Listen to a few broadcasts of Deconstructing Dinner, and choosing food may suddenly become an intimidating adventure. It is of the utmost importance that we also bring our listeners examples of alternatives to the industrial food system that is spiraling out of the control of Canadians.
Enter the co-operative model of operating a business. Long an example in Canada of how people can assume control over our needs and resources, co-operatives as an alternative to the industrial food system will be the focus of this series. This is an exciting series, as we ourselves at Kootenay Co-op Radio are a co-operative too.
How does a co-operative differ from a traditional business? Most importantly, a co-operative is owned and democratically controlled by the people who use the services or by those working within the co-op. A co-op is operated for the benefit of members and members have a say in decisions affecting the co-op. In the case of food, such a premise directly challenges many of the pressing issues Deconstructing Dinner explores on a weekly basis.
On this Part I of the series, we look at how co-operatives can provide an alternative to the retail and distribution sector of Canada's food system. The province of British Columbia has some of the most innovative cooperatives in the country, and the two co-operatives featured on today's broadcast are both located within the province: the Kootenay Country Store Co-operative in Nelson, and FoodRoots, a newly established distributors co-operative in Victoria.
Abra Brynne, Board President - Kootenay Country Store Co-operative (Nelson, BC) - The Kootenay Co-op is a large, member-owned cooperative offering natural, organic foods and products in Nelson. Since its inception in 1975, the Co-op has taken a leading role in promoting natural, organic foods and products, sustainable living and supporting local, organic farms and businesses and fair trade organizations. With over 7,000 members, the store is a leading example in Canada of an alternative to the conventional model of food retailing. Abra has been a member of the store since 1991, was a staff member until 2000, and is now the President of the Board.
Jocelyn Carver, Human Resources Director - Kootenay Country Store Co-operative (Nelson, BC) - In March 2007, Jocelyn helped organize an event/meeting for the 55 staff members of the Kootenay Country Store Co-operative. The meeting explored food sovereignty and food security, and invited local farmers and suppliers to come and speak to the staff. Such a meeting would be unheard of within the conventional retail system, and Jocelyn was invited onto the show to share this experience.
Staff of the Kootenay Country Store Co-operative - Joy Farley, Anneke Rosch, Niels Petersen, Allana McConachy and Ben Morris
Lee Fuge and Susan Tychie, Co-Founders - FoodRoots (Victoria, BC) - Incorporated in October 2006 as a co-operative, FoodRoots has been formed to promote a local sustainable food system by creating the infrastructure link between the eaters/consumers and the growers and processors in the Victoria region. They promote sustainable food grown naturally as close to home as possible, and place a priority on Certified Organic. FoodRoots works hard to educate eaters/consumers about local agriculture and food security issues, and the co-operative challenges the conventional distribution systems controlling Canada's food system.