UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Fraser Valley Milk Producers' Association : successful coopertive Maclachlan, Morag Elizabeth


In 1913 thirty dairy farmers formed the Fraser Valley Milk Producers’ Association, an organization which began operation in 1917 and became one of the most successful cooperatives in North America. The compact nature of the Fraser Valley was a geographic advantage which laid the basis for the success of the Association. The river itself, the railways, and the roads which were built slowly and at great cost, provided transportation which unified the Valley. The insatiable Cariboo markets enabled pioneer farmers to become well established. The completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway opened wider markets which dairymen were able to take advantage of after the creameries became established. The phenomenal growth of Vancouver in the first decade of the twentieth century provided a fluid market which was more lucrative. This market became accessible to farmers as far away as the Chilliwack Valley when the B.C. Electric Railway line was completed in 1910. Intense competition on the fluid market and some of the practices of milk dealers forced the farmers to unite in order to achieve orderly marketing. The thirty men who initiated the organization in 1913 were, on the whole, prosperous, ambitious men in the prime of life, who believed that the fertile land of the Fraser Valley could provide wealth just as the river had given up gold to the first comers. Most of them had been engaged in farmers' associations or cooperative ventures and it was on the solid foundation of these groups that the Fraser Valley Milk Producers' Association began. It was a merging of established cooperatives rather than a newly created organization. The Association began operation during a period of war-time prosperity. Its outstanding initial success convinced many in the Valley of the value of the Cooperative. This laid the basis for the strong loyalty of the membership which, along with firm and able leadership, contributed to the success of the F.V.M.P.A. When orderly marketing could not be achieved through voluntary action, the Cooperative members attempted to gain marketing legislation which would equalize the returns from the fluid market. The Dairy Products Sales Adjustment Act was in effect throughout 1930. During this time Cooperative members received better returns than previously. This strengthened the loyalty of the membership as the struggle to gain legislation continued. Geographic advantage, the high quality of the leadership and the strong loyalty of the membership help to explain the success of the Cooperative, but the effect of that success is also worth consideration. The Association controlled production of the milk shipped by its members, preventing a surplus on the fluid market through the establishment of manufacturing plants. The many bitter battles fought in the Valley were between the Cooperative, which struggled to retain for its members the advantages of the stable market their joint action had created, and those who sought to gain control of the fluid market, but who, in the name of free enterprise, refused to share the cost of stabilizing it. The dramatic struggle culminated with the passage of the Milk Industry Act in 1956, but the fact that the Fraser Valley Milk Producers' Association had survived, prevented complete disruption of the milk market through the long, difficult years and made the impact, of the depression, severe though it was, less disastrous than it might otherwise have been. Though it protected some who were running uneconomic farms, the Cooperative enabled many to adapt to the constant demands for steadily increasing efficiency as agriculture developed rapidly from bush farming to a complex agro-industry. The cooperative nature of the Association and the structure of the organization with its locals, and its central directorate elected by the membership, gave a grass roots control which involved every member in decision making (but did not prevent control over the membership by skilful leaders) and thus absorbed some of the unrest created by adverse economic conditions and prevented alienation to a considerable extent. Many in the Valley had reason to be proud of the success of the Fraser Valley Milk Producers' Association: many more to be grateful for it.

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