Our basic mission is that of raising local food production. Many have heard these words before, but i am convinced that you will see a rather unique comprehensive approach to that goal presented here. We want to map out each relevant aspect of the process in a manner that presents the best information available, and tries, as best of we can, to integrate and display this information in meaningful and understandable way. Further, we want to illuminate how these understandings can be incorporated into the on the ground work for producing and trading food in a mutual network that benefits those who become involved. We hope to strike a balance between; resources and summaries of "how to" information, having a community discussion regarding those resources, practicing the real life activities the resources allude to, share our experiences with the real life applications both in person and online, and then giving feedback on how our results connect with the original information we started with For instance, we might offer information on mulching, but a the same time encourage members of the community to try the suggested techniques for themselves and then report back to the larger community what their results were like. I really cannot stress enough our belief in the importance of sharing our trials and tribulations with one another in these endeavors. We are not suggesting that everyone needs to tell us what they are doing. But what we are suggesting is that there is a lot of information to be learned and practiced if the community is to truly make a significant leap in its approach to local food production, And that the sharing of gardening experiments, and in particular those which can include a photographic history, are an extremely important piece of this puzzle. Further a discussion board and probably even a capacity to visit one anothers yards is also likely going to be something we will need to do.
Yes there are issues of privacy and insurance in all of this, but in my opinion they can be handled without too much trouble. The important point being our willingness towards the notion that to be successful we need serious interaction with one another. Some interaction likely needs to be face to face and will involve the development of real social relationships, but interaction can occur on a continuum of intimacy/privacy and we will do our best to provide a spectrum of involvements There are ways to be interactive and remain anonymous and we will do our best to provide those, but in general the belief being promoted is a group educational and implementation process is preferable but not mandatory
An issue that is of the utmost importance to us is the question of authority and authorship. The mission here is not to
have you join Napa Food Cooperative as an official member of any sort, or to have other groups join under our umbrella. It may sound corny but the objective here should be seen more as a part of a process to bring us together towards an end, and that such a process will likely contain many local sites and many on-line social communities. So while we paint a picture of what the process might look like for increased food production, and while we further make allusions that there is likely a need for a central hub for information or discussion, we nonetheless make no claim to be 'the ones' to organize and control such a hubpermanently. We are keenly aware that the biggest hurdle facing us is making people feel a part of, or comfortable with, the relationship they have to any new organization or movement I have approached a couple of folks about posting information for their groups here, and never heard back. I am therfore concerned about these subtle dynamics and the large hurdles they can create for a community trying to organiize itself. So while we propose to be at least an initial hub, where things go from there remains to be seen. Is there likely to be problems with authority and democracy? Obviously yes. In general we want to encourage a very decentralized approach to organizing and for people to work with neighbors when possible. This of course scares a lot of folks so perhaps we should organize in groups purposefully chosen to be far apart from one another as a second option
So a common question regarding local food is "Where are the examples of successful local food producing towns? Yes, indeed there are few. Willits to our north being perhaps one of the exceptions. Since there are few to no examples, the pressure is on us to explain why should it work here and now. This is of course, in some ways, is the entire question at hand, but let me try to kind of outline the response. First, there are the big picture questions regarding food in relation to present and future international environmental and economic circumstances such as climate change the problems with finance and trade etc. Perhaps sadly, we will not be addressing these questions at the forefront of our initial discussions. We will provide some space here for such discussions, and we will further hope that anyone who wishes to see a more committed community discussion on these topics will consider working with us to make information available. We would love to see all important aspects eventually come to the fore of community discussions, we just believe the road to getting there is to first focus on the most direct food issues and then move outward We believe a new dawn has emerged in terms of our ability to organize with one another. The internet and the social networks have clearly changed the game, but so far their potentials have gone mostly unrealized in terms of purposeful local organizing. Thus with leaving the eco-political and environmental questions aside we believe we have a new capability to organize with one another, and that at the same time we may have new and urgent reasons to do so
