Danish cooperative movement
The Danish cooperative movement (Danish: Andelsbevægelsen) was a means of economical organization under leadership of consumer- or producer-controlled corporation
A corporation is created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter...

s, where each individual member owned a part of the corporation. The type of organization was especially used in the farming industry and in consumer organization
Consumer organization
Consumer organizations are advocacy groups that seek to protect people from corporate abuse like unsafe products, predatory lending, false advertising, astroturfing and pollution.Consumer organizations may operate via protests, campaigning or lobbying...

s in Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 from the 1790s to the 1960s. The members of the corporations sought to share the economic stress of producing or buying goods, and divided the eventual end-year financial surplus
Economic surplus
In mainstream economics, economic surplus refers to two related quantities. Consumer surplus or consumers' surplus is the monetary gain obtained by consumers because they are able to purchase a product for a price that is less than the highest price that they would be willing to pay...

 amongst them. The type of ownership rules varied greatly between individual corporations, as some divided the financial risk equally, while others gave more power to the most financially involved individuals.

Early history

About 90% of all farming soil in Denmark was cooperative from 1300, as the Black Death
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

 depopulated the rural parts of the country. Then, the inhabitants of a Danish village would work together, forming Landsbyfællesskaber (village commune
Commune (intentional community)
A commune is an intentional community of people living together, sharing common interests, property, possessions, resources, and, in some communes, work and income. In addition to the communal economy, consensus decision-making, non-hierarchical structures and ecological living have become...

s). To distribute land fairly between farmers, the land was normally distributed between all farmers in a village with each of them owning a strip of land on every field. Re-allocation of land took place if the size of the individual families changed strongly. In this system, it was virtually impossible to only work individually, since the plots of land might have the full length of the field, but only be a few meters wide. A second characteristic was that all farms were located close together and near the church, with the result that fields far from the village were often poorly utilized.

The Enclosure Movement

This all changed in the enclosure movement between 1750 and 1800, which aimed to reunite fields and award them to one owner only. Any farmer would normally be awarded a coherent piece of land and perhaps an additional piece of forest. In many villages, farmers were either forced or strongly encouraged to tear down their homes and rebuild them in the middle of their new fields with the intention that this would give them easier access to every part of the field, enabling them to utilize the land more effectively. These events are known as Landboreformerne (the agricultural reforms) or Udskiftningen (the parcellation), and were instigated at the initiative of the Danish Crown
Danish Royal Family
The Danish Royal Family includes the Queen of Denmark and her family. All members except the Queen hold the title of Prince/Princess of Denmark with the style of His/Her Royal Highness or His/Her Highness. The Queen is styled Her Majesty. The Queen and her siblings belong to the House of...

 to raise production. For the next century, a standard village would be composed of a series of farms, many located a distance from each other, each family working for itself producing grain and raising a few animals.

After the Second War of Schleswig
Second War of Schleswig
The Second Schleswig War was the second military conflict as a result of the Schleswig-Holstein Question. It began on 1 February 1864, when Prussian forces crossed the border into Schleswig.Denmark fought Prussia and Austria...

 in 1864, two new movements hit Denmark. One was a successful attempt to reclaim moor
Moorland or moor is a type of habitat, in the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome, found in upland areas, characterised by low-growing vegetation on acidic soils and heavy fog...

s in central and western Jutland
Jutland , historically also called Cimbria, is the name of the peninsula that juts out in Northern Europe toward the rest of Scandinavia, forming the mainland part of Denmark. It has the North Sea to its west, Kattegat and Skagerrak to its north, the Baltic Sea to its east, and the Danish–German...

 for farming; mostly sandy land abandoned in the 14th century as a result of the Black Plague, but in many cases good for potatoes. This movement was initiated by Hedeselskabet (the Heath Association). Equally important was an influx to the world market of grain
GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems. Our support takes the form of independent research and analysis, networking at local, regional and...

 from the Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n provinces Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 and Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, resulting in a sharp drop in price. This affected the income of many Danish farmers and the result was a change in production; from grain to dairy
A dairy is a business enterprise established for the harvesting of animal milk—mostly from cows or goats, but also from buffalo, sheep, horses or camels —for human consumption. A dairy is typically located on a dedicated dairy farm or section of a multi-purpose farm that is concerned...

 products and meat
Meat is animal flesh that is used as food. Most often, this means the skeletal muscle and associated fat and other tissues, but it may also describe other edible tissues such as organs and offal...

