Utah's celebrated legacy of cooperation began with the first vanguard of Mormon settlers, and extended through much of the Twentieth Century. The same spirit of cooperation that characterized Utah's early settlers also came to distinguish Utah State University following its founding as the Utah Agricultural College in 1888.
As early faculty members disseminated agricultural information to the State's farmers they created models of extension that were later embodied within the College's Co-operative Extension Service. Concurrent with the Extension Service, county farm bureaus were established to organize farmers. The Utah Farm Bureau became important in the promotion and formation of farmer co-operatives during the 1920s.
During the depths of the 1930s depression, the State Legislature created the Self-Help Co-operative Board to allow for a greater diversity of co-operative enterprises. In 1936, the Board formed the Utah Co-operative Association to develop and administer these co-operatives. The Utah Co-operative Association played an important role in sustaining and developing rural Utah through 1976, when it merged and was absorbed by the Farmers Union Central Exchange (CENEX).
While Utah's halcyon days may have passed, co-operatives remain an integral part of the national economy, where four in ten Americans, according to the National Co-operative Business Association, have some affiliation with a co-operative.
The Farm Bureau, Extension services and cooperative efforts gave farmers a voice and helped them be more economically sound. These efforts also changed how farmers and their families used their land and how they viewed it. The extension service especially changed how farmers and their wives divided roles on their land and used the resources to make farms self sustaining. Each group in their efforts to teach and encourage agriculturalists changed the land of Utah both economically and environmentally.