The Keystone Cooperative Grape Association
Erie County, PA Biographies

The Keystone Cooperative Grape Association, North East, is nonstock, non profit and is incorporated under the Pennsylvania cooperative law that was enacted in the year of 1919. The association is purely cooperative and the only dividends being returned are patronage dividends returned to its members on a pro rata basis as to the amount of individual purchases or the amount of fruits given to the association for sale. The Keystone Cooperative Grape Association was incorporated in December, 1921, and started business after purchasing the business of the old Keystone Company, in January, 1922.

Its object is to act as purchasing agent for farm supplies, to be sold to the members, consisting of baskets, fertilizers, spray material and general farm supplies, and also to act as selling agent for its members in disposing of their crops, such as grapes, cherries, prunes, currants and other small fruits.

Back in 1896, there sprung up a Grape Union known as the “Chautauqua and Erie Grape Company”, with its head office at Brocton, New York, The Grape Union represented about 90 per cent. of the total acreage of the Chautauqua and Erie grape belt. It had eight sub divisions with their local managers, but the local manager had nothing to do with the selling of grapes grown and handled by the sub division. One sales committee, located at Westfield, New York, sold all the grapes for its entire membership.

Prior to the organization of this Chautauqua and Erie Grape Company the method of marketing was through individual shippers, and up to this time, there were practically no outright sales, either for cash or credit, all business being done on a consigned commission basis.

The first cooperative organization deserves much credit for establishing the method of selling grapes outright on a cash basis, This accomplishment alone proved of great help in securing better returns, for the farmers and also put the selling of grapes on a business besis.

In 1901 the growers in the Erie County, Pennsylvania, grape district decided that owing to their increase in acreage, they could aid the individual grower much better by having a separate association represented in their district. The result was that the Keystone Grape Company was organized and chartered under the corporation law of Pennsylvania.

This company was necessarily a stock company as there was at that time no legal provisions for non stock corporations; but the stock was distributed only to growers of grapes, somewhat upon an acreage basis, and the business was from the beginning managed upon lines somewhat similar to those later adopted under our new cooperative laws, The company was, from the beginning, controlled by directors who were grape growers and the aim was betterment of the industry rather than profits on the stock. The company was notably successful and, when absorbed by the new association, had a fine established business.

In the spring of 1921, meetings were held by many of the grape growers of Erie County, with the advice and assistance of the Pennsylvania State Bureau of Markets, a new cooperative association was formed. This association was organized under the Pennsylvania cooperative law of 1919 and was chartered under the name of the "Northwestern Pennsylvania Fruit Association."

An arrangement was then entered into between this new association and the Keystone Grape Company, under the terms of which the new association took over the good will of the company and the real estate consisting of office building, warehouse and basket factory, at the appraisal of $20,000.00. The name of the association was changed to "Keystone Cooperative Grape Association", the directors of the Keystone Grape Company were elected directors of the new cooperative association.

In order to provide the funds for this transaction, the members were asked to purchase three year, 6 per cent. certificates of indebtedness of the Association, The members responded by purchasing the entire amount. This transaction was completed on January 1, 1922, and the business has since been conducted by the Association.

December 3 1st, 1924, the Keystone Cooperative Grape Association at the close of its business, 1924, had about five thousand (5,000) acres of grapes under contract with its members. This acreage represents about 57 per cent. of the total acreage of Erie County, Pennsylvania.

Its membership is composed of 250 Concord grape growers, beginning on the east at the state line, New York, and extending west to the township of Harbor Creek, Pa.

The membership at the close of the year 1924 showed an increase of about one hundred (100) new members in two years' time. And the Association did not lose a single member in 1922 or 1923 except those who sold their farms and discontinued farming.

The Keystone sold for its members during the past three years as follows: In 1922, 8,700 tons of Concord grapes, equivalent to 780 cars; in 1923, 5,100 tons of Concord grapes, equivalent to 465 cars; in 1924, 8,222 tons of Concord grapes, equivalent to 800 cars. The grapes handled by the Association are loaded on ten different loading stations on the New York Central and Nickel Plate Railroad Company lines.

The results for the past three years were: In 1922, total sales, $684,425.02; surplus savings, $14,578.37. In 1923, total sales, $509,630.13; surplus savings, $10,042.19. In 1924, total sales, $715,294.73; surplus savings, $15,689.94. During the past three years of existence of the Keystone Cooperative Grape Association, they have paid back to their members of 1922, patronage dividends amounting to $14,326.00.

Each member in joining the Association must pay an initial membership fee of $5.00 and sign a contract and give a note based on the number of acres of grapes owned or leased by him. The amount of note is determined on the basis of $10.00 per acre of grapes, plus $25.00. The note may be made to collect damages from a member who violates his contract and they are also the emergency capital which enables the Association to obtain proper credit rating.

The officers and directors elected at the members' annual meeting, January, 1925, for the ensuing year, are as follows: President, D. C. Eostwick; vice president, G. Will Butt; secretary, Archie D. Phillips; treasurer and manager, H. Harold Meyer. Directors: D. C. Bostwick, C. E. Leet, G. W. Butt, A. D. Phillips, F. B. Crawford, A. B. Robinson, I. H. Russell, J. W. Orton, C. A. Bell, J. P. Bingham, M. H. Smith, H. H. Meyer.

History of Erie County, Pennsylvania
By: John Elmer Reed
Historical Publishing Company

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