. When a farmer couldn't sell his grain, he fed it to his cows and pig
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...


Cooperative production

This change in production resulted in a need for dairies and slaughterhouse
A slaughterhouse or abattoir is a facility where animals are killed for consumption as food products.Approximately 45-50% of the animal can be turned into edible products...

s. The only way to pay for such massive investments was for a large group of farmers to share the cost and risk between them, thus creating the cooperative dairies and slaughterhouses. The new situation implied that farmers would buy cheap grain from Russia and feed it to their livestock, selling milk
Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. Early-lactation milk contains colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies to the baby and can reduce the risk of many...

, butter
Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk. It is generally used as a spread and a condiment, as well as in cooking applications, such as baking, sauce making, and pan frying...

, eggs
Egg (food)
Eggs are laid by females of many different species, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish, and have probably been eaten by mankind for millennia. Bird and reptile eggs consist of a protective eggshell, albumen , and vitellus , contained within various thin membranes...

 and meat for a much higher price. This movement also resulted in the creation of both the Danish Bacon
Danish Bacon
Danish Bacon is a brand under which Danish bacon is sold in the United Kingdom. The product has "Danish" stamped on the rind between wavy lines...

and Danish Lurpak Butter brands.

The combination of the Cooperative Movement and the switch away from the production of grain resulted in a great increase in wealth for the average Danish farmer and it became very important in the way Danish farmers perceived themselves. The system was also attempted in other places where Danes settled, for example in the Danish communities in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Before World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Denmark gained a foothold on the Russian market, and the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

 cost Danish industry dearly. Attempts to construct cooperative dairies in Russia played a large role in this policy, and a few were actually built there. The Russian Revolution destroyed this work, but new attempts were made in the Baltic States
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 during the Interwar period
Interwar period
Interwar period can refer to any period between two wars. The Interbellum is understood to be the period between the end of the Great War or First World War and the beginning of the Second World War in Europe....

. Attempts to export the system to Poland were considered in the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and its overseas representations are in charge of Denmark's foreign affairs...

 to boost the exports of Danish machinery. Attempts to export this system were often linked with attempts to export the Danish system of secondary education for farmers; Højskolebevægelsen.

Second redistribution of land

Denmark saw a second redistribution of land, which effectively meant the creation of a number of small-scale farms (husmandsbrug). The top stratum in a village was the priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

 and schoolmaster
A schoolmaster, or simply master, once referred to a male school teacher. This usage survives in British public schools, but is generally obsolete elsewhere.The teacher in charge of a school is the headmaster...

, then came the big landowners; "gårdmænd" or better. Next level of society was the craftsmen who normally owned a bit of land as well. The bottom of society was formed by "husmænd" and landless people.

The land acquired from the manors was paid for in cash by the government, and was used not to increase the existing farms in size, but to create new ones. The impact was most prominent in Southern Jutland (Northern Schleswig) which had been reunited with Denmark in 1920. Before the war in 1864, Northern Schleswig had a population density pretty much the same as the rest of the country; in 1920 it had virtually the same population as in 1860, while the population density of the rest of Denmark had doubled. Here the Danish government forced through an acquisition of large German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 Domänenpächter farms; splitting them up into smaller units, that was effectively a way to try to ensure that Danes didn't leave the poorly populated and poorly industrialized province.



