Mas Franch is a beautiful environmental education centre (and more!) based just outside Girona. The project is in a moment of change and there are lots of new possibilities. In my very brief visit to them before leaving Catalunya to head down south, I got to hear a bit about the history of Mas Franch, some lessons learnt and hopes for the future, as well as getting to help out with the cleaning out of the fresh water swiming pool (though sadly it was a bit too nippy for a dip!).
A school menu with 95% of the ingredients organic and locally sourced (if not from within 20 km, then from within Catalunya) - is that possible? It seems to be for Ecomenja - a small business based just outside Barcelona working with three schools and two nurseries and supplying 650 meals a day. That may not seem like many meals for a school caterer the size of Manchester Fayre, but 95% is pretty impressive (especially considering they only started last year) - so I thought I'd see what I could learn, and find out their views on scaling up.
Today I woke up in a beautiful strawbale house, with a view over numerous little allotments - created from the rubble by the squatters and the local 'abuelos' (old men or literally grandads) on moving in 10 years ago - and down the wooded valley out across Barcelona - which is about 10 minutes away by foot - how cool is that?! What is even more amazing is that I was taken there by one of the locals who noticed me looking lost and was very friendly and positive about it. I was taken back to the metro this morning by a lovely woman on her way to work.
It was totally amazing to be in Barcelona for the 'manifestacion' on the 15th of October - there were thousands of people there - and I just had to keep moving as more and more people arrived from the different barrios and surrounding villages. I went with Llume and Fermin (who I know from PBI Guatemala - who trained me and Matt, and who I went on to run the trainings with). They are both big trade unionists (Fermin in Telefonica and Llume in teaching) and activists involved in all sorts - anything that is unjust and needs sorting as far as I can see.
Hello! Just quickly before bed to say it was a really interesting congress - with some great speakers. I heard Jeromo from Amayuelas speak about the rural university of Paolo Freire and saw a video about Amayuelas, and am now really excited about visiting them as they look amazing and I think we have loads to learn from them.
So I finally dragged myself away from the lovely Patricia and family (see goodbye monster face photo shoot), and from the co-operative and food movement in Zaragoza, and have arrived in Barcelona. Today has been my first full day here, which started with a little introduction meeting at Educacion Sin Fronteras (ESF).
This week I got to talk to Javier (one of the founders of La Veloz – a totally amazing co-operative) to find out the secret to their long term survival (for Kindling and MVP). La Veloz started 18 years ago as an eco-courier. They are a well respected grass roots co-op, and through the years have developed systems to deal with the issues that co-operatives everywhere face (different working styles, hours, levels of commitment all through a horizontal structure and decision making).
On Wednesday night we popped into a seasonal tasting session to talk to some of the organisers - a group of organic producers, who work together to supply Birosta (the vegetarian bar that Patricia and others set up). The three producers also run a box scheme (Del Campo a Casa – From the Field to House), which they distribute through various drop of points (Birosta is one of them). Two of them pooled their land and the third is in the same area works closely with them.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with Jorge Hernandez, the president of Cerai Zaragoza (Centre of Rural Studies and International Agriculture). Cerai are an amazing organisation, working on a range of themes including raising awareness (both locally and internationally) about agro-ecology and the importance of the loss of food sovereignty, empowering small producers to become self organised and have more control over what they do, technical assistance and training for farmers in organic production methods and lots more.
The idea of Reas is to create an alternative to the mainstream economic system. While sustainable food is not the focus of Reas, there are many food enterprises involved, and equality/fairness is a key aim both for Reas and for us at Kindling (and Feedingmanchester and Manchester Veg People). Patricia has talked to me in the past about Reas, and after looking at their website I felt inspired by the idea of such a grass roots network, as well as by the idea of a revolution of the trading system as a whole (not just the food system), and felt we could learn a lot from it.