Sunderland Co-operative 's mill was once owned by the Welsh family and was operated by a steam engine.. In 1902 a generator was installed and the engine drove the mill in the daytime and produced power at night for the town.
When the war broke out, Welsh rented the mill to the Hogg and Lytle business at Oakwood. Cecil Real was then hired to operate the business. After the war Mr. Welsh decided to go into politics and decided to sell the mill. At that time, Peirson was the head of what became Peterborough District Co-operative. Being very aggressive, they were trying to build a strong organization involving Warkworth, Havelock and Peterborough as a group. On May 14, 1946 Brock Township farmers were invited to a meeting in the town hall to discuss forming a Farmers Co-operative and buying Welsh's mill. There were about seventy-five local farmers present and six people representing Peterborough District Co-operative. It was agreed to form a co-operative and join Peterborough. On July 1, 1946 the co-operative took over the mill paying $10,000. The first manager was A.B. Aylsworth. The first three months sales were $36,000 with a profit of $130.00.
On the evening of July 21, 1947 fire destroyed the mill. Most of the cost to rebuild was covered by insurance but the clean up was extra. For the next couple of years the Co-op just carried on with hardly enough business to carry the depreciation. Unofficial reports were that Peterborough District was in financial trouble. It wasn't long until Mr. Peirson met with Sunderland people to recommend that they go out and find ways to purchase the place from Peterborough Co-operative or the banks might take it over. The bank would only loan money to them if twenty-five farmers would sign a $1000 note at the bank for backup. Without the leadership of these farmers, Sunderland Co-operative would probably not exist today. They are Merrill Bagshaw, William Suggitt, Stanley Miller, William Herron, Charles Hadden, J.T.Bryan, Vincent Beaton, Ray Brethour, Dean Graham, Bruce Tocker, Ivan Rennie, Lester Keeler, Fred Graham, William Jewell, Leslie McMullen, Norm McLeod, Robert Charter, Frank Sonley, Victor Leask, Kenneth McLennan, Clifford Brethour, Leslie Faux, Noble Swain, James Beaton, John Harrison and Fred Milne.
The Charter for Sunderland Co-operative was signed on July 20, 1950. The purchase officially took place Oct. 1, 1950. On Feb. 6, 1951 after Aylsworth resigned to go work for Aylmer Co-operative, Cecil Real was appointed manager. The first nine months for Sunderland Co-operative showed a profit of $11,470.00.
In 1970 Cecil Real retired. The high point of his career was reaching one million in sales in 1967, an increase from $414,800 in the first year of operation. His biggest worry was accounts receivable. There were many young farmers that Cecil helped out and as they became more established they were strong supporters of the Co-op.
The board of directors appointed Royce St. John as manager in 1970. There was never a person more dedicated to the Co-operative than Royce. He hired Clare Hayes back after he had left to work for the government for a short period of time. Under his guidance the Co-op grew and prospered to sales of $3,665,000 in 1980.
After Royce's untimely death, George Harrison became manager. George looked after accounts receivable, member business, dividends etc. and Clare Hayes became assistant manager looking after the agricultural side of the business. In the spring of 1981 bulk fertilizer was added to the services offered.
In March 1983, George wanted less responsibility and at that time Clare was appointed manager and Leonard Woodward became assistant manager. George stayed until his retirement in 1985.
In 1983 about $80,000 was spent on the mill with new legs and augers installed. That same year the first salesperson was hired and sales increased one million dollars. In 1986 a pellet mill was installed. It was felt that without that move the mill would have become a warehouse.
In March 1994 Sunderland celebrated the opening of the new store and in the first year sales grew 24%. The meeting room that is in the basement of the building is used by several organizations such as 4-H, milk committees etc. That same year Barkey Grain and Feed was purchased by the co-operative. It would have been nice to pay down some of the store debt but the directors felt that the opportunity couldn't be passed on.
In 1996, Growmark purchased the better assets of U.C.O. They are a regional co-operative that supplies product to co-operatives in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and now Ontario. In the first year with Growmark, Sunderland Co-op received a patronage of $48,000 U.S.
In the fall of 1995 changes were made to the petroleum business. The yard was not to standard for the future and updates were costly. A deal was made with U.C.O on any salvage rights from saved tanks, as they owned the equipment. This was replaced with a state of the art cardlock system for gas and diesel.
Over the years many changes have occurred to the co-operative. It is a full service operation for feed, crops, store, grain and petroleum products. These changes have not changed the purpose of the co-op, which is to improve the profitability of its customers.