Why become a member of Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative?
People everywhere are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from and how it is produced. They are willing to pay extra when the food they eat supports local farmers and when farmers grow the food in a way that does not degrade the soil and water that support life. We anticipate a continuing increase in the demand for food produced close to where it will be consumed, and grown in accordance with organic principles, with respect for biodiversity, for the people it sustains, and for the land it grows on. This is why we formed Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative.
We can all see the danger signs in the global food system:
- extreme weather events such as drought and flooding threaten crops around the world;
- short-sighted governments driven by corporate interests subsidize the production of crops destined to become hyper-processed junk foods or fuel for vehicles;
- consolidation of the food industry in fewer fewer hands leads to increased risk of contamination and a loss of biological diversity and local expertise;
- industrial-scale agribusiness operations destroy topsoil and pollute groundwater with toxic runoff;
- prices for staple crops such as wheat, rice, and corn are increasing rapidly with no end in sight.
Here in BC, we are seeing the pressure of real-estate development gradually eroding the agricultural land base; as elsewhere around the world, our pool of farmers is ageing and there are not enough young farmers coming up to take their place; regulations that supposedly protect consumers have the effect of driving farmers out of business. This region was once highly self-reliant in providing its own food. But after World War II, cheap oil made it possible to increase crop yields by using petrochemical-based fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides; to ship food halfway around the world, refrigerated or frozen if need be; and to deliver it to our grocery stores by ship, plane, train, and truck. As a result we have lost many farms, including livestock operations, chicken ranches, dairies, and mixed farms. Backyard gardens are no longer as common as they once were, and people don’t have the food-growing skills they used to have.
At the same time, we are seeing increasing interest in local eating and in growing one’s own food, and demand for locally-grown food already exceeds the capacity of our local farms. We are gaining a reputation as a region with a lot of forward-thinking activity in the area of food security: the 50-Mile Eat-Local Challenge is one high-profile example, and we can also point to the success of our Open Air Market, the number of restaurants that focus on locally-grown produce seafood, and the passionate grassroots reaction to an attempt to remove 847 acres from the Agricultural Land Reserve lands in the City of Powell River. Many people are beginning to grow food in their backyard or in a community garden, and there is a revival of interest in the traditional skills of growing, preserving, and preparing healthy seasonal foods.
We need to regain the skills and infrastructure we have lost, so that we can feed ourselves year-round, create skilled well-paid jobs, and build community around a local food economy.
A robust local food economy is critical to the future of our region. People need to have more control over the production of their food, and this means that more people will be involved in the food economy: growing food, preserving it, and preparing it. Organizing this shift towards a larger local food economy will be an enormous and highly complex task. We need to develop huge numbers of backyard community gardens, small-scale farms near where people live, and other resources that support the food economy, such as greenhouses, composting operations, root cellars, a regional seed bank, a tool-share, etc.
We believe that a cooperative approach is ideal for meeting such critical community needs, since everyone will be able to participate in the local food economy through membership in a cooperative which can provide services such as shared tools and equipment, and can allow us to pool our skills knowledge to do better together what might be difficult as isolated individuals. All of these activities will distribute wealth throughout the community, instead of enriching a few shareholders. And people will have control over the direction of the cooperative through the principle of one member, one vote.
As Richard Heinberg says, “True individual family security will come only with community solidarity and interdependence.”