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Red accent

Iconic Co-op cap represents more than advertising
By Glen Liford, Editor 5/24/2019

 

The red Co-op cap is still popular with farmers of all ages, including young Matt Harris, son of Washington Farmers Co-op Director Chad Harris and wife Kim.
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The red Co-op cap is one of those symbols you immediately recognize as Co-op. I’m not sure of its origins, but its roots snake back to the early days of the cooperative. It seems like it has always been there. I know it was when I was a young 4-Her buying feed at Union Farmers Co-op in Maynardville for my market lambs in the late 1970s and early 80s.

The cap is certainly one of those elements we in the Communications Department try to work into photos whenever we can. The red is the perfect splash of color to provide just the right accent when and where it’s needed.

It serves an advertising function, yes. But to many of those who wear it, it’s also a symbol of their commitment to their Co-op and represents a connection with fellow farmers bound by a common cause.

Even those outside our industry recognize its power to connect as well. I know of one award-winning professional photographer who shot images for a number of the state’s most widely recognized brands who admitted he kept some of the distinctive Co-op caps in the trunk of his car alongside other props, inserting the cap when he needed to enhance the downhome feel and lend authenticity to his photos.

Country music entertainer Charlie Daniels has been known to perform in one of the classic caps.

The red Co-op cap is still one of the system’s most popular offerings, though it has been joined by a number of other versions over the years. Tone-on-tone logos, more muted colors, and relaxed-fit versions seem to appeal to younger farmers. But let’s face it — most farmers haven’t come across many caps they don’t like. Most have an extensive collection of caps given to them by those who supply the products on their farms. Tennessee Farmers Cooperative alone buys more than 25,000 caps each year to promote the brand. That number is magnified exponentially by the many more purchased at the local Co-op level.

A former TFC CEO at one time decreed there would only be red Co-op caps available during his tenure at the helm of the cooperative. He believed all these choices diluted the power of the brand.

But as in most things these days, customers demand choices. There are those who like the traditional, but others are always looking for something new and different. Whatever their choice, not many have turned down a Co-op cap, whatever the color.

 
 
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