Food processor forms worker cooperatives to maintain role in local food system

When Dan Rosenberg and Addie Holland founded Real Pickles in Greenfield, Mass., in 2001, it was with the intention of creating a different kind of food processor. They aimed to create a business that was not only financially successful, but was also deeply rooted in the local community and that moved large enough volumes of vegetables to have a real beneficial impact on the local economy. In doing so, they also wanted to ensure that the volume of crops being handled did not come at the expense of the environment.

29 September 2013

By Joe Rinehart

Today, 12 years after they founded it, Real Pickles stands as a growing, profitable food company that helped to pioneer the naturally fermented food trend and has ridden a “wave of success” as consumer demand has increased for such foods. “We wanted to make a contribution to building a regionally oriented food system by running a small business based on organic and sustainable agriculture,” Holland said.

And while the business continues to fulfill the original mission of its founders, it no longer belongs to Holland and Rosenberg. It belongs to a worker-owned cooperative.

When Rosenberg and Holland decided it was time free up more time in their lives by expanding the ownership, they concluded that a worker-owned cooperative could best maintain the businesses as a keystone of the local food economy while continuing its reputation for excellence. Giving workers an ownership stake in the business would provide a strong incentive to help ensure that its outstanding work force would stay with Real Pickles.

Cooperative retains founding mission

Once Holland and Rosenberg decided to sell the business, they looked at various ownership scenarios. After careful consideration, “a worker owned cooperative felt like the most promising option,” Rosenberg says. A worker cooperative, they reasoned, would allow the worker-owners to include the business’ mission in the cooperative by-laws while also providing an incentive “for the great staff to stick around.”

It is an answer that is gaining momentum in rural areas, according to the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives. Worker cooperaatives allow retiring business owners to realize the value of their company by selling it to their employees while simultaneously helping to retain the positive impact (jobs created, local taxes paid, etc.) of a business on the local economy.

The business conversion process to a cooperative for Real Pickles included five of the company’s 12 workers (including Rosenberg and Holland) who worked to define a new ownership and governance structure for the business.

More information here:

International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and
Service Producers' Cooperatives

Secretariat: C/O European Cooperative House - avenue Milcamps 105
1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 543 1033, fax: +32 2 543 1037
E-mail: cicopa[at]

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