Today, when we hear the slogans “better farming, better food,” or “proud to
be farmer owned” one company comes to mind, Farmland Industries. We may
think of this of this fortune 500 company as a leading agricultural
powerhouse, which it is, however, it was not always that way.
Farmland Industries Inc. was founded by Howard A. Cowden, who was born and
raised in Southwestern Missouri. Cowden started young in the cooperative
business by working for the Missouri Farmers Association (MFA). However; in
October of 1927, he had resigned from the position of secretary for the MFA
and started out on his own. Immediately following, Cowden received the MFA
oil contract that previously had been held with Standard Oil Company, and
Cowden was now in the wholesale oil business. On January 27, 1928, Cowden
Oil Company was founded. This business was moved to Kansas City, Missouri
in late 1928.
In January of 1929, Cowden Oil Company was dissolved and Union Oil Company
(Cooperative) was formed. It was clear that Cowden had planned to do more
than just buy and sell oil to local cooperatives. A board of directors was
created to run the company, yet Cowden retained full control over the
company that he had created. Cowden started recruiting smaller companies to
join their cooperative by signing contracts to sell certain amounts of
Unions products. In 1929, Union Oil Company had purchased its first land.
“The Two Car Garage,” as it is referred to, was the building that they had
purchase to become their new home.
In 1935, Union Oil Company changed its name to Consumers Cooperative
Association (CCA). CO-OP was decided to be its official logo. In October
of 1956, CCA moved to their new home on North Oak Trafficway, in Kansas
City, and the company was ready for major business. In June of 1961, Howard
A. Cowden retired as President of CCA and Homer Young stepped in to fill
In early to mid 1966, CCA changed its name again. This time to Farmland
Industries, Inc., however; they still kept that CO-OP symbol for a
trademark. CCA now emphasized much of its business to fertilizer, petroleum
and commercial feed. This business only grew and grew for them. “By 1967,
Farmland Industries had manufacturing facilities for various kinds of
fertilizer at Lawrence, Kansas; Hastings, Nebraska; Green Bay, Florida; Fort
Dodge, Iowa; Joplin, Missouri, and a plant under construction in Dodge City”
From here, Farmland Industries only increased its size, sales, and
dividends, not to mention popularity. Some of the major lines include:
Food Marketing, Feed, Crop Production, Grain, Beef, and Pork. Of course,
there are many, many other lines that the company has produced throughout
the years. Some of these things include: Ful-O-Pep (Union Oil Companys
“Antiknock” gas designed to compete with ethyl), CO-OP tires, Batteries,
Groceries, Canning and Dehydration, Tractors, Paint, Twine, Steel buildings,
and many other successful ventures, along with many other flops.
“Weve been working to improve margins-by lowering costs, by implementing
shared margin programs, by offering prebooking, and contracting programs in
fuel, crop production, products, & feed-and by increasing our emphasis on
providing timely information and other services” (Annual 94 2).
Today, Farmland is the largest farmer-owned agricultural input cooperative
in the United States. Its mission is: To be a producer-driven,
customer-focused and profitable “ag supply to consumer foods” cooperative
system (The Farmland Cooperative System 6). The people of Farmland
Industries believe in American agriculture. They believe that everyone
involved in progressive agriculture in America today is entitled to a return
on their investments.
Farmlands world headquarters are located in Kansas City, Missouri. The
city is located on the banks of the Missouri river in western Missouri. The
metropolitan area itself includes four counties in the state of Kansas which
helps make up its population of 1.65 million people (U.S. Bureau of the
Census 1). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 82.2 percent of this
population are White, 12.7 percent are Black, 3.1 percent are Hispanic, and
1.9 percent include various other Races (1). In 1995, the estimated Kansas
City median household income was $37,841. Thirty-eight percent of the
households in the metro area have an effective buying power (this is the
discretionary income households have after paying off all debts) of more
than $50,000 per year (U.S. Bureau of the Census). Kansas City also boasts
one of the lowest cost of living in major metropolitan areas. It ranked
third among 25 cities with populations above 1.5 million people (U.S. Bureau
of the Census).
There are many exciting things to do once youre in Kansas City.