Open Food Network in Colorado
This is a guest post from Matt Noyes, a social movement educator and organizer based in Colorado Springs, Colorado who writes on horizontal education, union democracy and reform, workers cooperatives, and solidarity economy. In the fediverse, he is @Matt_Noyes@social.coop
1. What is OFN?
The slogan now on their website:
- “Food, unincorporated. Sometimes the best way to fix the system is to start a new one.”
My favorite and the one I will use to introduce OFN today:
- – “Food sovereignty that comes with software”
OFN defines itself as a social enterprise that develops and manages a decentralized, open source, online platform on which:
- farmers and producers worldwide can sell produce and products through local supply networks;
- food hubs, buyers clubs, and cooperatives can manage collaborative purchasing and distribution;
- consumers can find and buy local food, organic, regenerative, etc. individually and/or collaboratively.
2. What does it look like?
- If you go to https://openfoodnetwork.net/ you’ll see this. (openfoodnetwork.org is the global site)
- A typical farm in our region, New Roots Farm in Cañon City, looks like this: https://openfoodnetwork.net/new-roots/shop#/home
- There are differences, but basically it looks like a lot of other online local food distribution platforms, e.g. LocalLine.ca, and, as an e-commerce platform, it functions like them.
3. What makes OFN different?
Its mission: “food sovereignty” and “starting a new system”
What is food sovereignty?
- Think about the food system, borrowing from the materials economy diagram used by the Story of Stuff project
Four main steps or sites:
- production (clearing, cultivation, irrigation, harvesting, etc.)
- distribution (sorting, packing, shipping, storage, selling, etc.)
- consumption (preparing, cooking, eating, storing, sharing, etc.)
- disposal/recycling (gathering, collecting, sorting, composting, producing mulch, tea, etc.)
“Sovereignty” is an interesting term, makes you think of Kings/Queens, dictators, or Gods, or humans being granted dominion over all things… but there are other concepts:
- “power over” vs. “power with”
- individual and collective
we can say sovereignty is the power, authority, and capacity to:
- violate the rules
- CHANGE the rules
So food sovereignty is ultimately the power to transform the food system
- at all points in the cycle (not just deciding which product to buy)
- can involve various forms of ownership: private, collective, commoning...
The opposite of sovereignty? servitude, subordination
- in our context this means subordination to capital (usually in the form of large corporations, investment funds, banks, land developers, etc.)
- collective, democratic ownership – cooperatives, land trusts, commons – is an important tool for blocking capital sovereignty and protecting our food sovereignty
- sovereignty (like subordination) is a process, something we do together, implying organization and action
Finally, food sovereignty extends into logistics, too.
Its structure: OFN’s focus is on helping people (farmers, truckers, makers, consumers, composters, etc.) collaborate to build food sovereignty networks. How? In part, through shared use of a software platform that we can use to organize in various ways.
- How are we organized?
– Five Patterns of Community Food Enterprise (based on New Economic Model for African Farming Networks)
- direct producer-consumer exchange (New Roots Farm)
- farmer hub or co-op to consumer via CSA or other subscription (TapRoot Cooperative, Excelsior Food Hub)
- producer cooperative direct to consumer (Colorado Farm and Art Market)
- buyer’s club – consumer to producers (Hunt or Gather)
- multi-stakeholder producer & consumer food cooperative (just an idea at this point in our local area)
- these patterns already exist and can be networked on OFN in the form of a local food sovereignty group or network that is part of a larger network of such groups
- How are we organized? – Five Patterns of Community Food Enterprise (based on New Economic Model for African Farming Networks)
Its business model(s): OFN is a type of platform cooperative. (See Internet of Ownership ioo.coop)
- In this case a decentralized network of collectives, cooperatives, and non-profits with a shared admin/developer staff
- Funded through donations
**Its software model: **Free Libre Open Source (FLOSS) – more or less like Linux OS
- beer and freedom
- anyone can access, copy, contribute to, fork... the code
- why? To make the software a shared resource on which to build newer and better platforms
- akin to a commons in agriculture, part of a shared set of resources