Farmers’ cooperatives, owned by farmers and directed by elected boards, performed the same functions as the commercial stock and station agencies.
The Canterbury Farmers’ Co-operative Association, founded in Timaru in 1880, was the first in New Zealand. Others soon followed. In 1924, nine major regional cooperatives covering much of the country formed the Federation of Co-operatives.
By 1980 amalgamations had reduced this group to seven: Allied Farmers’ Co-operative (Auckland and Waikato); Farmers’ Co-operative Organisation Society (Taranaki); Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Co-operative Association; New Zealand Farmers’ Co-operative Association (Canterbury); Canterbury Farmers’ Co-operative Association (South Canterbury); Reid Farmers Ltd (Dunedin); and Southland Farmers’ Co-operative Association.
The phone ran hot
Before the days of motorised transport, most stock were sold privately, rather than at auctions. The telephone dominated the lives of stock agents – their days began at 5 a.m. and continued far into the night. One agent recalled that his wife used to cut up his meat and all but feed him his evening meals while he was busy on the phone.
In 2008 Allied Farmers, based in Taranaki and the central North Island, was the only remaining farmers’ cooperative, dealing in merchandise, livestock, wool, real estate and financial services. Incorporated in Taranaki in 1913 as a farmers’ cooperative, it later merged with King Country Farmers, Manawatu Livestock and Waikato Farmers. Allied Farmers provides merchandise, livestock, wool, real estate and financial services over most of the North Island, and has an annual turnover of more than $400 million.