Then the question becomes, O.K we have perhaps a new ability to organize, but what ends are we organizing towards? How
is any of this going to make my life better? Again a complicated aspect, but we will do our best to take this question head on. We have studied the local currency question, various trading and swapping techniques and local business opportunities in food, and hope you will give us a chance to make a case that the old idea that local food production is simply not profitable is a mistaken one. Does this mean it is profitable for everyone to be raising food ? No. But actively producing food is only one part of the equation. There is also consuming locally produced food which is another important aspect.Further is the future potential aspect of local economies where locally grown food could become an item, or commodity of exchange within a local economic network There are economies of scale involved in the issue, and local food will have some difficulty competing with the subsidized prices we see at our local chain stores And also we will suggest, and make the argument for, the idea that price, true value, and economic efficiency as it relates to the production of goods and services at the local level is both complex and culturally and historically ingrained. For many of us the bottom line is lowest price period. We respect that position, and understand the reasl world implications of all this. Yet on the other hand, many of us sense that something is profoundly broken in our food and economic systems. So we ask you to meet us halfway in exploring what it may feel llike to work togethr and to explore in the abstract what might be or should be possible using systems which restore local economic capabilties
When pondering these ideas of thinking outside the box if you will, suggests that the present way of relating to one another could be better in a kind of touchy feely quality of life kind of thing as opposed to the more straightforward arguments we have presented here so far. So the argument goes along the lines of this "If as a community whose members were engaged with one another in activities which required them to work with one another towards a cooperative end, then that activity might very well satisfy some non material human needs as well" The idea being that our potentials with one another are perhaps not solely based on the trading of commodities and services, but also that experiencing a feeling of community, or other effects of social relations, may also be a significant end goal, or at least a concurrent benefit which will manifest in the course of local organizing and production. It may also be true that some frustrations result. But the suggestion here being that we at least consider, and keep our senses open, to the possibility that we may actually encounter psycho/social/spiritual benefits from interpersonal relations we develop on the road to greater community self-sufficiency
So I have tried to present some arguments for at least considering a local food movement, if you will. So now I am going to talk a little more on an outline on how to move forward. The website is in its infancy, but for the next few months, most likely, attention will be focused on the site to try to provide an outline of the topics to be looked at and hopefully creating a useful information source. At the same time we will be suggesting strategies on how to get together with one another in ways that both promote our economic efforts and to begin the process of some of us creating the human bonds that a movement such as this will require. There are lets of folks in Napa involved with food issues who we look forward to communicating with, eventually including the Food advisory council. But the first priority is to create an online presence both for the sake of a little legitimacy as well as an effective networking and food producing tool
. As stated in the opening paragraph we are trying to create distinct categories of information while at the same time trying to show the connections between them in various ways For instance the menu for site preparation deals with the issues of soil, water, landscape features, etc, whereas growing food deals mostly with plants themselves. So there is crossover of these categories in terms of plants effecting the soil and water and vice versa. So again the attempt will be to lay out distinct categories to the degree possible, and then to have a separate explanation which attempt to weave a picture of the connections between the categories In organizing the of information there is an emphasis on first collecting and linking to the existing information on the topic at hand. For instance if the subject was water catchment we would list the books, or other resources, of the generally recognized experts, and then outlining a strategy to disseminate, and learn to some degree as a group, the salient points of the given issue Of course some debate is again likely on who the experts are, but there should be room to list multiple experts and we do not for see this as a big initial problem. Other sources such as articles magazine article, podcasts, etc would be made available. We would further suggest that our community try to present summaries, or reviews, of these information sources, such as books, or videos in order to provide a kind of cliff notes informational landscape as a shorthand to find the information we are looking for more quickly.
