Howard A. Cowden

Consumers Cooperative Association and Farmland Industries — Inducted in 2008

Howard A. Cowden began his service to cooperatives at a young age when he was hired as secretary of the Polk County Farmers Association in 1919.  Two years later he was hired as secretary of Missouri Farmers Association. By 1929, Mr. Cowden formed a new cooperative, Union Oil Company.

 

During the Great Depression Mr. Cowden engaged in a prodigious program of personal selling, calling in person on hundreds of cooperatives and sharing the cooperative story. His new venture began with six local cooperative members. Mr. Cowden served as president until his retirement in 1961. The name was changed to Consumers Cooperative Association in 1935 and later in 1966 to Farmland Industries. 

 

Nothing depicts Cowden’s dreams and efforts more than a saying he had chiseled into the board room walls – “make no little plans, for they have not the power to stir men’s souls.” 

 

Mr. Cowden was a visionary, with the tenacity, business skill, and the charisma to make it happen. The risks he took were aimed at positioning producers and their cooperatives to successfully compete. His dreams were big and focused on a common theme – the dedication to cooperatives and the welfare of farmers.  When he retired, CCA was one of the largest regional cooperatives in the world.

 

An endowment in Howard Cowden’s name at the University of Missouri-Columbia made possible the Graduate Institute of Cooperative Leadership (GICL).

 

Decades after Mr. Cowden’s death beginning in the 1990s his motto “make no small plans” was adopted all across the Upper Plains and Midwest to reflect the spirit of a resurgence of cooperative development as a wave of “new generation cooperatives” spread forth.

 

extraordinary vision, exemplary leadership, tenacity, big dreams, dedicated service to cooperatives and the improved welfare of farmers