A few weeks ago I posted about Local Food Economics and the economic power of a local food system.
So, here is what we are DOING in our community to change the system.
The first thing we did is gather a group of interested people and start a Slow Food chapter. Why? Instant non-profit status, national support, and a platform for addressing the myriad food issues in our community.
The second thing we did is tackle the accessibility issue. In our community, local food is only available direct from the farm (if you can find it) or at the farmers market (we have three open from May - October). Local food is not available for 6 months. Hard to promote eating local, and a local food system if you have to starve half the year. Our answer, a co-op. When we looked at our community we found that we had a good pool of farmers market customers who would love access to local food for the whole year. We also had a core group of local producers who had products that were not seasonal, or had greenhouses that were mostly unused in the winter. We brought this group together and formed a producer/consumer co-op. Each co-op member made a small investment in the form of membership. This, combined with a great deal on a space from the local park district (who had a building that had been sitting empty for the past two years) let us start a year-round, indoor market. The co-op members will provide the labor, keeping costs down. It will be a single point check-out so we won't have to have all 20 producers there all the time. That lets us have the market open more hours and lets the producers have time to do what they do best, produce. We expect that for the first 6 months (when the local markets are traditionally closed) we will average about $2500 per week in sales. Tiny, in the grand scope of food sales even in our small community, but that will be a boost to the local producers, allowing them to do more, and it will keep an additional $45000.00 in the community. Game changer? Maybe not instantly, but over time, as things grow??? I say yes.
And the REALLY COOL THING is that we didn't raise any ones taxes, or pass a spending bill, or ask for a grant, or fund this in any way that makes us dependant on or beholden to any outside group or institution. This is local people addressing a local problem with local resources. That's a revolution in the making.