Submitted by the Granite Falls Historical Society by Mary Gillespie, board member
Granite Falls is in the center of cooperative country. The first rural electric co-op was formed here in Stony Run, the first oil cooperative started in Cottonwood. The Andrew J. Volstead House Museum, a National Historic Landmark, was created in the 1970s by the Minnesota Cooperative Association, then given to the City of Granite Falls. Why? Because of the Capper-Volstead Act that created a framework for cooperatives to exist. These organizations already existed before 1922, but the law made it easier and is still being used today. Here's a short summary of what it entails from www.encyclopedia.com - "CAPPER-VOLSTEAD ACT (18 February 1922), also known as the Cooperative Marketing Act. As a consequence of the depression of agricultural prices following World War I, farm organizations intensified their political activism and managed to get a farm bloc consisting of about twenty-five senators and one hundred representatives established in Congress. The Capper-Volstead Act was a key part of a new, moderate, businesslike farm legislative program, far removed from the agricultural radicalism of the Populist Era. The act exempted some types of voluntary agricultural cooperative associations from the application of antitrust laws. The secretary of agriculture was given the power to regulate these associations to prevent them from achieving and maintaining monopolies. He could hold hearings, determine facts, and issue orders ultimately subject to review by federal district courts. The act is an example of legislative aid to agricultural cooperatives and of the delegation of adjudicative power to an administrative agency."
A cooperative model could be used to develop the downtown and highway 212 vacant buildings. In a small town, it's hard to cover the costs of rent or building ownership including taxes, insurance and maintenance. A cooperative association would be one way for a group of people to own a building and rent it at a reasonable cost. This has been done in northeast Minneapolis with the Northeast Investment Cooperative. Each member put in $1,000 and purchased one building, then a second, etc. They rehabbed the buildings with loans and one is rented by Fair State Brewing, Minnesota's first cooperative brewery. Bluenose Gopher Brewery is the second cooperative brewery in Minnesota, currently organizing here in Granite Falls. The coop now has 188 members-owners that share ownership in the building at 681 Prentice St and will receive part of the profits when the brewery is open, along with other membership benefits. The brewery's capital campaign just got started, for more details on how to invest in the cooperative, see www.bluenose.coop. Andrew Volstead would be proud to see his law in use almost 100 years later!