After 'laying out' the informational resources the next suggested phase is a kind of community interpretation and discussion process, followed by an action plan. In other words we read a bunch of books, we talk to each other in terms of what we want to do with information in relation to our aims around food production, and then we come up with a plan or set of ideas to move forward with. Nothing too revolutionary, but worth spelling out clearly in my opinion Hopefully it is understood that the use of community is not a suggestion that we operate as a large collectivist group, but rather that at the end of the day we can see some of this information and application running through our community in Napa. Whether that is being accomplished by a series of autonomous groups, individuals, or something more centralized is really not the point IMHO. What is important is that in order to be successful community, people are going to need to be willing or incentivized to share and discuss some of the things they learn with others
The next step is to take the information we have been discussing and actually applying it. In general this means working in the garden. As stated earlier, we believe this aspect of real world tangible work should be shared with one another when practical. For instance if you are working to install a water catchment system invite people to watch and film what you are doing, and then share that story and the pictures of it with an online media venue such as this. Also real world application should serve as a bit of experimentation hub, or as an even a check on what is being presented by the experts. In this way a community becomes a sort of new living laboratory, to serve both as a social and organizational hub, and as a proving ground for what works in the real world. Also this last aspect serves as a kind of feedback mechanisms and in a sense completes the cycle of learning. Start with some initial information to guide a real world application process, consider how that information serves your needs, test your ideas with real world application, compare the results of your work with ther ideas you started with, start with a new guide towards a new application process
A process such as the one suggested will undoubtedly require people with special skills, or special concentrations of learning in certain aspects of the process. For instance we may need a group of folks who go into backyards, and help individuals set up their gardens. We may also need a group of folks who are able to present in front of groups or to teach classes. Yes we understand Master Gardener's does this, but we will suggest there is a lot of information beyond what they are presenting on. And finally we may need a group who works to lobby governmental or media sources on issues involved with local food production, and perhaps have some ability to respond quickly to challenging questions These situations and needs may require a more specialized educational approach which may require understandings of power point presentations or people simply practicing public speaking skills. Certainly we do not suggest we can learn everything by reading a book, and it is likely we will occasionally hire folks who are outside of town or of this process Hopefully we can again use a logical process in deciding what kind outside help we get and how the information gained from that is disseminated to the group
Cooking and food as it relates to health are the final issues we are choosing to highlight, though at this time they are a little lower of a priority than are growing and networking food. Cooking includes food preparation, cooking, and storing. One might argue that these topics are well understood by the general public and that we do not need some yahoos suggesting how we should eat. This is certainly the case for a lot of folks, but for a great many others the topic is either overwhelming or perhaps the issue of healthy eating at least is buried in something approaching denial. Again we will not be trying to out anyone who might be in food denial, but we will be looking at avenues for either cooking classes, workshops, exchanges, recipe boards, or any other way for facilitating cooking related issues to help those who want it. This should be the a happy time in food production, and we want to try to find ways of accentuating the social aspects of this. Also we want to explore the avenues of how more food can be cooked through cooperative local means or at a minimum by locally owned establishments. This attitude is not based on a belief in anything necessarily evil or corrupt about multi nationals or other restaurants owned by outside interests. Rather it is based on an assumption that, with all things being equal in terms of capital investment and the like, a community properly motivated and organized is capable of producing very close to the same quality of food that any foreign owned restaurants can, and that there is demonstrable benefit in doing so Of course it is difficult to level the playing field for local business up against the marketing capabilities of the multi nationals. Also the the familiar factor offered by the chains is another large aspect working against local establishments, but here too we have ideas how local business can perhaps approach these consistency and security issues that feed the multi-national advantage.
As mentioned earlier, while our basic intent is to allow a democratic process to unfold in this effort, we are nonetheless giving priority to the issues most directly related to growing food as opposed to a broader community organizing effort. Nonetheless we do believe that a food movement such as this should be ready to eventually precipitate, or join a much larger community networking movement. So the question is a sense on how to concentrate on the issues most closely related to food, but at the same time slowly introduce ideas which might lead to a larger community organizing effort So in this vain we will suggest a couple of topics which we can begin to explore as avenues for the transition towards a more generally active and networked community. The two main topics being proposed are that of media and economic localism. Local media in this context does not necessarily refer to existing media in the traditional sense. In fact it tends to point more towards what technological devices and communication styles might best be employed to facilitate the cause of community networking and communication to those in our community who desire to communicate with one another. Examples might include a locally produced cooperative newspaper, local kiosks (which was suggested in the Napa sustainability report), or it might include enhancing folks ability to create power point presentations, or to show movies at mid sized venues.. There is of course a strong skeptical attitude towards the practicality of local production, but we would ask that you perhaps question whether such skeptical beliefs are based more on the fact that we simply do not see it presently occurring, as opposed to a logistical firewall of some sort. Indeed local food production itself is localism so in some ways you might wonder why we are including as something else to look at The suggestion here is that we look at how we might unfold a larger local economy in lock step with a growing local food production capability No one will suggest it is an easy road, but we will suggest much of the battle is more for the hearts and minds of community members than it is by any practical limit being placed upon us by economies of scale and other such ideas
