…and no time to report it.
This has been a pretty intense week, with five events and three presentations, and that’s a big part of why I’ve been so quiet. I’ll have to give a full report next week, because it’s Friday night and I’ve got a bunch of homework. So meanwhile, please accept this humble summary of what I’ve been up to since that small farm conference way back on Monday.
Tuesday: Attended Community Garden Coalition meeting, at which the main topic was setting up crop swaps (i.e. bartering garden surplus on a neighborhood basis). There is already one in town, with a few neighborhoods gearing up for summer. There are also a couple of urban fruit harvest work parties. The first one pulled down 400 pounds of citrus, which was mostly donated to the food closet. Excellent. The meeting was just bubbling with great and inspiring ideas.
Wednesday, I was on a panel at the food co-op about some really great projects where people are taking food production and distribution back into their own hands. My co-presenters were from Soil Born Farm and Fresh Producers, both of which are doing utterly amazing work, particularly in the area of youth education and empowerment, and in making really good fresh fruits and veggies available to neighborhoods that don’t usually have those. I can’t begin to do them justice tonight, so I won’t even try.
Here’s the handout that outlines what I presented, just slapped in here.
Urban Farming, Detroit MI: www.urbanfarming.org
Volunteers work at roughly 60 plots around the city. Neighbors are invited to help when they can and harvest what they need, and surplus is donated to food banks. This model has spread to more than 50 sites in about a dozen states and Jamaica.
Portland Yard Sharing: www.yardsharing.org
This Web site provides a place for people with a desire to garden but nowhere to scratch that itch to connect with people who have land that they aren’t using.
Eastside Egg Co-op, Portland, OR: www.henwaller.com
A group of city folks took egg production into their own hands, partnering with a farm on the urban outskirts to raise chickens. Members take weekly shifts and split up routine tasks that would be a burden as individuals.
Sunroot Gardens, Portland, OR: www.trashfactory.net/sunrootgardens
This is a community supported agriculture program that utilizes 30 urban plots to grow much of its produce, which is then delivered by bicycle. The group encourages barter to pay for their produce as a way of building community involvement.
Clean Greens Farm, Seattle, WA: www.cleangreensfarm.com
Launched by Seattle’s Black Dollar Days Task Force, this is a cooperative farm run by a core of full-time farmers with help from volunteers. Produce is primarily sold through a farm stand outside a church.
Cooperativa Jacal, Bellingham, WA: www.foodjustice.org/wp
An organic farm owned by people who used to work on others’ farms. Their produce is used as ingredients by another cooperative, Las Margaritas, which operates a food stand at the farmers’ market selling tamales and other foods.
Agriculture & Land-Based Training Assoc., Salinas, CA. www.albafarmers.org
This nonprofit has developed its own organic brand, and about a dozen graduates have formed Asociacion Mercado Organica (AMO. Each member leases a section of a farm; they share a tractor and are purchasing a refrigerated truck.
Oklahoma Food Cooperative: www.oklahomafood.coop
This statewide organization connects consumers and producers in an online market that compiles orders, which are delivered by volunteers through a network of distribution hubs. Open source software is available to copycats at www.localfoodcoop.org.
Community Alliance with Family Farmers, California: www.caff.org
This organization works to connect urban and rural people to build a more sustainable food system. Their projects include promoting the use of fresh local produce in school districts with high levels of poverty and a label to identify locally-grown foods in stores.
The Growers’ Collaborative, California: www.growerscollaborative.org/
This online market helps small farmers reach wholesale markets that would ordinarily not work with operations of their size. By aggregating orders in a nonprofit distributor, it makes local produce more affordable and accessible.
Thursday, I led a discussion of how we can come together to create community-based responses to the economic crisis. Afterward we started a working group to keep in touch and actually work on creating something like the models described in the following information ripped from a handout.
A small Wyoming town faced the loss of its department store, and raised $400,000 to convert it into the community-owned Powell Mercantile. In six years it has revitalized the downtown, saved residents money, and returned control over product lines to the community. This success is being copied by many towns as far away as Pennsylvania.
One in six dollars in the US is spent on healthcare, and the medical industry is now the hottest investment around as coverage collapses. During the Great Depression, a doctor organized a cooperative to help provide affordable healthcare. This model has been reproduced in large and small ways, as both insurance and informal cost sharing.
In late 2001, the economy of Argentina collapsed and many people were thrown out of work as foreign-owned businesses shut down by the hundreds. Idle and desperate, former employees re-opened many shuttered workplaces. Most of these are still sharing their profits as worker cooperatives, often with legal ownership of the facility.
Mutual aid networks
During the depths of the Great Depression, crops were rotting in the fields due to monetary disruptions. An unemployed father volunteered to work for a farmer in exchange for food and started a movement. At its peak, the system was feeding millions of people nationwide, and had expanded to provide healthcare and other services.
Many people are having serious financial troubles because they can’t find paid work at a time when we have much work to do as a society. Alternative currencies like those found in Ithaca, N.Y. facilitate barter and provide a form of exchange that is protected from the global financial turmoil. These can take printed or non-printed forms.
Today I went to a neighborhood summit, which was a good chance to get reacquainted with the city and some of its organizations. I ran into a bunch of people who I’ve seen at other events this week, including one whom I’ve run into four times. It felt good to be in that web of connections. Now I have a couple dozen business cards and brochures from the week, which is the dark side of networking. Sometimes there are just too many connections. All the more reason I should stop blogging now.