Friday, October 10, 2014

What is a Food Community?

Imagine you love organic food. Imagine you own a local organic store, where you can find all the products you love. You know where the food came from, who produced it, how it was produced, etcetera.

Imagine the store is so big, that there are perhaps 4,000 products. From goat cheese to butter, from bread to wine, from fresh lettuce to Lovechock. You know you can't eat it all. Also, other people might know about products you would love if you knew about them.

Now imagine there are 500+ of you. Together you co-own this local organic store. There is no need to go to the bank, paying high interest rates to finance the products on stock. There is no need to make a profit, because the profit would go directly back to the 500+ of you, the co-owners.

One step further, and also the producers are involved. And the staff in the store are involved. All of you are joined in a cooperative, co-owning the local organic store.

Imagine for one moment, that the 500+ of you are having a dialogue: producers, consumers, and staff. All of you have equal say, because you are members of a food community. There are shared values, the store is becoming more of a marketplace, with the staff as market supervisors. How cool is that?

The findings of our first two pilots, Lazuur in the city of Wageningen, and Rio de Bio in the city of Utrecht, both in the Netherlands, are quite extraordinary. People introduce themselves to the staff, saying "I am a member of this food community". They know that staff is also a member. They also go meet and greet other people in the store: "Are you also a member?"

People can join in for a minimum of 100 Euros. Many go for more. Instead of interest in money, they are entitled to a coupon with which they can buy food in their own shop. Values of these coupons may differ from store to store, anywhere from 6 to 7.5 percent of the total amount invested.

Many members feel that they steal from their own money if they would go shopping elsewhere. They also convince family and friends to join in.

Another example of a food community is LocoTuinen in the most southern city of the Netherlands, Maastricht. Here, 140+ people formed a cooperative. Their goal: to contract a horticulturist who will grow their favourite products. For the horticulturist this means a (partial) guaranteed income, for the community a guarantee that they know where and how the food is produced. The harvest, good or bad, is what they will get.

There is much more to say about food communities. It is a very effective way of crowdfunding; perhaps 95% of the participants live in the same town. Some members refuse to accept their coupons, they want to support the movement and not profit.

To me, as a student of attention, it is a wonderful feeling to be part of this grass roots movement. The combination of very experienced retailers within the Lazuur foundation, best practices statutes, round table conversations conducted by an experienced facilitator, the many requests throughout the country for more information and guidance in the process of creating one's own local food community, this all is heart-warming.

Perhaps more at some later time.

Best regards,