Member Moment: Meeker Cooperative

“Member Moment” highlights one of Great River Energy’s member-owner cooperatives and how it uniquely demonstrates what it means to be a cooperative.

Meeker Cooperative’s year of incorporation alone—1935—suggests it holds a storied history, which the electric co-op delivers on and continues to add to year after year.

The co-op was chosen by the Rural Electric Administration in 1936 to establish an electrified farm to showcase the many benefits of using electricity throughout the home and farm. Co-op member Charles Ness’ farm, which demonstrated 67 different electric appliances, was chosen to represent the northwest part of the country for this demonstration. More than 34,000 visitors from 37 states saw how electricity worked and how it could make their lives easier.

Meeker Cooperative grew from 28 employees to 40 at the end of 2019 to offer VIBRANT Broadband, a fiber optic-supported internet service.

Ever since, the Litchfield, Minnesota-based Meeker Cooperative has continued to provide electric service to homes, farms and unique member businesses in a six-county area that includes 1,163 lakes.  The co-op averages 3.9 members per mile of line with 13% of its membership being seasonal.

Among the co-op’s most famous members? The Darwin Twine Ball Museum, home to the world’s largest ball of twine created by one man.

If you visited the Minnesota State Fair last year, you may have encountered a product from another of Meeker Cooperative’s members: Donnay Dairy’s goat cheese, a topping of the fair’s Best New Food of grilled peaches, along with honey.

The co-op provides reliable electric service to another food-based company in Sparboe, a woman-owned family business that distributes egg products to more than 4 million families every year.

Commitment to community

Beyond providing electric service, Meeker Cooperative is dedicated to the communities it serves through various initiatives. Namely, the co-op’s Electric Trust Board has distributed more than $798,300 in grants and scholarships to local non-profit groups and students through Operation Round Up.

Many co-op employees also have served on various local boards and civic organizations, including the Litchfield Chamber of Commerce, Litchfield Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs; Meeker County Fair Board; and the annual Watercade Festival Committee. In addition, three employees are serving as volunteer firefighters. Other groups employees volunteer their time to support Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, 4-H clubs, scouts, children’s sporting teams and local churches.

To help educate young people about electricity, Meeker Cooperative conducts safety presentations, brings line technicians to talk with students, participates in STEM Day at a local school and helps facilitate a school assembly about the history of electricity by the Bakken Museum.

Working with Great River Energy

Great River Energy’s transmission division has helped Meeker Cooperative build a new line in order to serve a pumping station in the co-op’s service territory. The group has also worked with Meeker Cooperative’s line crews to change out several substation transformers, which were needed to to serve additional load or repair infrastructure.

Future plans between Great River Energy and Meeker Cooperative include building an additional substation that would require an extension of Great River Energy’s transmission system.

Looking ahead

The way Meeker Cooperative serves its membership has evolved from the beginning. In addition to providing electric service, the co-op grew from 28 employees to 40 at the end of last year to offer VIBRANT Broadband, a fiber optic-supported internet service. It is one of the few co-ops in the nation that offers a hybrid broadband system along with VoIP phone service.

The co-op promotes electric vehicle adoption among its members and employees. Meeker Cooperative purchased a Chevy Bolt and installed a level 2 charger in its warehouse for employee use. The co-op is considering installing more chargers at its member retail locations.

Meeker Cooperative has come a long way in its 85-year history from highlighting one farm to having more than 9,000 members accounts.