2011

I’ve been thinking about OWS a lot lately.  I’m excited that people are finally standing up and saying “the system is broken!” and demanding something change.  The changes seem to be coming pretty fast and hard right now.  All over the country the 1% and those who work for them or aspire to be them have said, “ENOUGH!” and shut down the protests.  It seems that the message must be working somewhat.  But, it also points out a weakness with OWS.  Philosophy and righteous indignation can only get you so far.  What has happened is OWS has become an annoyance.  It has caused Big Money to flex its muscle a bit, but it hasn’t caused change. Annoyance may change the public stance of some people or institutions, but not the base behaviors.  The truth is, THEY have no reason to change.  We can shout all we want about how unfair the system is, but at the end of the day we support it when we turn on the light, or the TV or the generator we bought to power our protest camp. When we eat food from the grocery store we support the Big Money system.  They get their money and their power from the fact that we have ceded our responsibility for meeting our basic needs to the system.  The system doesn’t have to change because without it, as things are right now, most of us would die of hunger, or cold, or sickness.  If OWS wants to change the system, they need a new home.  That home has to be in the weak points of the system, and it has to be directed at creating a new way for people to meet their basic needs outside the Big Money system.  What needs to happen is we, the 99% need to band together and start getting our food, and out power, and our clothes, and everything from sources outside the current structure.  Then the system will change, or it will die of starvation.

So, all you OWS activists and want-n-be activists, keep drumming, keep protesting, but start acting by meeting your needs from outside the system, or doing without.  Tell us what you are doing and how we can support that.  Like I’ve said in other posts, Occupy the Food System, or some other part of machine that supports Big Money.  Then we will win.

I’ve posted about the food economy a few times and told a little about our local food co-op.  As I gear up to push Occupy into the food system, I thought it would be wise to update our progress with the co-op.  The co-op idea came out of a need to have better access to local food for consumers, and better access to local markets for producers.  Our little town has 4 grocery stores, Buehlers (a regional chain), Aldis, an IGA, and a Super Walmart.  None of these stores sell locally produced food.  Buehlers makes some effort to buy a bit of fresh produce from a regional produce auction, but that’s it.  We also have 3 good farmers markets that run from May through October.  They have been growing every year.  The problem for us is two-fold. First, access to local food.  The market times don’t work for many people in our community, and they are closed for 6 months.  That’s a long time to do without.  Second, producers can’t afford to grow because they can’t access the market for half the year.  No local producer had enough product to capture a contract with one of the local groceries.  None had enough product to open a year round retail space.  Without more income and market access, the producers couldn’t grow.  Without more production, they couldn’t break into the local grocery market.  Catch 22.  So a group of us banded together and started a producer/consumer co-op.  We each chipped in some money ($100 for producers and $50 for consumers) to fund the start-up.  The co-op takes a % of the sales to keep the lights on and pay the rent (we hope).  Members work a few hours a month to provide the sales labor and meet other needs.  So far it is working.  

Some things we learned.  

1.  Start before August.  Winter production takes some advanced planning, and August is pretty late to start that.

2.  Don’t wait.  You don’t need a grant, or lots of money (Some money is helpful!!!).  This is an idea you can talk about forever, plan for, and never get off the ground because there are too many unanswerables.  Just Do It.

3.  Tell the story.  Get community members to buy into the idea.  They need to be part of it.  This isn’t a traditional business.  People need to change how they think, what they do, and where they spend their money.  If they become members, buy into the idea, they will change.  That is worth more than any number of grants.

4.  You need a leader, or leaders, but you have to let all the members participate.  This only works as a co-op.  That means everyone has ownership and what they have to offer, including their ideas, is valuable.

So, GO FOR IT!!!  The food system is the easies to take back.  See what you can do in your community.  

I’ll be happy to answer questions and share what we are doing and resources I know of. 

