LOFC Steering Commitee Celebrates and Marks Milestones in the Local Organic Food Co-operative Networks History.
At a recent LOFC Board meeting, an exercise that identified and remarked on the various events and critical decisions in the Network’s history since first conversations in December, 2008, set the tone for a number of strategic conversations. Beginning with the initial intent in 2008 to bring established and emerging food co-operatives together to share information and encourage co-operation between these co-ops, the group shared their various insights based on their own involvement with the network.
Among the highlighted events was the first (invitation only) assembly held in February 2009. The goals of the meeting included to:
- Foster and maintain connections between co-operatives working in the areas of local and organic food
- Develop a strategy to enable the networking and support of these co-ops
- Share learning and benefits of the co-op model to other communities
- Provide education and knowledge in co-op governance and principles.
By the 2nd Assembly in April 2010, the informal network had rallied financial and in-kind support of over $150,000 to support the next 2 years of LOFC operations. In Year 1, the funding supported the Assembly attendance for the respective co-ops, baseline research and a marketing and business plan. In Year 2, the funding targeted outreach and support for new local food co-ops. 2011, saw the hiring of Hannah Renglich, first as an ON Co-op intern and then as Network Animator supported by the Ontario Natural Food Co-operative (ONFC). LOFC continues to be a project of the ONFC. Various site visits and a November (3rd) Assembly rounded out the year.
In 2012, the LOFC profile increased with the launch of the website( http://cultivatingfoodcoops.net/ ) and the coordination of a co-operatives stream at the Guelph Organic Conference. Continued site visits and the participation in the Good Food Ideas Project video (https://vimeo.com/60389819) expanded the Network and the first survey of Network members was completed in December 2012.
The 4th Assembly in February 2013 focused on “Communication for Effective Co-operation Training”. The networking during the Assembly revealed a struggling Co-op and a group of both established and emerging Co-ops rallied around to help mitigate and manage the challenge towards a positive solution. This cooperative Co-op rescue still resonated with most LOFC Board members and represented to them the true value and strength of both the Co-operative movement and the evolution of LOFC to a mature level. A 5th Assembly in February 2014 focused on Burnout Prevention Training with Anna Weinstein.
2013 and 2014 were characterized by continued outreach both by Network Animator: Hannah Renglich and various summer students and interns. A successful application to OMAFRA’s Local Food Fund for the “Regional Food Hub Expansion Project” allowed Consultant: Sally Miller to join the network as Project Coordinator. Over the course of the next 18 months the project would facilitate the hosting of various regional food hub forums, business planning for 4 established or emerging food hubs and various training opportunities and workshops.
The 6th Assembly in February, 2015, highlighted a new partnership with the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO), sharing a portion of the space and time to allow both EFAO and LOFC members to participate in various learning activities. At the assembly, LOFC began a Strategic Planning Process to develop a plan for LOFC sustainability, effectiveness and growth.
The review and discussion of the various chapters in the existence of LOFC set the tone for the day. Much was celebrated and the assessment of the various successes and challenges reinforced the importance of the Network, to its members, the co-operative sector and in “Building a Just, Agro-ecological, Place-Based, and Co-operative Food System” as stated in the LOFC mission. A reflection on the past always grounds the process when we begin to envision the future. Stay tuned to learning more about the LOFC Strategic plan
LOFC Timeline – Chapters
|December 2008- March 2011||March 2011-early 2013||2013-2014||2015||2016 and beyond|
|Various actors in the Co-operative sector discuss and facilitate the networking of organic and local food co-ops||An animator begins to build relationships with and between members of informal network||Series of Assemblies directed at specific learning.*Co-op rescue missionFood Hub Project||Strategic Plan Development*Joint projects with EAFODevelopment of other funded projects||Vision for LOFC future: Committed MembershipsNew relationship with key supporter ONFC|