What a Party! Members Flock to Co-op Launch

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Wow.

The Mustard Seed Co-op launched our membership drive last week at Hamilton’s Central Library. A diverse crowd of over 300 eager Hamilton-area residents gathered, united by their common passion for local food. After one week, 175 households have joined the Co-op by buying a $100 membership. An additional $25,000 has been loaned to the Co-op so far by members. The time is right, Hamilton is definitely ready for The Mustard Seed.

The spirit of cooperation was evident throughout the evening, with dozens of volunteers from various Action Teams working together to make every aspect of the event connect.  There was plenty of local cheese, hundreds of cupcakes, and hip “Beet the System” t-shirts for sale.  New members took home striking “Founding Member” cards and tiny mustard seedlings!

Join + Share

Our ambitious goal is to have 400 members by the end of 2012 so join today!  You can win a beautiful local food gift basket: simply refer the most members by December 31st and you will win this excellent selection valued at $100.

Looking for a unique and meaningful Christmas present that will create lasting change? Give a  Co-op membership to someone you love (please  indicate that it is a gift on the membership form and we will send a special message to the recipient).

Are you a blogger? Highlight The Mustard Seed in your blog, let us know, and each month we will draw from recent bloggers for a free t-shirt.

Do you like hosting parties? Host a membership info night; we will come to share about the Co-op with your friends and sign up new members. There are so many ways to get the word out, so be creative!

Invest in Your Co-op

The overwhelming response to The Mustard Seed crystallizes our commitment to making local, organic, and wholesome food readily available. However, in order to move forward we need approximately $450,000 in capitalization funds. The Co-op offers competitive returns on loans of $1,000 or more. Investing in the Co-op allows you to align your values with your finances, strengthening our local economy and our local food system while building a business committed to community development.

Together, we can change our food system, improve our health, and establish a viable non-profit business benefiting our local economy.  Tell everyone you can. Share your passion for local food, and we’ll realize this dream even sooner than we thought possible. And once again, thank you to everyone for making the Launch Party such an amazing experience!

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Local food & the value of flavour: talking with a chef

We had the fantastic opportunity to hear Jeff Crump speak about the culinary pleasures of local food at the Hill Street Community Garden on Wednesday. As executive chef at the Ancaster Mill & co-owner of the Earth to Table Bread Bar on Locke Street, Jeff is a wealth of knowledge and passionate about the flavours of fresh and local.

As he threw out inspiring recipes based on what was growing in the gardens, Jeff also shared his thoughts on some bigger issues related to our food economy. For example, our diet is now dominated by things that are easy to harvest and transport, such as romaine lettuce, rather than foods that necessarily have the most flavour or nutrition. This means that sweetcorn has the unique honour of being the only traditional food that is exclusively eaten seasonally in Canada.

Jeff also expressed the challenges, as a chef, of sourcing local foods. He mentioned, for example, the need for food to have a certain level of uniformity for the restaurant plate – i.e. chicken breasts need to be uniform for kitchen staff, otherwise a lot of extra work has to go into making the meal. Jeff spoke about the FarmStart program that is just beginning at the Landmark Farm in Flamborough, and his hopes to procure some of what this new generation of farmers are growing.

As we walked through the garden, tasting the sharp and intense flavour of fresh arugula (unlike anything you can buy in the grocery store), and talked about what to pair with lovage, we were inspired to continue on this co-op adventure.

Jeff Crump’s quick pickle recipe to add a boost of flavour to your fresh beets, beans, radishes, cukes, etc.

1 cup rice wine vinegar;  3T sugar;   1 T salt    |    Heat on stovetop, add to jar of fresh produce, cool & store in the refrigerator. Yum!

Art as a tool in co-operative development / Fogo Island example

Graham and I (Emma) have had the privilege of traversing the fair island of Newfoundland for the last week and a half.  Interestingly, the cooperative movement has played an important part of the history of some Newfoundland communities. One such story involves the fishing and boat-building cooperatives on Fogo Island, an island community north of Gander. According to the Fogo Island Co-op:

In 1967, we had to make a life-altering decision on Fogo Island: leave our beloved island home and resettle on the mainland of Newfoundland and Labrador, or stay and find a way to make it on our own. We stayed and we made it our own. To ensure our survival, we turned to what we knew best for hundreds of years…the sea.

Following a process of community self-discovery now known worldwide as the Fogo Process, our fishers formed the Fogo Island Co-operative Society, a community-based enterprise on which we built the economy of our island. We built more boats. We built bigger boats. We took over processing facilities abandoned by private enterprise. We built more plants. We sought new markets.

The Fogo Island Co-op has not only survived, it has thrived now for over forty years. When giants in this industry failed, some merged, some sought government interventions, but the Fogo Island Co-op has remained resilient and continues to focus on the future.

This short film by the National Film Board documents the first meeting of this producer cooperative (after the initial coverage showing the teamwork of the fishermen). The NFB played an instrumental role in sharing the stories of the needs of the people in these fishing communities with each other (and now, the world). “Challenge for Change was a program that allowed communities to use film and video to incite social change. By recording people talking about the issues, and then playing those recordings back to the community, everyone was able to get a global view of what the problems were and work together towards resolving them.” (NFB website) By using film media, sharing the community’s collective stories was made possible, and played a significant role in saving these communities from depopulation and eventual resettlement.

The arts continue to have a transforming effect on the inhabitants of Fogo Island.   Now not only is a fishing community sustained by cooperation, but also an arts community is growing with the Fogo Island Arts Corporation. If you are interested in support for artists and powerful sea-architecture this video clip about the Artist Studios in Fogo Island is worth watching. Interestingly, the most recent writer in residence is former Hamiltonian, Sam Martin. Congrats Sam!

So what does this have to do with the Mustard Seed in Hamilton? Unlike the Fogo Island fishermen, we are not looking to create a producer co-op. However, we do recognize the need for a community-based response to the lack of wholesome food options in our downtown. We are proposing to catalyze a change as a collective of Hamiltonians seeking the good of our city, and our own health and happiness. The Fogo Process is inspiring in how it uses the arts to communicate this idea to the broader community. So how can we use the arts (film, photography, perhaps theatre or other visual arts) to reach a broad cross-section of Hamiltonians? This is a call out to filmmakers, artists, writers: will you help us create a vision about local food for all? Perhaps one day they’ll call this the Hamilton Process…

photo: Fogo Island Artist studio: Squish studio