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Please join me in welcoming Jon Steinman, author of Grocery Story: The Promise of Food Co-ops in the Age of Grocery Giants




Read the book review here!

Jon will be hanging out in the forums until August 23rd, answering questions and sharing his experiences with you all.

At the end of the week, we'll make a drawing for 4 lucky winners to win a copy of his book! From now until Friday, all new posts in the City Repair forum are eligible to win.

To win, you must use a name that follows our naming policy and you must have your email set up to receive the Daily-ish email.

The winners will be notified by Purple Moosage and must respond within 24 hours. Only the winners who respond within that timeframe will receive their book. Watch for a PM, and a notice in this thread announcing the winners!

Please remember that we favour perennial discussion.  The threads you start will last beyond the event.  You don't need to use Jon's name to get his attention. We like these threads to be accessible to everyone, and some people may not post their experiences if the thread is directed to the author alone.
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master steward
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Hello Jon,
Thanks for hanging out with us this week.  I'm really excited about your book as community and food are my two favourite things!
 
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Thanks Nicole and Welcome Jon.
We lived in the UK for a while and shopped at and banked with the Co-op. There are a couple of very large department stores there that are similarly organised. Where I grew up in Melbourne Australia we had a local co-op that was a Cafe, art gallery, meeting place, community organising space. Shares were $1 to join.
Here in the deep south I believe Waffle House is organized as an employee owned cooperative. Our bank is a community credit union.
I've also noticed quite a few CSAs and other food buying /growing groups around our very urban (Atlanta GA) area.
Our small neighborhood has an informal sharing cooperative too. Some of us grow food, others eggs, bake bread, make soap. Another couple has organised a weekend farmers market to start in October.
Probably not much of a challenge to the big supermarkets but there's a lot of little things going on.
 
garden master
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Hi Jon, welcome and glad to have you aboard!
 
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Steven Lindsay wrote: there's a lot of little things going on.

Steven, I see you're in Atlanta? There's one consumer food co-op there - Sevananda Natural Foods. For others interested in finding out where the nearest food co-op is to you, there's a directory available of food co-ops across the U.S. and Canada. There's also a directory of startup food co-ops (groups without a storefront but working towards it) - https://grocerystory.coop/food-co-op-directory
 
Steven Lindsay
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Thanks Jon, appreciated. I'll look them up.
 
pollinator
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Hi Jon!
I've been wanting to set up a CSA vending machine. Any thoughts on that?
(Here in Texas it may not reach the "sustained" level).
I figure the produce could have a digital expiration date.
Thanks for your work!
 
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This sounds like a fascinating topic.

I hope you sell lots of books.
 
pollinator
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Welcome Jon! It looks like a fascinating book. Can't wait to read it.
 
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Interesting! I’m in Canada on the West Coast and the closest co-op to me is a gas-station- I haven’t really looked into where the closest co-op grocery store is. It definitely has me thinking.
 
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Welcome Jon!

As Nicole Victoria mentioned, in BC there are a number of "Co-Ops" and some of them even have a grocery component. These were initially started to "serve" farmers products, not to provide local farmers with an outlet for their own produce, from what I've been able to determine. Gas/propane/diesel is their big component, the groceries are pretty much "typical North American diet" stuff, although they do support the local 4H by buying their animals and selling the meat and occasionally have in-season fresh local produce.

An issue recently on Vancouver Isl. is the lack of infrastructure for washing, sorting, and packaging locally grown produce. Land is extremely expensive here, making it difficult to market garden successfully without bypassing middlemen whose markup could easily be higher than the profit the farmer would make. We do have a number of CSA projects, many that have been around for over 2 decades, so clearly this is a stable solution to some problems. That said, we're in a major earthquake zone, and the Island is way below the sustainable level for producing/storing its own food, so there are people trying to get people to wake up and make more of an effort to feed ourselves and protect what farmland we still have. Much of it is being turned into horse farms - nice enough pets and better than suburban sprawl, but it would be better if the resultant fertility was used on at least part of that land to grow veg. The farms increase the demand for hay, making it more expensive to support local food animals. That said, we grow wild rabbits and deer *really* well - the harvesting is the issue there!

