By Kourtney Bitz

I am a high school senior from Napoleon, a small town in North Dakota. Since I was just five years old, when I attended my first Farmers Union day class, North Dakota Farmers Union (NDFU) has made an immense impact on my life. That experience was extremely frightening for me; even though my parents are members, I had no idea what NDFU was all about and I didn’t know what to expect. But I would soon learn about Famers Union’s purpose, and it has changed my life in ways that I could have never imagined.

Those few hours spent at the Farmers Union day cass taught me a number of things. Through games, skits, songs, and service projects I learned the importance of community, leadership, teamwork, and cooperatives. I learned about the Rochdale Pioneers, whose hard work and dedication to pooling their resources together helped them form a business that truly mattered, one that was bigger than themselves. Their revolutionary work led to the seven cooperative principles  – voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, member’s economic participation, autonomy and independence, education, training, and information, cooperation among cooperatives, and concern for the community. Even though these principles are over a century old, they still guide cooperative businesses and Farmers Union today.

A few years  later, when I attended my first Farmers Union Camp, I had to opportunity to learn more about the seven cooperative principles through hands-on activities – like running our own camp cooperative store! Not only was I able to learn how cooperatives functioned, but I started to understand what voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, and autonomy and independence really mean and why they are so important.

Want to know more about cooperatives? Visit the Cooperative Network.

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