In the 1950s, a joint stock company was formed out of a series of dairies, uniting into two rivals Mejeriselskaberne Danmark and Kløver who later merged to found MD Foods (now Arla Foods
Arla Foods
Arla Foods is a Swedish-Danish cooperative based in Århus, Denmark, and the largest producer of dairy products in Scandinavia. Arla Foods was formed as the result of a merger between the Swedish dairy cooperative Arla and the Danish dairy company MD Foods on 17 April 2000.Arla Foods is the seventh...

) which controls almost all of the Danish milk market. The Danish Crown
Danish Crown AmbA
Danish Crown AmbA is a Danish food processing company, dealing primarily in meat processing of pork and beef. It is Europe's largest pork producer. Through its subsidiaries, known as the Danish Crown Group, it is also involved in a long list of other food products...

 meat processing company also owes its existence to the cooperative movement.

Co-op shops

The cooperative movement also resulted in a series of co-op stores known as Brugsen
right|thumb|250px|A Dagli'Brugsen in Northeast Copenhagen. Brugsen is a shorthand for the Danish word 'Brugsforeningen', which means consumers' cooperative. It is also the name of a Danish supermarket chain which was born as a consumers' cooperative....

, which were under the administration of the The Danish Consumers Co-operative Society. The stores kept a large share of the Danish consumer goods market. It merged with the similar retail chains in Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 and Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 in January 2002, to form Coop Norden
Coop Norden
Coop Norden is a joint Scandinavian holding company, formerly a retail chain. It is owned by three major cooperative retail companies; Danish FDB , Swedish KF , and Norwegian Coop NKL . As a retailer Coop Norden operated around 1,000 stores and had a yearly turnover of approximately SEK 90 billion...


Wind mills

The cooperative ownership model for wind mills was developed in Denmark. First for smaller wind mills, later for wind farms. One of the biggest copeartively owned windfarms are at Middelgrunden in Copenhagen and at the Samsø island.

See also: Wind power in Denmark
Wind power in Denmark
Wind power provided 18.9% of electricity production and 24.1% of generation capacity in Denmark in 2008, Denmark was a pioneer in developing commercial wind power during the 1970s, and today almost half of the wind turbines around the world are produced by Danish manufacturers such as Vestas and...

, Wind turbine cooperative.


In the late 70's early 80's Collective
A collective is a group of entities that share or are motivated by at least one common issue or interest, or work together on a specific project to achieve a common objective...

 lifestyle, including cooperative
A cooperative is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit...

 production was very popular. Some of these collectives still exist like Svanholm
Svanholm is a country estate and former manor west of Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1978 an association of over 100 persons bought the estate to create Denmark's largest intentional community. The Svanholm Collective grows its own food and was one of the pioneers of organic farming in Denmark...

, which was started in 1978. Freetown Christiania
Freetown Christiania
Not to be confused with Christiania, Norway, another name for Oslo.Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of about 850 residents, covering 34 hectares in the borough of Christianshavn in the Danish capital Copenhagen...

 was established in 1971. People living in these communities are often environment conscious, and join the Danish Ecovillage Network http://losnet.dk. See also Global Ecovillage Network
Global Ecovillage Network
The Global Ecovillage Network is a global association of people and communities dedicated to living "sustainable plus" lives by restoring the land and adding more to the environment than is taken...



Living in co-housing groups with a common ground and common house is relatively common in Denmark. The common house is used for common eatings, common washing machines, meetings and fests. There are 3 types of co-housing groups:
  • One type, where the flats/houses are built by a national housing association and people are renting the flats. E.g., Lejerbo has 37,000 apartments http://www.lejerbo.dk. In English this type of housing often referred as social co-housing.
  • Another where people are owning the flats/houses and the land and the loan together. In Danish they are called "andelsbolig" http://www.andelsbolig.dk, and
  • Third type, where people own the common house and the land together, but they own their own family houses. E.g., AiH http://www.andelssamfundet.dk.
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