Oh dear - I think I slipped into rant mode. I'd better go and play with my ducks - I've got Muscovy ducks which love to reproduce, provide great meat that is mostly transformed grass (we bribe them with a snack of chicken feed to get them into secure night time housing), but there's no local processing within 100 km and it's illegal to sell, trade or give away meat that hasn't been processed in a government approved inspected facility. Sigh...
 
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Interesting post. I've been thinking about starting a food co-op in my hometown recently, but don't know where to start. Should be an interesting read.
 
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Welcome John! Hoping your book reaches far & more people either shop at or participate in growing /providing to the co-ops
 
master pollinator
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Welcome Jon!

It looks like a great book. Can't wait to read it.

 
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Hi Jon, thanks for joining permies.com for a little while.
I read the review and your book looks great - thank you for this important work. I am active in promoting food security where I live in Northwest British Columbia Canada and have organized a conference on this topic for three years running. Every year we invite grocery store managers as guest speakers and they always come. This year, Overwaitea Foods had three opportunities to participate 1. Announcement of Zero Waste goal for all food waste by working through a non-profit to divert food waste to local farms as animal feed 2. Panelist to discuss the impacts of industrial resource development on our local food system and 3. World Cafe where they explained how to sell local food in their stores and added a new goal to a WishList we created at the event for all participants to express their solutions - Overwaitea store in Terrace, BC set a goal of increasing local food products from the current number of 3 suppliers to 15 in the next 3 years.
I am working on how small-scale organic producers can meet the regulations to sell their products in the store and a big barrier is access to government approved processing facilities and kitchens. We are hoping to get a grant to write a business plan for a mobile food processing centre (hopefully an electric bus or truck) that can go right to the farm. My question for you - would you like to be a speaker at our event in 2020? and also, what do you think about my approach? A cooperative processing facility with mobile equipment that can be lent out at affordable rates? There is another team working on a stationary facility as well.

Thank you and I look forward to reading your book - would love to win a copy!
cheers, Laurie
small scale farmer and food security activist
www.nwfoodsecure.org
 
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Hi, Jon! Welcome to permies! 😁😁
 
Jon Steinman
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Davin Hoyt wrote:Hi Jon!
I've been wanting to set up a CSA vending machine. Any thoughts on that?
=



Hi Davin,
Interesting idea. I think I'd need a little more info as to what would define a CSA vending machine (or did you mean a 'co-op' vending machine)? Intrigued.
Jon
 
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Nicole Victoria wrote:Interesting! I’m in Canada on the West Coast and the closest co-op to me is a gas-station- I haven’t really looked into where the closest co-op grocery store is. It definitely has me thinking.



Hi Nicole, A food co-op directory was set up on the book's web site to help folks find the nearest one and to find those that are in development. https://grocerystory.coop/food-co-op-directory

One thing to note about the directory though is it doesn't include all of the food co-ops in Canada - notably the co-ops that are members of Federated Co-op and some of the former affiliates of Co-op Atlantic. It's a bit of a complicated story behind that reasoning but I generally focused the book (and directory) on co-ops that have maintained a strong level of autonomy in how they're managed and a commitment to charting a more sustainable and responsible food future. Among those that fit that definition, there really aren't that many in Canada and my hope is that the book will inspire and support a new wave to emerge.
 
Jon Steinman
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Laurie Gallant wrote:My question for you - would you like to be a speaker at our event in 2020? and also, what do you think about my approach? A cooperative processing facility with mobile equipment that can be lent out at affordable rates?



