Co-op

Self Governing Tools for Farming Communities

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Let me start by saying, I’m not finding much.

In this article, I’m trying to begin exploring how we build and run reputable, self-governing, sustainable, and complete Co-Ops.

The way I want to define a Co-op for the purposes of this article is a group of people that encompass the entire spectrum of services. These services range from producing to distribution, marketing and all the way to end consumer. This is not necessarily a community or resource pool such as many existing Co-Ops are. This is simply a group that operates in an independant and self-sustaining way.

As always, this is an ongoing effort to find, promote, and support the people leading the way to meet our needs. At first glance, open source and peer-to-peer options are very underserved in the area of farming and food preparation. I spent a fair bit of time researching this topic and I have to admit to a bit of disappointment in the lack of activity.

That’s OK. Everything starts somewhere.

What are the things we need to work on to establish a reliable, open, and decentralized food production and services culture?

Voluntary safety and fraud protection.

The biggest excuse the government has in putting its snotty nose in our business is safety. We do all want to be safe, so how do we ensure that we are operating in a way that is safe and voluntary.

We need to be able to:

  1. Opt out of safety requirements. If you want to risk trading with an untested and unknown producer or service provider, you should have every right to do that.
  2. Develop a decentralized way to certify safety standards. It would be in everyone’s interest to employ a reputable certifier to ensure your business is safe. Wouldn’t you want that green check from the wonderful “It’s safe” company?
  3. Develop a decentralized way to enforce fraud protection. This is really the key piece. So long as things are transparent and voluntary, there should be minimum problems.

As problems go, these are not difficult problems to solve. How do we incentivize the development and creation of a whole economy of voluntary but enforced contracts?

Guides and procedures.

So far, the only people I have found working on this are opensourcefoodsafety.org. Even they don’t appear to very active, but there is a fair bit of crowd sourced information on their site. I reached out to them a couple of different ways and haven’t gotten a response.

Safety certification/ inspection

I can’t find any evidence of anyone working on this.

There is open data about restaurants that is compiled from governments available, but that isn’t what I’m looking for. I’m looking for data about the protocols and procedures used to evaluate food safety.

This is the kind of thing an expert or group of experts would have to design and compile for us.

Nutrition data

Also extremely limited at best. I did find an Open Food Facts site, and it is cool and active, but it isn’t really the kind of data we are looking for here. I believe we would be looking at rawer and hardly processed foods in a farm to home sort of environment.

Coops – Is anybody out there?

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and local community-oriented organizing is often very interesting, but still no principled open source strategy seem to be available.

Is this even something that we want?

I know I would love to see more voluntary solutions in our food production and distribution. With what little activity there is out there that I could find, I feel that there isn’t a market for it at this time.

Is it just that people don’t feel like they should buck the system and try to work without government permission? I suspect that is a good part of it. If there is no movement or pressure to get people together on a series of projects or even a whole paradigm shift, then no one is going to start something.

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