Cooperatives Making a Difference in Nebraska Communities

Cindy Houlden
Cooperative Development Specialist
October 13, 2023
Woman shopping in produce aisle with child in cart.

By definition, cooperatives are autonomous associations of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

In practice, the local cooperative grocery store not only provides access to food, supporting the local economy; but serves as a gathering space for rural residents, preserving the town’s local character. A cooperative childcare center provides quality care for the children of local employees and quality jobs for local childcare providers. A homecare worker cooperative builds wealth for the worker-owners while allowing aging community members to remain in their homes. Investment cooperative members invest their wealth into the community projects ensuring a vibrant community for generations to come.

Since 1999, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Nebraska Cooperative Development Center has worked in 157 Communities on over 300 Projects. NCDC has helped form 50 cooperatively operated businesses, including 17 cooperatively owned grocery stores, seven non-profits, two business associations, and 44 Limited Liability Companies operating cooperatively.

Through NCDC, multiple communities are exploring the innovative solutions afforded by the cooperative model.

  • In the last two years, four cooperative grocery stores have opened in Nebraska: Farm to Family Cooperative in Hays Springs; Post 60 Market in Emerson; Valley Foods Cooperative in Lynch; and Centennial Market Cooperative in Utica.
  • Beatrice is exploring the formation of a real estate investment cooperative focused on benefits to the community. The investment approach gives individuals an avenue for working together to make things happen in downtown Beatrice.
  • Salt Slope is a worker-owned cooperative farm located on three acres outside of Lincoln. Incorporated in 2023, Salt Slope owns and works the land with a goal of increasing Lincoln's food sovereignty.
  • Norfolk is forming an employer-assisted childcare cooperative and Holdrege is exploring forming a shared services childcare cooperative. Childcare cooperatives can be organized by parents, employers, workers, or a combination of the above.
  • Arapahoe is exploring the formation of a homecare cooperative, which can be a viable option to allow elderly residents to remain in their homes in the Arapahoe community and provide job opportunities for local residents.
  • The Omaha tribe is introducing indigenous cooperative models, which has led to initial conversations with tribal members focused on arts and local foods.

Want to learn more about exploring the formation of a cooperative to meet an economic need in your community? Contact Cindy Houlden, Cooperative Development Specialist, or 308-293-6417 or visit

The Nebraska Cooperative Development Center (NCDC) is located in the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. NCDC programs abide with the nondiscrimination policies of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the United States Department of Agriculture. NCDC is funded in part by the USDA RCDG and SDGG Grant Programs.