Thanks for your questions Laurie. Indeed, I'd be more than happy to attend your conference. Email me at info@grocerystory.coop

On your other questions. Absolutely. Mobile processing sounds like a wonderful initiative. I don't know the circumstances around food production in that part of the province so I don't know how helpful I could be in offering feedback. That said, increasing processing capacity is no doubt one of the most impactful ways that I've witnessed to aid in localizing food system and keep locally grown/raised food from being exported out of the region while at the same time attracting new entrants to primary food production as a result of that processing capacity. One initiative here in the southeast of the province that from what I've heard has been successful is a mobile juice press - http://www.kootenaymobilepress.ca/  I've also been inspired by these initiatives in Wisconsin and Vermont:

https://hardwickagriculture.org/farmers-food-businesses/shared-use-commercial-kitchen
https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/foodbin/the-food-bin-network/food-and-farm-initiative/
 
Laurie Gallant
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Jon Steinman wrote:

Laurie Gallant wrote:My question for you - would you like to be a speaker at our event in 2020? and also, what do you think about my approach? A cooperative processing facility with mobile equipment that can be lent out at affordable rates?



Thanks for your questions Laurie. Indeed, I'd be more than happy to attend your conference. Email me at info@grocerystory.coop

On your other questions. Absolutely. Mobile processing sounds like a wonderful initiative. I don't know the circumstances around food production in that part of the province so I don't know how helpful I could be in offering feedback. That said, increasing processing capacity is no doubt one of the most impactful ways that I've witnessed to aid in localizing food system and keep locally grown/raised food from being exported out of the region while at the same time attracting new entrants to primary food production as a result of that processing capacity. One initiative here in the southeast of the province that from what I've heard has been successful is a mobile juice press - http://www.kootenaymobilepress.ca/  I've also been inspired by these initiatives in Wisconsin and Vermont:

https://hardwickagriculture.org/farmers-food-businesses/shared-use-commercial-kitchen
https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/foodbin/the-food-bin-network/food-and-farm-initiative/



Thanks Jon, terrific t have these examples to look at. I will send you an email shortly. Cheers, Laurie
 
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I look forward to reading the book.

Im personally inspired by Mark Shepherd's Restoration Agriculture.  I think his success is in equal parts due to his management practices which he covers in depth on his book and the fact that he is part of a food collective.  

How the coop is run is not explained in the book. Hope to learn more with your book in hand.

Local to me is a conventional farmers coop. They seem to be going from strength to strength. They own the towns feedmill, grocery store, hardware store and gas station.  If they can do it why not a permie/organic one?
 
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Today our Pick-a-Winner app went shopping, and it came back with four winners!

Congratulations!

Erica Colmenares
Darren Halloran
Dave de Basque
R Ranson


I'll be sending each of you a Purple Moosage--please reply by Sunday to claim your copy of Grocery Story!

And, for those bummed that they didn't win--don't fret! You can support Jon by buying and enjoying his book, HERE!
 
pollinator
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Hey, that's great - thanks, Jon!
 
r ranson
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Jay Angler
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Congrats to all the winners and thanks to Jon for writing it!
I'm going to be patient and wait on the "reserves" list of our regional library. I believe it's a positive sign that VIRL owns 3 copies of the book and that I'm tenth in line! With that many people interested in it, hopefully progress on local food security will be made.
 
Davin Hoyt
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Jon Steinman wrote:did you mean a 'co-op' vending machine?



Yes - Co-op is more in line with my thinking.

It could be a refrigerated vending machine placed at a philanthropic organization's side doors under an awning. It has a lit interior for items that are available.
When a farmer/gardener deposits produce into an "item slot", they take a picture, apply a descriptive name, apply an assumed expiration date, and apply a dollar cost.

Consumers may browse the produce items like they do ebay, and pay via paypal digitally. Whether the consumer picks up the produce or not, the vending machine de-lists the item. The item is no-longer lit. When the consumer arrives to collect produce, a simple scanning of a smart phone tells the machine which item to release.

When a farmer/gardener arrives on scene, the machine releases expired items, if any.
 
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