So, it’s been a  LONG TIME since I wrote.  Not that I didn’t have anything to talk about, its just that ideas, time, and a functional brain didn’t really come together at the same time…. (BE GLAD YOU ARE NOT ME…)
So, here I am blogging again.  BUT, rather than catching you up on all the cool things happening around the Roost, or with LOCAL FOODS, I’m going to rant (isn’t that really why we blog?????)

I went to the farmers market today.  The LOCAL market, 2 minutes from my house where I have been selling stuff to my neighbors for the past three months.  The INSPECTOR ( cue Inspector Gadget Music…) showed up as I was setting up my table.  He wanted to look at my labels.  Not my products, just the labels.  My labels tell who I am, where I am located, and how to contact me.  My signs tell buyers that the products are home made and what they are and what is in them.  

I didn’t pass inspection, and I was asked to leave.  (he said I could stay and sell my 5 bags of greens, but not my bread, but IF he had seen that the bags were closed, he would have fined me for not having processed them in a licenced facility. Been down that road before… I went home.  It is 96 degrees F and 100% humidity… greens will not hold for 4 hours in an open container.)

So,  I’ve come home.  I’ll fix my labels, and be back next week.  

On my way home I stopped at the local store for some wine (seemed like a good idea…)  They sell bread, but no one there could tell me what was in it, who made it, when it was made, where it was made, or anything about it other than “read the label, and it costs $1.95 a loaf.”  I don’t know how that is safer than my neighbors buying bread from me, knowing where I live, how to get in touch with me, what I put in the bread, when it was made, etc.  

I don’t blame the drone at the bottom who showed up to inspect.  He was just doing his job and trying to survive in the hive.  I am frustrated that we keep throwing money into such a STUPID system.

I’ve formed a group to work on local food issues.  We are doing LOTS.  It is a slow process, but we are moving.  I’m spitting nails, throwing stuff, mad that Big Brother is treading on our progress.

We are still here...

This is a test signal post…   We are still here, doing what we do.  But, we have much less time to write.  So, if I get up a half an hour earler I could write a post…  Would anyone care?  

End of January - A pictorial retrospective (makes me look artsy don't you think...)

 FRESH – THE MOVIE  We had more than 100 in attendance from our small community.  It was inspiring.  If you haven’t seen it check out the options at http://www.freshthemovie.com/.  We will be following up on this…

The Klondike – A scouting adventure at -11 degrees F.  Fun, challenging, You Should Try It!

Dog training – are we training them or are they training us?

Girl Scout Bridging.  JJ moves on to Cadet.She has great plans for the next few years.

Chickens waiting for spring.

Garden waiting for spring. (oats planted as a cover.)

A Thyme for Snow?

Winning the Mouse Wars

Tornados, tomatos, and fear, oh my!

old green house

didn’t stand up to the wind

deflated… filled with water… almost collapsed…

tomatoes waiting for warm.  They weathered the wind pretty well.

Asparagus

First asparagus harvest.  Guess what we are having for dinner?

We wimped out a bit the last two Fridays of the month.  We didn’t have to do much searching for our local food.  Week three we had steak from our cow, mushrooms we grew, and squash soup we bottled earlier in the fall.  Week four we had spaghetti and meatballs from sauce we bottled this past summer, meatballs we made from our beef, and bread we made from local flour.  We were lacking on the salad for the last meal, but our greenhouse plants aren’t ready to harvest and we didn’t have two hours to drive to Wooster and back.

For the most part we were successful with our Eat Local Project for January.  One meal a week 100% local made us stretch a bit, and spurred us to find sources for some staples we don’t produce ourselves.  What we found was pleasantly surprising.

What we learned

  • many staples like flour, grains, potatoes, cheese, meat, eggs are available from local producers year round. 
  • Oils are much more difficult to find.
  • You can’t do this alone.  You need a local network to help you find producers, and to support them so they can keep producing.
  • There are a lot more people in our community interested in local food than we thought.
  • Preparing for the long dark season starts in the early spring.  If you don’t plant it, it won’t be there in the winter when you need it. 
  • We need to can more, have better storage options, and buy things when they are in season.
  • Cooking local food (which means mostly cooking from scratch) takes more planning and more time.  Learning new processes and habits is hard.

