Consumers’ cooperative

It was created to guarantee to members-consumers the access to products and goods at a lower price than market price, enhancing the productions of the territory. The experience of Rochdale, in England, in 1844, is included among the first consumers’ cooperatives in the world.

The cooperative alliance of Turin is the first consumers’ cooperative In the Reign of Savoy, established in Turin in 1854 as a social store of the Society of workers of the Piedmontese city; it was indeed one of the many societies of mutual aid that performed various activities and services and that will take the name of general Association of workers of Turin.

For the area of Trentino we recall the rural cooperative Society for marketing and consumption of Santa Croce in Bleggio, established in 1890 at the wish of don Lorenzo Guetti.

Guetti recounts, “a providential accident put me on this life path and I don’t regret it at all because I can see to the full advantage that this goes in favour of our people who are so in need of real help. Two years ago I met some of my popular friends and they struck me with this question:” sir priest, you have to do us a favour”. “which is?”. “This winter we were in Piedmont; We saw and felt how much good these cooperative stores do; you have to help us put up something similar here too”. “what? Do I have now, as a priest, also to be a storekeeper? Do you really think that’s something I should even consider?””What storekeeper? This is about helping us farmers to provide for ourselves the necessary for life at the lowest possible cost; there doesn't have to be any store as you think, but a kind of social enterprise etc. We brought some statutes, please look into them and then put together one statute that can suit our needs. Next Sunday we’ll come to have an answer but we want it absolutely affirmative”. And the next Sunday, with the evening services being over, the friends punctually were in the rectory and everything was arranged, if not in every part, at least for the main touches of the big canvas that all this was going to be”.

And further on he continues: “On 1st July 1891 the cooperative warehouse was opened in Villa of Santa Croce in Giudicarie, and on 1st January 1893 other three stores will be fully active, that is in Vigo Lomaso, in Creto in Pieve di Bono and in Roncone. The fact that even a small spark can cause a big fire is a fact for Giudicarie: that will also have to happen for the entire Trentino”.

At the end of 1892 don Lorenzo Guetti decided to modify the name, introducing for the first time the term “famiglia cooperativa”. expression that is still in use after more than 130 years. The priest from Giudicarie explains the reasons: “the too generic name of cooperative consortium gave the idea of profit, negotiation, speculation into some authorities (...) In order to understand our rights more, that some other people like to call privileges, we put the name ‘famiglia cooperativa’ ”.

In 1894 on the agrarian yearbook the entrepreneur priest of Giudicarie Esteriori writes: “in every well-administered little village there should be, in addition to a church and a school, also a cassa rurale and a cooperative society/Famiglia cooperativa. The Famiglia cooperativa then brings the goods we need to live at the lowest price in the village and moreover it gets to sell that little food or other things we had in addition. I know, this happy thought is already in our farmers’ head”.

For more information:
Massimo Ferrante, Il consumatore imprenditore. Le logiche organizzative della cooperazione di consumo, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1994.