In the late 1920s, a group of Jewish Farmers in the New Haven area got together and formed an association to buy feed cooperatively. This group worked diligently to build a cooperative organization. By the end of 1937 they realized that while they saved by buying their feed cooperatively, they could, nevertheless have much greater savings if they mixed their own feed. They further realized that in order to mix their own feed they must have a mill. Such a mill would require a considerable capital investment and their group was too small for such an undertaking. They, therefore, decided to try to form a statewide cooperative organization, which would be non-sectarian. The co-op would be open to farmers regardless of race, creed or national origin.
A few members of that small organization which was the forerunner of our present co-op are still with us today and have been continuously buying in our co-op without interruption. Those members are Julius Schwartz and Louis Soffer. Another member is Ben Sinoway who isn't buying in our co-op because he is not in poultry farming, nevertheless, he takes a continuous interest in our co-op.
On March 23, 1938 the first meeting to organize our present cooperative was called in the home of Mr. David T. Cohen, of Guilford. The record states as follows: "This meeting is called for the purpose of discussing the formation of a state wide cooperative".
There were 17 farmers present at that meeting. Some of the 17 who are still with us today and have been loyal members of this co-op all these years are as follows: Hyman Rashall, Nathan Cantor and Julius Schwartz.
The founders of the co-op who are not members at the present time, but whose pleasure it is to participate in our celebration, and our pleasure to have them with us tonight are: David T. Cohen, Morris Stollman, Hyman Sherry and Ben Sinoway. At the same meeting, a resolution was adopted which says as follows: "Resolved, that all members who are willing to form the nucleus of the co-operative are to pledge a minimum of $200.00, which is to be used for the purchase of a mill and any other way seen fit."
Sixteen out of the seventeen farmers pledged $200.00 each.
The second meeting of the group was held on March 27th of the same year. At that meeting two organizations offered their assistance in organizing the cooperative and to establish a mill. Those organizations were the Central Jersey Cooperative, represented by Mr. Eli Block, and the Jewish Agricultural Society, represented by Mr. Strisik and Mr. Simons. At the same meeting the renting of a mill with the option to buy in East Haven was discussed. So we see that within a little over three weeks from the time the first meeting was called, a mill was already a prospect. On May 1st of the same year the third meeting was held, where it was reported that a mill and the machinery was rented in East Haven at $50.00 per month with an option to buy the mill for $5500. At the same meeting it was decided to apply for a charter and to draw up by-laws for the organization. The following members signed the charter: Arthur J. Guzman, Hyman Sherry, David T. Cohen, Elias Alpert, Benjamin Stollman, Louis Kaplan and Hyman Rashall. The first board of directors was elected at the same meeting, which included David T. Cohen, Arthur Guzman, Benjamin Loss, Hyman Rashall, Hyman Sherry, Louis Kaplan, Benjamin Stollman, Elias Alpert and Morris Stollman.
On May 7th, the first officers were elected: Those were as follows: Arthur Guzman, President; Morris Stollman, Vice-President; Benjamin Loss, Secretary; and Hyman Sherry, Treasurer. On May 21st, 1938 the co-op was named Central Conn. Co-operative Farmers Association. A draft of a set of by-laws was presented and the first group of farmers other than those who were the founders of the Co-op asked to become members: those were Israel Rheinstein, Sam Gottleib, the Girshicks, Harris Lipshitz and Fritz Vogt.
The first meeting of the first board of directors was held May 28th, 1938 and there is where the headaches began. The members of the board suddenly realized that with all the money they raised among the members it was hardly sufficient to start a mill. Various members of the board undertook a project to interview various banks, with the hope of obtaining a loan. The initial efforts weren't too successful, as banks weren't too anxious in those days to lend money in general and especially to cooperatives. That, however, didn't discourage the first board of directors. They continued their efforts.
On the 13th of July the Co-op succeeded in obtaining a loan of $5300, From the Springfield Bank for Cooperatives. On July 13th the first general membership meeting was held in the East Haven Mill, where the by-laws for the cooperative were adopted.
The first annual meeting was held on October 29, 1938. The going was tough and in his annual report Mr. David T. Cohen complained that only sixteen members had bought into the co-op. At the board of directors meeting held November 5th it was reported that the Co-op must sell at least ten tons of feed per day to cover expenses. The Co-op sold considerably less than that at the time. That amount of feed is being sold now on the average of every half-hour.
In December 1938 it became apparent that a larger and more efficient mill was necessary. A committee was appointed to look for either a larger mill, which is for rent or sale, or a site to build. In January 1939 a report was brought in about two mills to be rented, one in Wallingford and one in East Hartford.
In March of the same year it became known that the state planned to purchase the land where the East Haven mill is located for the construction of a new highway. The Board of Directors was then under pressure to make a decision on a mill. The East Hartford mill was preferred and the final decision was left to the membership meeting, which was to be held in June.
On May 27, 1939 our present Accountant Jack Konowitz was retained to do our accounting.
At the General membership meeting held June 29, 1939, it was decided to rent the East Hartford mill. By the end of July 1939 the production was already relocated in East Hartford.
A short while after the Co-op was settled in East Hartford, the business of the Co-op started to grow. More farmers joined the cooperative and, therefore, more working capital was necessary. In April 1940, the Co-op tried to obtain a loan of a few thousand dollars but no bank was willing to make that loan without co-signers. The loan was secured after each one of the board of directors offered to be a co-signer. In October 1940 at the second annual meeting, the first patronage certificate, Series 1, was issued. At the same meeting the Board of Directors proudly reported to our membership that our volume reached 4554 tons. Considering the hardships the Co-op had to go through in the two years of their existence 4554 tons was really something to brag about.