For February we will continue Local Food Fridays.  We hope to build a more comprehensive network of producers and get it posted on the blog for others to use.  We will be having at least one local food event.  And we are going to take on snacks.  We are snackers.  We eat 6 or 8 times a day (little bits, not huge meals…)  Finding local, healthy alternatives to crackers and chips is the challenge for Feb.  HELP WOULD BE APPRECIATED.

It has been surprising to me how much local food is available, even at this time of year when food should be at it’s most difficult to find.  That, all by it’s self gives me hope.  BUT, it is not easy to find.  These micro-producers don’t advertise.  Word of mouth is the only way to find them.  That’s OK for me.  I’m finding what we need, and the information pool is growing.  

This morning I flipped on the news while the coffee was brewing (no, it’s not local… it is fair trade, and I’m looking for a better local source, but I’ll not give up my coffee).  The big news of the morning was Steve Jobs leaving Apple again.  Everyone thinks the company will tank again until he comes back.  My first thought was, “What a fragile company!”  Then, as my brain tends to do, my thoughts wandered into the fragility of the food system I was creating.  You see, the difference between a small (micro) farmer/food producer and a company like Apple is that even though Apple has been dependant on the inspiration and leadership of Mr. Jobs, the company will continue to exist, function, and possibly even thrive without him, while a small/micro food producer/farm usually will not survive the loss of the farmer/producer.  Often they wont even survive a year of bad weather, credit problems, sickness, etc.  Local food systems built on small producers need redundancy.  To keep all those redundant producers going requires more customers.  And then I stopped thinking…

Later in the morning (around 6:00 am) I turned on the computer to check out my virtual world.  One of the posts that popped up was about the “Transformative Power of Social Media Marketing in the Foodshed“.  Eleanor made me think about my role as a producer, a consumer, and an activist in the local food movement.  It’s the activist part that I shy away from.  Activist implies (in my mind at least) confronting institutions or regulations.  I have a more Akido like approach to life, bending, swaying, going around.  So, I may rant about regulations or corporations, but I rarely confront them head on.  I feel kind of guilty about that.  But, maybe this is the solution.  If I actively work on building and promoting a local food system, then I’m being and activist, and being nonconfrontational at the same time.  It is good for me and mine.  It is good for the community.  It doesn’t attract too much attention from the regulators, and it makes a difference here.  

So, besides blogging (which is a very personal thing) I want to build a local producer e-network (like Local Harvest except MUCH smaller.)  ANYONE HAVE ANY IDEA HOW AN E- LUDDITE LIKE ME GOES ABOUT THAT KIND OF PROJECT?

I’m also going to get more involved in local food efforts in my community.  To start, I’ll be attending a screening of FRESH tonight with a group of local producers, chefs, and concerned citizens.  More on that tomorrow.

How are you being active in building a local food system?

Local Food Friday - Week 2

Friday we had fun with some of the food we found at the Local Roots Market last week.  We decided to make pasta from the spelt flour.  The flour was produced by Stutzman Farms and Grain Mill.

We added our eggs

gave it a whirl

kneaded it a bit

let it rest and then rolled it

We had fun making shapes.

We roasted some vegies from our Local Roots trip last week, as well as some of our garlic and herbs.

Cracked open a bottle of sparkling hard cider we made a couple of months ago

and had a great dinner.

We had pasta sauce and meatballs we had made in advance.  The only things that weren’t local for this meal were the oil for the pasta and roasted vegies, and the salt.  The kids liked the pasta even though spelt flour gave it a different taste.  They didn’t like the blue potatoes.  We also did a road trip to a local cheese plant.  More on that later.

What local food did you eat this past week?