Extension, Enterprise, and Education: The Legacy of Co-operatives and Cooperation in Utah


Co-operatives (alternately written as cooperatives) are voluntary associations jointly owned and operated for the benefit of those using their services. While the cooperative movement was a worldwide phenomenon in the 1800s, it was particularly strong and pervasive early on in Utah. Nineteenth-century Utah pioneers embraced the spirit of cooperation, building shared irrigation systems and establishing co-op stores within their communities. The cooperative spirit exemplified in Mormon (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) communities followed Utahns into the twentieth century as farmers continued to associate in a variety of cooperative enterprises. Utah State University (USU), founded in 1888 as Utah Agricultural College (UAC), further promoted these principles. Even before Congress established the Cooperative Extension Service in 1914, the university was conducting conferences for Utah’s farmers and homemakers.

This digital history of agricultural cooperatives in Utah extends from the experiences of early Latter-day Saint pioneers to the formation of the Utah Cooperative Association (UCA) and its ultimate absorption by the Farmers Union Central Exchange (CENEX) in 1976. The collection’s images, papers, reports, pamphlets, and audio clips illustrate the history of farmer cooperatives throughout Utah and the movement’s long-standing connection with USU.


  • Alison Fabricius Gardner – Research, writing, material selection, and digital exhibit creation (Student Assistant, Digital Initiatives Department)
  • Emily G. Thompson – Research, writing, and material selection (Graduate Intern, Special Collections & Archives)
  • Dustin Olson – Technology assistance (Systems Administrator, Systems)
  • Robert Parson – Advising, research, and writing assistance (University Archivist, Special Collections & Archives)
  • Darcy Pumphrey – Project management and advising (Digital Library Coordinator, Digital Initiatives Department)
  • Branson Roskelley – Digital exhibit and metadata advising (Staff Assistant, Digital Initiatives Department)
  • Sara Skindelien – Metadata and material selection assistance (Staff Assistant, Special Collections & Archives)
  • Mikkel Skinner – Graphics (Graphic Designer, Administration)
  • Scanning Technicians:
    • Jennika Anderson 
    • Kelvin Bloxham 
    • Amanda Cook 
    • Moana Fullmer 
    • Jake Matthews
    • Russell Weekes