New Structures for Health and Security

April 3, 2013 1 Comment

“Structure is purpose expressed through design.”

– Marjorie Kelly, Owning Our Future

Detroit Voices: A Community Calls Out for Change from Phase 4 Media on Vimeo.

The new food movement, which is really several related but distinct movements, is a beacon of hope in this country.  You can find evidence of this in many diverse settings, from Flint, Michigan to Northeast Iowa to northern Vermont to Oakland, California.  While there are important distinctions in terms of emphasis and core players, one cross-cutting theme appears to be that we must create new structures to better nourish ourselves (calorically, economically, socially) through policy change, different land use patterns, new infrastructure, stronger relationships with ecosystems, new enterprises, and community building.  From the growing number of food policy councils, to alternative financing mechanisms, practices like permaculture and agroforestry, and more intentional network building, people are setting the stage for some significant societal shifts.

A recent conversation on a food security-oriented list serv highlighted the hunger for and examples of some of the structural innovations taking hold, including new governance models such as that of the Domestic Fair Trade Association (DFTA), which has a consensus based model for decision-making.  The DFTA has 5 categories of membership: (1) Farmers and Farmer Co-operatives and Associations; (2) Farmworkers Organizations; (3) Intermediary Trading Organizations including Marketers, Processors, and Manufacturers; (4) Retailers, Food Co-operatives,and Farmers Markets; and (5) Civil Society Organizations and NGOs.  According to one member, “Any one of the stakeholder groups can veto/block any decision the organization votes on and each stakeholder group has a seat on the board of directors.  Each stakeholder group votes for their representative to the board.” While there are reported bumps around certain issues, there are also gains and apparently the consensus model keeps people in conversation and deeper dialogue.

Amidst all of this, it is heartening to see people looking/listening to and learning from places like Holyoke, Massachusetts; Cherkokee County, OklahomaTreasure Valley Food Shed (Southwestern Idaho and Eastern Oregon); and Detroit . . .

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