Building a Cooperative Food Economy Part I

A new semester is upon us, and the Co-operative Food Economies course has begun! My colleague and fellow TESA worker-owner Brian and I are teaching this course as part of Greenfield Community College’s new Farm and Food Systems Liberal Arts option, and their recently developed Reskilling series. The class still has a handful of seats open for enrollment, for either GCC students or community members. If you are interested in enrolling, you can follow this link—all are welcome, and no co-op or food system experience is required.

We have had one class thus far, and it was a great success. In our first class we completed some interactive activities that explored what co-ops are, and how they can uniquely address some of the issues the economy, and our food systems, face today.

We began to investigate what some of the challenges are for local foods systems and our communities in general. These exercises were designed to get the group thinking about the mission of the new co-ops they’re designing and the landscape they will be entering.

One of the main course goals for students is to design and create a cooperative that will fit into and strengthen the Pioneer Valley’s existing food cooperative network. The students will be asked to embody the principles of their co-op as well. That is, students will be working closely in their co-op groups over the course of semester, using cooperative principles such as consensus-decision making and cooperation amongst cooperatives, to create both sustainable co-ops and a sustainable and healthy classroom.

Over the course of the semester, students will explore what makes a successful co-op, as well as the unique needs and requirements for starting a successful food-focused business. We’ll also cover how co-ops practice democratic ownership and control over their business, what has been successful in creating a cooperative food system in the Pioneer Valley, and what gaps exist—just to name a few topics!

Our goal in this course is to provide an engaging opportunity for students to put their knowledge into action and create viable ecological and economic solutions for existing issues facing the Pioneer Valley.

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