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Cycling for Co-operatives meets Local Organic Food Co-ops Network -

Throughout the spring and summer of 2013, Andrew Alford will be travelling to meet co-operatives across Canada.  Cycling for Cooperatives (C4C) is a grassroots initiative striving to empower and strengthen current or prospective farm and food-supplier cooperatives through offering an accessible information platform to identify concerns and discover areas of support. Andrew will visit many members of the Local Organic Food Co-ops Network, and we are proud to support his work by sharing his adventures forward through our facebook, twitter, and website. Here, Andrew writes about his experience attending the 4th Annual Assembly of the Local Organic Food Co-ops Network.

The open road in front of me

I had the privilege of attending the Local Organic Food Co-op (LOFC) Assembly at the lovely Ignatius Jesuit Centre last week. The assembly brought together farm and food co-ops throughout Ontario to discuss this thriving food movement. Stemming off of the local food movement, these dedicated local food co-ops are reshaping the production, distribution and sale of food across Ontario. In the name of food security, these co-ops strive to provide food that is accessible (both financially and physically) and managed in a cooperative structure. The cooperative model is being used as a catalyst for a robust local food system, providing a structure that is adding a higher degree of resilience and collaboration.

I soon realized that there was a strong support network within this group of food co-ops.  There were many challenges being discussed at the assembly but many strengths as well. We found time share and celebrate these milestones. In terms of challenges, I saw a huge collaborative effort by the co-op community. When a particular co-op had many challenges to overcome, an impromptu session of co-ops came together, and over the course of an hour, hammered-out an action plan for the co-op! It was international co-op principle #6 in-motion – cooperation among cooperatives. It was an eye-opening experience for me, never have I seen such collaboration amongst businesses take place.

This assembly provided me with a great opportunity to make some connections for my trip. Since the assembly, I have added some extra stops to my trip. With my growing list, I have decided to extend my trip one month longer (i.e. August) to visit co-ops in SW Ontario! There are some great things happening in and in-between Guelph and Windsor.

As I discussed my trip plans with folks over the duration of the assembly, I received words of  recommendation and encouragement – I felt like I have been welcomed into a new family. I look forward to meeting with these new connections in their hometown. Their Community. Their Co-op.

I would like to thank the sponsors of the event for making this amazing and engaging assembly happen:

The Big Carrot

The Carrot Cache

Canadian Co-operative Association

The Co-operators

The Ontario Co-operative Association

Ontario Natural Food Co-op

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Links:

7 International Principles of Co-operation

 

About Cycling for Co-operatives

My name is Andrew Alford and I am a supporter of cooperatives. A few months ago, I was intently reading through Local Harvest’s guidebook to establishing a Multifarm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). After completing the guide a few days later, it got me thinking of running a similar CSA myself. I have participated in talks and meetings about cooperatives and the ability they have to provide goods and services, but I never realized it could be in the form that Local Harvest – and many other cooperatives are doing – have established. I was introduced to running a farm where there could be many farms coming together with a similar goal, that is to: stay (economically) afloat while providing ecologically-grown food to the community.

This model has allowed me to realize the immense capacity of the cooperative business model. This model has the ability to provide an accessible, secure and robust food system in more ways than one. After some discussion with friends – and newly acquired connections – I wanted to dedicate my summer months to strengthening and supporting this model. So, with my yearning for traveling by bike and my newly discovered curiosity for farm and food co-ops, Cycling for Cooperatives (C4C) was born.

C4C is a three-month journey (May, June, and July) striving to support the very farms that compose this growing movement. The trip will visit current – and prospective – cooperatives in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia with the potential to visit a few cooperatives in the Northeastern USA. I’m excited!

Got a cooperative (prospective or already existing one)? Contact Andrew at: cyclingforcooperativescanada@gmail.com

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Cycling for Co-operatives meets Local Organic Food Co-ops Network
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