Farmers' cooperatives are very prevalent in the European Union, where they account for approximately half of agricultural trade and thus are key to articulating rural realities and in shaping the sustainability credentials of European food and farming. This book analyses to what extent farmers' cooperatives are working to benefit their members, are showing concern for their communities and are promoting cooperative economies. It offers a multilevel set of theoretical, disciplinary, methodological, empirical and social perspectives, using the UK and Spain as contrasting examples, and analyses whether agricultural cooperatives contribute to achieving sustainable food systems. The book presents empirical data from diverse and rich case studies, from large, international cooperatives, to small, multi-stakeholder initiatives. This provides an alternative viewpoint to that of economics, which tends to dominate the study of agricultural cooperatives. The author presents a new theoretical framework that provides a novel lens to study farmers’ cooperatives as organisations deeply embedded in power dynamics of the food system and agricultural policy that shape and constraint their potential to adopt cooperative and sustainable practices.

The book is a major addition to the study of agricultural cooperatives and their impact in the development of fairer and more sustainable food systems and it is one of the first detailed accounts of multi-stakeholder food and farming cooperatives in Europe. It is a valuable resource for all scholars working on cooperatives, as well as for students studying agricultural and food policy, environmental justice and rural sociology.

chapter 1|16 pages

Introducing agricultural cooperatives in the context of a failing food system

Context, clashing definitions, principles and typologies

chapter 2|9 pages

Past and present

The evolution of agricultural cooperatives in Europe from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century

chapter 3|22 pages

Theorising cooperativism and food sustainability

Disciplinary, thematic and chronological streams

chapter 4|14 pages

Why methods and theory matter when studying cooperativism and sustainability in food and farming

From critical approaches to crystallisation

chapter 5|33 pages

Experts’ views on the European policy context

The price of remaining competitive and certifying sustainability

chapter 6|21 pages

Country cases – UK and Spain

From workers’ unions to the European Union

chapter 7|36 pages

Consolidation of the agricultural cooperative sector

From Farmway to Mole Valley Farm and Anecoop in the sea of plastic

chapter 8|30 pages

Emerging models of cooperation in food and farming

Multi-stakeholder cooperatives

chapter 9|17 pages

Third spaces

Fighting the cooperative corner and interrogating the alterity of emerging cooperative models

chapter 10|20 pages

Theoretical implications

A new integrated framework for deconstructing agricultural cooperatives

chapter 11|8 pages


Implications for agricultural cooperatives, food policy and alternative food initiatives