Toward the end of 1941 it became clear to the Board of Directors that in order to operate the Co-op successfully, and to put the Co-op on a permanent sound foundation, it must have its own building.
On February 4, 1942, after many committee meetings and long deliberation, a favorable report was brought in to the Board of Directors meeting on the Manchester building.
On February 9, 1942, five days later, a general membership meeting was held and after long discussion it was voted overwhelmingly to authorize the board of directors to purchase the building. On March 21st the building where our Cooperative is now located, was purchased for $36,500. On April 15th the first meeting of the Board of Directors was held in the Co-op's own building.
By the end of July 1942 the mill was moved from East Hartford to Manchester and put into operation. The loyalty of our members was already evident then, when many of them loaned their trucks to help move the Co-op to the new quarters. By the end of 1942 this country was in its second year of World War ll. Shortages of grain and ingredients began to occur in the grain market. These shortages began to be felt in our Co-op. The Board of Directors had to cope with this new problem. By the end of March 1943, the Co-op was forced to close its books to new members so that it would be in a position to serve those who were already members. All through the war years and the post-war period there were acute shortages of grain and feed ingredients. The Co-op, nevertheless, managed to supply its members with feed. It is worthwhile to mention that those farmers who were not members in the Co-op found it more difficult to obtain feed. In some instances farmers were forced to sell out part or all of their flocks because of an inability to obtain feed. Thus the Co-op established a record of being able to fulfill its obligations to its members even through the most acute crisis created by war.
From the first day the Co-op was organized and through the years of development and growth, it had to go through many crisis, and after each crisis the Co-op came out stronger and better. With the passing of Mr. Arthur Guzman Aug. 7, 1945, who was the president and General Manager for the last number of years of his life, a new crisis occurred. The late Mr. Guzman, was by far the most energetic and active member of the Co-op. The management and leadership were practically confined to this one man. With the passing of Mr. Guzman the bookkeeper and mill foreman, knowing the situation, decided to take full advantage of it. The bookkeeper presented demands that he is to become General Manager, that his salary was to more than double, a commission on every ton of feed, which he is to split with the mill foreman, and that he be given full powers to run the affairs of the Co-op as he sees fit without interference from the president, the Board of Directors, or anyone else connected with the Cooperative and he is to be given a five year contract which he can terminate by giving the Co-op 30 days notice. It was on the courageous recommendation of Henry Abuza, then a relatively new director, that the Board decided to reject the demands and discharged the bookkeeper. Shortly after the mill foreman was also discharged. Mr. Elias Alpert, who was vice-president, then became acting president, and Mr. Benjamin Miller of the Jewish Agricultural Society was appointed temporary manager and he graciously accepted the appointment. A few weeks later Mr. Arnold Schmuckler was hired as manager and within a few weeks the crisis was over and everything was back to normal. It was not until the end of 1946 that the grain and feed ingredients became more plentiful and most of these commodities began to appear on the market. With the problem of obtaining feed ingredients partially solved, the Board of Directors started to plan the much-needed alterations and the purchase of additional equipment. In 1947 the first pellet mill was purchased and installed. In 1948, with its books again open for new members, the Co-op began to grow in membership, and in volume. By the year 1949, our Co-op grew to a point, in both membership and volume, that the mill was too small. Discussions began as to what to do to increase our storage space.
These discussions were going on for over a year and by the end of 1950 it was finally decided to reconstruct the existing silos located in back of the mill and build additional storage space adjacent to our present building. At the same time a new problem came up; that of deliveries. Continuous demands by our truckers for more money brought the cost of our deliveries up very high. The service on the other hand, got poorer as time went on. In January 1951 the Co-op purchased its own trucks and by April of the same year we started to make our own deliveries with our own trucks. But our Co-op kept on growing. The volume of production started to reach an all-time high. By the end of 1952 the Board of Directors realized that our facilities were becoming inadequate. In the beginning of 1953 the Board of Directors decided to start a program of increasing our facilities. This program, when completed, will cost about $80,000 and will include: a new mixer, a new pellet mill, a new bucket elevator, and various other machinery and equipment. This program will be completed in the next several weeks.
Many struggles, heartaches and much hard work went to make these past 15 years this great Cooperative we have today. It started with 16 farmers with a capital investment of about $3000. After 15 years our membership has grown to of over 100 farmers with a capital investment of $271,000. Our volume of production for the first year was about 3000 tons and in the 15th year, over 26,000 tons. Many farmers came and went, some departed by death, others leaving the state and still others giving up farming. New ones came to take their place. Many Presidents and managers came and went. Every one made his contribution to the development and growth of the Co-op. We have some young farmers as members of the Co-op now. Some of them are the sons of those old-timers, who came in to the Co-op in the early years of its development. These young farmers are active members in the Co-op and are helping to carry the load such as; Bernie Cantor, Bernard Rashall, Martin Klein, Nathan Miller, Jr., Willie Shaper, the Soffer boys, Jack and Joe, Harold Liebman and many others. Three of these young fellows are now members of the Board of Directors, Bernie Cantor, Jack Soffer and Harold Liebman. Such is the short but glorious history of our Co-op. Started by a few farmers who had faith in the cooperative movement. They were good and wholesome people and therefore they started their organization in the spirit of the New England tradition of the town meeting, where the membership had the final say at all times. Quarrels and disagreements were not rare things in the history of the Co-op. These quarrels and disagreements, meetings and discussions made this Co-op the great and successful institution it is today.
With such a history and tradition, one cannot believe anything else but that the future is on the side of this Co-op.