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Pacific NorthWest food co-ops - investing in farming

Community Co-op Farm Fund

Seattle was the first stop on my trip, and provided the perfect introduction to the world of US food co-ops and what they’re achieving in their communities and for their local food systems. This post is focussed on the work that is being done by a couple of those co-ops to make significant and proactive investments in sustainable farming in their region, something that my co-op Unicorn can certainly relate to.

Debs' North American "food co-operatives and more" research trip

Debs at Unicorn

I’ve been working in the world of sustainable food for over ten years, as a worker-member of Unicorn Grocery (Manchester’s wholefood grocery co-operative), as a volunteer, director and comms worker at Kindling, and as a founder member of Abundance Manchester as well as various other community food initiatives and campaigns.

Last Words of Wisdom

Putting the world right with beer

I'm now back in the UK and so this is going to be my last blog post on my Australian adventure.

Ive met some very wise people on my travels and had many drunken conversations.  We have talked a lot about food and climate change and power structures and ultimately how our democracy is failing the majority of us.

In fact I was in Australia for 29 days and Ive been in a pub 23 of those nights and not a Fosters in sight! To sum up – the three significant snippets of wisdom Im returning with are:

Community Gardens.

Do Not Harvest Sign

I've been visiting numerous community gardens in Melbourne and its surrounding towns and the number, diversity and strength of them has been really refreshing.

Over my many years I've been the guest of gardens in New York, Havana, Copenhagen and it has given me the opportunity to reflect on community gardens in Manchester. Periodically, we ask the question: what is it with our community gardens? -they just don't quite cut the mustard.

Don't get me wrong there are some fantastic spaces, people going heroic things and groups who are showing it can be done well.

SE Food Hub.

SE Food Hub Public Meeting

The reason I was invited to Australia was to work with VEIL was to further explore new trading models to confront the inherently unsustainable system we have for farming our land and feeding ourselves. It is a system that has concentrated power in the middle, in-between farmers and customers. The two have been driven apart with huge profits made by supermarkets, processors and wholesalers whilst small-scale farmers are paid less and less and consumers see rising food prices.

Hope!

One of the very first sessions at the Agri-Food Conference someone* was giving a presentation and said that they had been comparing the size of the 'alternative' food sector with the global food industry that dominates our discussions and is providing a bad deal to both farmers and consumers.

I was sat next to a colleague and we both looked at each other. Neither of us wanted to see the next slide. We knew what was coming a huge black circle representing the global food industry and an infinitesimal small, almost un-see-able green dot of our puny efforts.

Water Water Everywhere.

Water water every where and not a drop to drink.
 
This old saying sums up a stunning reality I was introduced to the other day in Dookie. All these rural communities are surrounded by an abundance of fresh local food - both in a diversity and quantity that a Brit can't get his head around. 
 

Changing Landscape.

 
 
Trentham was the sixth town around Melbourne I have visited over the last ten day and it is typical of all the communities who are also grappling with their future.
 
Pressures and opportunities of being so close to such a booming city and a farming industry in decline.  Being further out than places like Casey it is not under pressure from urban sprawl directly, but with Ozzies happy to drive several hundred Kilometres for a night out, many Melbournians are moving out to these picturesque communities.
 

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