November 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.