Debs divides her time between Kindling and Manchester's Unicorn Grocery, the worker co-operative where she has been a member and director since 2004. There she oversees the organisation’s communications, community engagement & marketing output, as well as working daily on the shop floor. Debs brings to Kindling “a passion and belief in the power of co-operation, particularly when it comes to our food supply”, and has gained an international perspective on the subject, spending three months with food co-ops in North America as part of her Winston Churchill Fellowship.
Debs oversees the communication of Kindling’s work and opportunities to friends, supporters and the outside world. This can incorporate all sorts - “one day I’ll be at my desk updating the website or putting a newsletter together, another I’ll be out at a FarmStart site with a photographer”.
Debs is an experienced co-operator, having been a member and director of Unicorn Grocery workers co-operative in Chorlton since 2004. Unicorn is a worker-owned wholefood grocery which, from small beginnings, has grown to serve a large and diverse local customer base and now has a turnover of over £8 million. There she’s built up a comprehensive understanding of organic retail, business management and co-operative working, and since 2009 has also overseen the organisation’s communications, community engagement & marketing output. She’s also a founder member of fruit harvesting project Abundance Manchester, and come every autumn, can be found climbing the fruit trees of our city to collect surplus produce for those who can use it.
Debs is passionate about the power of co-operation, particularly when it comes to our food supply. Her role supporting the food co-ops of the northwest with Sustain’s Food Co-ops Project taught her a lot about the different ways of harnessing this potential, and more recently she added an international perspective, spending three months learning from thriving food co-ops in North America. This research was carried out with the support of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, and she is now a Churchill Fellow. Her report on enhancing the social and environmental impacts of food co-ops has been shared with organisations all over the UK and can be found here.
Debs works for Kindling because she believes in “a food system that rewards people fairly for their work, creates opportunities for meaningful and fulfilling employment, doesn’t strip resources from the planet at the expense of climate, biodiversity and soil and allows everyone to access good, healthy, tasty food”.
The best bit of the job for Debs is conveying the stories of people who’ve been part of Kindling’s projects, from FarmStarters’ deep satisfaction in seeing their produce end up on a grocery’s shelves or Land Army participants getting out onto a farm for the first time. But the job can have its challenges, namely that because Kindling does so much, there is always too much to tell people about!
When Debs isn’t working for Kindling she enjoys cooking and baking, second only to hiking in the Peak District and Lake District, or wherever else she can get to that has mountains or wilderness.