The Local Organic Food Co-ops Network is pleased and honoured to announce the launch of 3 delightful films about the importance of the co-operative model for food system transformation in Ontario and beyond!  Featuring 13 Network partners, the films detail the role of co-ops in the Ontario food system, the power of the Network to support the work of neighbourhoods and communities through co-operatives, and the transformative possibilities co-operative enterprises engender.  Thank you to our partners at the Ontario Natural Food Co-op and Canadian Co-operative Association for their financial support of the project, as well as each of the participant co-operatives, Sustain Ontario, Powerline Films, and OMAFRA.

Extra, Extra! Read all about it!

Sustain Ontario and Powerline Films launched the second round of Growing Good Food Ideas videos to an enthusiastic full room at Queen’s Park on Wednesday April 24, 2013 . The event featured special remarks by Premier Wynne as well as several video partners, including the LOFC Network's Animator, Hannah Renglich, highlighted by clips from the newly released videos.  We were pleased to see many of our featured co-ops at the event, including friends from True North Community Co-op, the Karma Project, Sexsmith Farm Co-op, and the West End Food Co-op.

Premier Wynne celebrated the energy of Ontario’s local food movement captured in the videos: “There is a groundswell [of organizations supporting local food in Ontario]… Sustain Ontario is tapping into something right now: a real desire to understand more about our food, our food production. That is really the thrust of the Local Food Act… that we do everything we can to support the notion of growing, buying, producing, processing locally and eating good Ontario local food.” Watch the full event in the video below, or visit Flickr to see a photo gallery of the event.

The new videos build on a first round of Growing Good Food Ideas videos from 2011-2012. All 54 videos are available at ontariofoodvideos.ca.

Thanks to Premier Wynne, attending Members of Provincial Parliament and members of the Ontario public service, and all the video partners who took part in this exciting occasion.

 

Food & Farm Co-ops in Ontario: A Natural Model

The premise of co-operation is simple. Individuals come together to democratically govern an organization that serves their needs as members.  Co-operatives weather economic recessions better than traditional forms of business, have a business survival rate twice that of other forms of corporations after 10 years, and employ more than 15,000 people across Ontario.  Within the world of food, co-operatives exist at every stage in the food chain, whether growing, processing, distributing, retailing, or serving food.  Through the principle of "one member, one vote," co-operatives give individuals a chance to build strength collectively, creating something that is more than the sum of its parts. By providing an opportunity for small, local operations to work together and get their products to market, food co-ops put the “culture back in agriculture," help to shorten the distance from farmer to eater, and keep value (money, jobs, investment) within their communities. Membership within a co-op elevates all stakeholders to greater levels of engagement and empowerment, moving the consumer to the role of food citizen, and giving greater voice to farmers, producers, and workers. This video features members and leaders from co-ops across Ontario who are involved in the Local Organic Food Co-ops Network, telling their stories and illustrating the diverse ways in which these member-based organizations are increasing food democracy by engaging communities in the very process that nourishes them.

 

Food & Farm Co-ops in Ontario: A Sustainable Network 

The Local Organic Food Co-ops Network acts as an umbrella organization for food and farm co-ops throughout Ontario. Food co-ops have already shown promise as a model for future food systems by bridging the gap between consumers and local producers and by making it easier for small-scale producers to get their product to market. The advantage is a more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable food system that cuts down on the distance food travels from farm to plate as well as one that provides local jobs and enables eaters to contribute directly to the local economy and community through their purchases and democratic engagement.

In order for co-ops to thrive and grow, they must have access to the knowledge and resources that enable best business practices. The Local Organic Food Co-ops Network has been filling precisely that role, acting as a central hub for communication between small-scale food operations and co-ops for purposes of strategic development and exchange of knowledge. In addition, the LOFC Network supports the emergence and growth of new co-operatives (of which there has been a recent explosion, meriting this era the moniker of "3rd wave"), and carries out education and advocacy work on behalf of co-ops across Ontario, allowing these diverse bodies to speak and act with one voice.

 

The Role of Co-ops in Ontario's Changing Food System

With the growing presence of the co-op model in Ontario, there are a plethora of unique co-ops, guided by place- and culture-specific needs, goals, but with shared values, which are ultimately working together to make our food system more democratic. Hannah Renglich, Animator for the Local Organic Food Co-ops Network, describes the variety of initiatives: operating farmers’ markets and student cafes, facilitating online platforms to connect consumers and producers, shipping food directly to remote First Nations communities, collectively running farms, and teaching high school students about sustainable agroecological practices. The co-operative model progressively evaluates itself with a triple bottom line accounting approach, placing an equal focus on concern for community, environmental sustainability, and healthy economics.

 

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Growing Good Food Ideas: Co-operatives Foster Food Democracy in Ontario