report from manchester

posted July 4, 2013

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I’m here from the USA with a focus on charting the organizational work of young farmers across Europe. Throughout this  month I’ll be meeting  social entrepreneurs, farmers, organizers and activists who, undaunted by the complex, multidimensional  ecosystem and broken economy of food, are working together to fix it. Documenting these projects, evaluating,  and sharing ideas between us will speed this up. Our directory and community of cooperative food ventures and initiatives can make us stronger as we apply models from other places to our own towns, and learn as much as we can before repeating mistakes. 
Visiting the inter-linking projects of the Kindling Trust here in Greater Manchester. These are community organizers working at a city scale on regional food security and sustainability. Their focus is on  the whole system: from local food production, sales, access, training new growers, claiming more land into production, making sure that those growers have a route to market, infrastructure, access to capital, institutional purchasing, fair costs of distributing, all the way down the road. Their programs include:
Feeding Manchester- network for education and collaborative visioning.
Veg people- cooperative distribution company
Farm Start- farm training program with small land access, incubating new growers
Land Army- volunteer gleaners, feedstock of new farmers

The comprehensive and holistic approach here gives me such hope. Embedded into this model is understanding of a system, a network of producers, distributors, packers, consumers all working together, moving towards fairness. Only in their second year, this project represents many of our highest hopes and addresses full on the challenges: new entry growers, at-cost distribution, affordable prices, farmland access, job training, welcoming atmosphere, positive relationships within the value chain.

It has been thrilling to observe your Manchester model, discussing its details and obstacles with Helen, the tremendous opportunity provided by the support from Unicorn that Stuart and his colleagues have taken advantage of, in building a successional regional food economy.
 The Rochedale Principles may have set the standard for cooperative enterprises during the 19th Century– moving forward Manchester may provide some of the guiding principles on cooperative value chains, regionalization fulfilling the vision of the Kindling trust, and stoking the growing fire for a local economy.
~Sev