Peace, Love, and Co-ops

1 Jun

Bonanza! Day 10 was hard. After cycling up a 1535m pass, we found out the campground where we were planning to stay at was closed because of a problem grizzly bear. So we put in an extra 25km (okay, downhill) averaging 45km/h. Did you know? Grizzlies can actually run at speeds exceeding 50km/h!

On Day 11 we took it easy and cycled 50km to Nelson. By that point our bikes had survived 800+km, including 100+km on the KVR trail, so we took them to the bike shop. The bikes got a thorough inspection by Blair and we were warmly welcomed with locally brewed beer. The people at the shop were interested to hear about our project. Mark, a mechanic at the shop, had a sustainability story to share: since he moved to Nelson 4 years ago, he’s worked on reviving the three overgrown fruit trees in his yard. Last year was the first year they gave fruit. This year, his goal is to be self-sufficient and grow all his own fruits and greens. Way to go!

We were hosted by Anya’s extended MSLS family: Alison, Steven, and Elliot. We talked about Nelson’s focus on community and local economy.The municipality of Nelson, Alison told us, has a strict no billboard policy, which is why you can’t even find the Walmart in town. As for the McDonalds, there isn’t one, because the town didn’t allow one to be built. With that kind of support for local commerce from the municipality, it’s no surprise that Nelson is home to so many successful co-ops and small businesses.

As mentioned in our previous post, Nancy of Grand Forks told us about the Kootenay Food Co-op and gave us contact information. We were able to arrange a conversation with Jocelyn, who is currently the Co-op’s marketing manager.

The Co-op is amazing. It has been around for 37 years and has more than 10,000 members (population of Nelson – 20,000). They have everything in bulk – grains, tea, herbs, oil, shampoo, detergent, and more. A buzzing community hub, the Co-op hosts overwhelmingly popular cooking classes that sell out within 3 days of being announced. They also promote local production by mentoring, supporting, and encouraging local residents to start up their own food businesses.

Jocelyn is very knowledgeable and shared a lot of great ideas with us — so many that we can’t possibly cover them all in this entry. We recorded the conversation on video, so watch our movie when it comes out. For now, here’s a sample.

One thing we talked about are the difficulties of running a small, local farm. Large corporations lobby to lower the organic certification standards so that they are able to carry “organic” products, lowering the cost at the expense of food quality. In contrast, the food co-op preferentially purchases higher-quality, local food, and pays the farmers a fair price, while bringing affordable and top-notch produce to the co-op members. To actually be able to give a fair price to both farmer and consumer is an immense challenge that the co-op tackles daily.

One Response to “Peace, Love, and Co-ops”

  1. Den June 1, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    Kootenay Co-op Radio is on my dial

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