On Wednesday, July 20 Southern States Milford Cooperative, Inc. held their annual Customer Appreciation Day at their facility on Williamsville Road. Founded in 1948 as a local cooperative, Southern States has been using this day to give checks to the owners, show appreciation to their customers and display their products and services to the community. For 17 years Southern States has had their Customer Appreciation Day one day before the Delaware State Farm and used a carnival theme to attract customers and the public.
Originally started by a group of farmers in Virginia that wanted to pull together their resources to find better quality seed, Southern States came to Milford in 1933 and purchased the Lynn and Jacobs business, located in town next to the railroad off Maple Avenue. In 1948 a group of local farmers put up their own money to purchase the business and formed the Southern States Milford Cooperative. In 1951 the Co-op began construction on their current property on Williamsville Road, starting operations just one year later. As a farm cooperative Southern States Milford Cooperative is still to this day owned by farmers and members of the Milford community.
The Customer Appreciation Day has always been a well attended local event for farmers and local Delawareans and this year was no different. Free food, displays from agricultural supply companies, horses for show and an ice cream vendor who can be found at the Delaware State Fair, attract hundreds of locals throughout the day.
“Our community is very giving and supportive to us and we are thankful for that,” stated Gary Rhodes, manager of the Southern States Cooperative since 1996. “We want to give something back and the Customer Appreciation Day is a fun way to personally say thank you.”
Southern States is one of the nation’s largest farmer-owned cooperatives. As a farm cooperative Southern States Milford cooperative is owned by farmers and members of the Milford community. During the Customer Appreciation Day profits are distributed in the form of a refund to the members of the coop. The Board of Directors, which is a 7 member body elected by the members, decides of the percentage of the refund and distributes it through cash and patronage.
“Everything you see on the property is owned by a local farmer in this community,” stated Rhodes. “The Cooperative relationship is like a big family, we have farmers that are now third and fourth generations of co-op members. There is a lot of pride here, it is a unique business.”
The grounds of the Southern States Milford Cooperative at the corner of Milford-Harrington Highway and Williamsville Road has set an example for Milford businesses as it was selected in 2012 by the Milford Garden Club for the Beautification Award for the month of September for its landscaping and maintenance of their commercial property. Southern States Milford Coop offers services for the local agricultural industry from equipment, supplies and service work to fuel needs for residential and commercial properties. The Milford location is the most financially successful cooperative under the larger Southern States cooperative, which operates co-ops in most states east of the Mississippi River.
“We are committed to serving the Milford community and we want people to come visit us and take a look,” commented Rhodes. “You do not have to be a part of the cooperative to enjoy our quality products and services.”
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