While they remained traditional bakeries for the customers, they developed a new kind of relationship with their suppliers, as they steadily delivered them free bread daily, to make up for the annual supply of corn they received.
Way before the SEL (Local Exchange System) and other exchange and barter systems, co-operatives had already opened the way by applying new and relevant forms of relationships which met the needs of farmers. In this case, the matter was to take into account farmers’ cash shortage as they were dependent on the annual sale of their harvest.
Nowadays, nearly all co-operative bakeries have disappeared, whereas they were nearly a hundred in the 50’s. Nevertheless, a one-hundred-year-old bakery is carrying on the tradition in the Vienne country, at Vendeuvre du Poitou.
The principle has remained the same. Every year, farmers devote some of their crops to feed the millers who will supply the co-operative. In return, and according to a basis carefully calculated yearly, they are granted vouchers which will allow them to get the bread they need every day. Retired farmers who get bread for part of their rent, also apply this system.
For other co-operators, the principle is the same one; they buy vouchers to get their bread. In 2013, the co-operative bakery at Vendeuvre will be a hundred years old. Is it thoroughly behind the times with a nineteenth century organization, or is it a thoroughly novel process based on exchange, free from money handling, and which plays a true social part ?