We’ve been busy! At the end of April we connected with Peter Cameron of The Ontario Co-operative Association. It was good to talk with someone articulating the importance of a co-operative model that brings democracy into business, and Peter was also able to highlight an idea we’d been wrestling with: how important it is to see a positive ‘upward spiral’ in the Canadian grocery system in which consumers pay a fair price for food, which allows farmers to receive a fair price and grocery workers a fair wage, which continues the upward spiral creating a healthy food economy. While it looks like the technical assistance funding that was once available for Ontario co-ops has been cut, we’re confident that through connections with experts like Peter we can continue to move The Mustard Seed from idea to reality!
We also learned a lot from John Richmond, Director at the West End Food Co-op in Toronto, who we spoke about some of the practical aspects of starting a food cooperative. Starting a new business is a daunting process, and starting a new community grocery in an era of supermarket dominance is perhaps even more so. John had lots of wisdom to share with us on subjects as varied as membership structures, board governance, capitalization, and educating people about cooperatives. In a thriving local food system, there would be more places like the Westend Food Co-op. We wish them success as they develop a food hub in Toronto’s Parkdale neighborhood!
And then last week we connected with Our Community Food Store in St. Catharines, a great group that is a little ahead of us in getting a co-op established in their downtown. Our new St. Catharines friends share a really similar vision to us – as they say on their website “We feel it is essential that there be a place to shop within our community that is accessible, affordable, and sustainable. It is our vision to both nourish our bodies and build community spirit in our downtown neighbourhoods.” We were able to bounce ideas off each other, and learned a lot from them about using social media and developing a good consumer survey – wait for it, it’s coming soon!!