We have briefly discussed food as it relates to health, and the merits of more locally produced and prepared foods. If one accepts that the fast food chains produce unhealthy food for the most part, and that they are economically unhealthy for the local economy as well, then the overall consideration for food would seemingly twist even more tightly in favor of the local. Of course folks are not giving up fast food simply because someone says "Gee we would do better with local and perhaps healthier food." The road is a long one but the opportunities for a few to try to take the lead and demonstrate what can be done are indeed immense. It can also be accomplished in a very low profile sense with just a few neighbors working together cooking meals or sharing ideas, stories, and recipes. The point being that it seems like a daunting challenge to create significant change in this regard due to the advertising dollars, culturally ingrained notions, and physical addictions, I would nonetheless suggest this may be an area where a small change by a relative few, could tip the scales dramatically. It is also an arena where we might have some fun even if we do not save the world immediately But back to the more nerdy side. Economists in general seemed t have shied away from questions of local production, but I have been in touch with at least one who is interested in an analysis of these questions. I know for many of you the idea of some new field of economic research is nothing to get excited about, but I would hope you would at least consider the possibility that a new dialogue between communities and some economists might help lay out the picture of understanding what opportunities may lie in the waiting for communities who are open to such new ideas
So while we have taken up the issue of health in its relation to food, we have not discussed the larger and more general issue of local health. In particular we wish to raise the aspect of what is generally refered to as alternative or natural healing practices, and how they might impact health at the local level. The reason for suggesting this as an alternative avenue to consider again arises from the idea of "What can we do that will have the biggest effect?" If one concludes a significant amount effective change might occur from alternative medical therapies, then this too may be an area where a large effect is possible. The national health care debate remains a proority issue and we will encourage resource sharing and discussion of the issue, as well as other health issues not already mentioned But for the most part we are suggesting alternative practices which lend themselves to community development in a way orthodox medicine, in general, cannot. For instance herbal remedies are within the scoipe of production from a local economy, as is tai chi and many other therapies. Whereas with orthodox medicine, most treatments are based on high tech equipment and drugs whose requirements for production are beyond the scope of local economies Nonetheless, we are of course open to any orthodox practioners who wish to either challenge anything said here, or who wish to be involved in a cooperative manner We are not making any claims that alternative practitoners are more or less effective therapies, but we will encourage a discusion of the issue and take on the rather daunting task of trying to unravel all thei ntracacies of what real evidence is within this debate. Though before going further with the potential of expanded use of alternative therapies, we should recognize that in general we hit a wall with most people with something like certification, legitimacy, safety , etc. Even if one believes that the science in general supports the efficacy of alternative therapies, there are still obvious concerns that it is done by qualified practitioners and with some type of oversight. Such issues will be addressed of course However even within the light od such concerns, the possibilities for communities to develop a new relationship and an increased capacity for local alternative medicine seems to offer great promise
also we need to put on the table so to speak, plants which are raised for non-food related needs. this would include bio-fuels, natural construction materials, and bio-plastics. Bio-plastics is probably a ways off, but they may be increasingly practical for regions whose local communities have begun to organize various ;local production schemes. Bio fuels including are broken down into the two main categories of bio-diesel which is made from plant oils and ethanol or methanol made generally from plant starch. Ethanol deserves particular attention from local communities in my opinion. It has been given as black eye by much of the media in the last five years or so, mostly in relation to large industrial farming carried out by large corporations. Ethanol at the local level is a much different story. From what we have seen the opportunities to make money from ethanol production at the local level are quite good. Probably more lucrative than growing food at least initially. but there are obviously tradeoffs for a community to consider, and what makes money in the current system is not necessarily the smartest choice. for example If you see growing food as a response to a possible growing food insecurity crisis, then growing food has value beyond purely monetary considerations. On the other hand ethanol production can raise capital to be reinvested in food production and simultaneously keep money in the community which would otherwise be going to large oil interests.Additionally producing enough ethanol locally to run the machinery involved in local food production would add an additional layer of local self sufficiency
Also many believe there is a type of concurrent journey that occurs with those who wish to become involved in a transformative effort of this sort. The health of the person and the journey towards a healthier food producing community become intertwined. Healthier people are more likely to be able to create the conditions for a healthier community in general, and therefore personal health questions need to remain close at hand to this topic as we move towards improving and empowering our communities
The perhaps most dispersed group offered here is that of conflict resolution, class and race distinctions, and decentralized authority and control. Conflict resolution would include some of the time tested strategies of consensus building and other informed suggestions on group dynamics and harmony building. A caveat here however, in our opinion is the question of when does an organization need its members to enter a group consensus process. As stated earlier we have a high degree of sensitivity over some of us being tied to the name of Napa Food Cooperative or any authority trying to establish criteria for its memberships behavior or proposed problem solving processes