co-operative Society through 30 Years of Progress (1939): "The co-operative store is not just another store. It is the result of co-operative action of many consumers for common purposes; it is a part of a movement which covers the whole of life. A co-operative is formed primarily to serve its members, but at the same time it is a unit of the cooperative movement for the purpose to do away with all exploitation in production and distribution. It is a medium for economic, social and cultural development."
Author John Ilmari Kolehmainen provided details in 1944 showing the strength of cooperatives in Minnesota. "In 1914 there were....sixteen co-operatives incorporated on the Rochdale [England] plan, all but two of which were clearly Finnish in origin and management; by 1941 the total number of Minnesota societies affiliated with the Superior Central Co-operative Wholesale was sixty-eight, of which at least forty-five trace back to Finnish initiative and foresight. The local associations, too, showed a remarkable capacity for growth. The Orr Farmers' Cooperative, for example, started as a small buying club in 1919; in 1941 its volume of business topped $154,000." That's $2,440,000 in today's money.
As these selected photographs show, the 20th-century cooperative experience in Minnesota involved education, training, culture, socializing, and of course, farming, economics, and business.
Quote from John Ilmari Kolehmainen, “Finnish Pioneers of Minnesota,” Minnesota History 25 (1944): 326.