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 II of the series, we look at how co-operatives can provide an alternative to agricultural land ownership and how farmers can receive a fair price by working together to market their product.
Rob Diether and Lorraine LeBourdais - Horse Lake Community Farm Co-operative (100-Mile House, BC) - An innovative plan to protect a unique piece of farmland in British Columbia is providing a model of how a community can take ownership of the land that feeds them, and guarantee access to locally grown food. Working with The Land Conservancy (TLC), a co-operative has been formed to purchase and preserve a 133-acre farm at the east end of Horse Lake. Joining the Co-op provides many benefits. These include community involvement in the farm's operation with preferred access to the farm's organic produce, educational and cultural activities and special programs and events on the property.
Cathleen and Brewster Kneen - The Ram's Horn (Ottawa, ON) - In October 2006, Deconstructing Dinner recorded Cathleen and Brewster speak at the Bridging Borders Towards Food Security Conference held in Vancouver, BC. Their workshop told the story of the Northumberland Lamb Marketing Co-operative in Truro, Nova Scotia, which recently marked its 25th anniversary. Their workshop explored the factors that made Northumberlamb a voluntary supply management system, setting prices, controlling quality, negotiating delivery times and volumes with farmers, and supplying the major supermarkets in the province with local lamb year round. Cathleen and Brewster publish The Ram's Horn - a monthly journal of food systems analysis.
Grassroots Groceries - Produced and hosted by Wajid Jenkins for Sprouts - a weekly news magazine of the Pacifica Foundation. Wajid hosts The Compost Pile at WORT Madison, Wisconsin. Grassroots Groceries looks at the past, present and future prospects for grassroots groceries in Madison, Wisconsin. With a globalized food system that favors centralized, large-volume brokers, small-scale grocers face huge obstacles. One of the original food cooperatives in the United States, the Mifflin Street Community Cooperative in Madison, Wisconsin was forced to close its doors on Friday December 8, 2006. Established in January 1969, Mifflin Coop played a pivotal role in the progressive movement for food justice in the Midwest and beyond. With roots in the radical politics of the movement against the Vietnam War, Mifflin has remained true to its original values and mission. It is a collectively managed, member-owned small-scale grocery. Mifflin was central in the formation and support of other cooperative businesses in the Midwest, loaning money, inspiring discussion and forging new paths. It struggled with debt, changing neighborhood demographics and runaway globalization of the food system. Now, after 38 years, it has closed it's doors, leaving a small but obvious hole in the local food scene in Madison.