"The co-op was started on Jan. 1, 1968," said John Marney, who has served as Barry County Co-op general manager for over 34 years.
"The Barry County Farmers' Co-op is the only local farmer-owned co-op in the immediate area," said Marney. "The next closest cooperative is in Freistatt."
In 1968, a group of local community members joined together to purchase the farmers' exchange business, which has always been headquartered in Exeter, from Bill Cameron.
"They put in $100 each so they started with around $10,000," said Marney. "I guess they borrowed any additional money that they needed."
After the purchase was complete, the business became a member-owned cooperative that offers area farmers an opportunity to purchase supplies at a competitive price.
"The co-op was organized to be a cooperative for the local farming community," said Marney. "It was a retail farm supply."
Over the last 40 years, the Barry County Co-op has undergone a few changes in order to remain a member-owned business.
"We exited the feed business and got into propane in the mid 1980s," said Marney. "At that time, many small dairies left the area and those farmers got into the chicken business.
"We also added the Stark City branch, which expanded our trade into Newton County and really helped our volume and profitability," said Marney.
The Stark City branch, which is managed by Ron Day, was purchased by the Barry County Co-op in 1985.
"Most of the other co-ops did not get into propane," said Marney, "We added propane in 1985, so when the chicken industry moved into this area we were able to adapt."
The Barry County Co-op's change from selling grain feed to offering bag feed and specializing in propane sales has paid off. The co-op has been able to distribute over $500,000 to its members during each of the last three years.
This year's savings allowed the cooperative to distribute 620 patron checks that totalled $505,000. In December of 2007, the co-op also retired $121,000 in equity to patrons age 65 and older.
At the annual meeting on May 29, Barry County Co-op Board President Eugene Miekley said that the money paid to local cooperative members this year could help improve the local agriculture economy.
Marney estimated that patronage dividends represented around a 11- to 13-cent per gallon discount on propane, a $30 to $48 per ton discount on fertilizer and a 12-cent per gallon discount on diesel purchased at the cooperative this year.
Marney encourages area community members to consider the cooperative when purchasing propane, fertilizer or other farm products. Customers who purchase $1,500 or more annually from the co-op qualify for patronage dividends.
"We added 49 new members this year," said Marney. "We are growing each year."
The Barry County Farmers' Co-op currently has 1,108 members. Board of Trustees includes: Miekley; John Henbest, vice president; JD McBride, secretary and treasurer; and Kenneth Sturgeon, Farrell Bowers, Glen Erwin and Don Hounschell, directors.