We look back on two weeks of celebrating cooperatives of all kinds during Co-op Fortnight 2021, from food and land co-ops across the UK to those right here on our doorstep in Plymouth. Co-op Fortnight, an annual initiative from Co-operatives UK, ran from 21 June to 4 July 2021. To mark the occasion here at Food Plymouth, we shared a social media feature each day, reaching over 1500 people and featuring over 15 different co-ops.
In case you missed it, here’s a summary…
Day 1: The Ecological Land Co-operative
We kicked off our Co-op Fortnight collection of inspirational food sector co-ops where it all begins: on the land, with the Ecological Land Cooperative.
With access to affordable land in increasingly short supply for new entrants to farming, the ELC have developed a model for creating affordable, ecological smallholdings. What’s more, their work first came to fruition here in the South West, with their Greenham Reach site in North Devon. Their most recent site acqusitions are in Somerset and Cornwall, with others in East Sussex and the Gower Peninsula. Here’s how you can get involved.
Day 2: Fairtrade producer co-operatives
For Day 2 of Co-op Fortnight 2021 we travelled further afield to explore the role of cooperatives in the Fairtrade movement.
Farmer-owned cooperatives are central to Fairtrade. When small farmers join together and organize themselves democratically, they have more resources and more power in trade relationships, ultimately resulting in higher incomes. Rosine Bekoine of CAYAT, a cocoa and coffee-growing cooperative in Côte d’Ivoire, explains some of the benefits in this short video from Fairtrade International.
Day 3: The Landworkers’ Alliance
Ready to meet another inspiring food-related cooperative? For Day 3 of Co-op Fortnight, we featured the Landworkers’ Alliance, a union of farmers, growers, foresters and land-based workers. Amongst their many diverse areas of work, they have just launched their new Vocal For Local campaign, advocating for the strengthening of local food systems, by supporting local producers, processors and distributors, and shortening food supply chains.
Day 4: Tamar Grow Local
On Day 4 we shared the work of Tamar Grow Local, an inspirational co-op in the Tamar Valley which is running, growing and supporting a whole host of agroecological initiatives. This video from Open Food Network explores a week in the life of the Tamar Valley Food Hubs, one of the projects under its wings.
Day 5: Plymouth Energy Community
For Day 5, we ventured beyond food to feature another great co-operative committed to sustainability right here in Plymouth. Plymouth Energy Community are working to empower communities to create a fair, affordable, zero carbon energy system with local people at its heart. What’s more, they’re hiring across a number of roles right now, with applications open until Sunday 11 July. Read all about it here.
Day 6: The Open Food Network
This time, it was the turn of the Open Food Network, a co-op of co-ops with global reach, dedicated to growing local food online through the provision of community-designed open source software and a whole lot of support for food hubs to manage their online sales and more. You can learn more about their exciting work in this interview with Lynne Davis, CEO of Open Food Network UK.
Day 7: Nudge Community Builders
One week in, we celebrated a co-op right on our doorstep in the form of Nudge Community Builders.
From a community market and cafe at The Clipper to the Jabulani food stalls at The Plot and Soup Corner at Union Corner, the fab folks at Nudge are doing amazing things to support all sorts of local community businesses while ‘nudging’ once neglected buildings back to life.
We were delighted to be able to run our community engagement work from The Plot during the recent Sustenance Partners research project and we’re excited to learn what opportunities lie in store at Nudge’s newest venture at the Millenium building, too.
Day 8: CATERed
For Day 8 of Co-op Fortnight, it was time to meet CATERed, a Plymouth co-op owned by 67 schools and Plymouth City Council.
CATERed are passionate about providing high quality, great tasting and appetising school food to children and young people across the city, with over 86% of their menu made from scratch every single day. You can learn all about their work and download Ed’s recipe book on the Plymouth City Council website.
Day 9: Farleys Food Co-op
To mark Day 9 of Co-op Fortnight, we shared the story of Farleys Food Co-op, a member-owned grocery store with a vision to see a Plymouth that has a food co-op or similar in every local community. Their recent crowdfunding campaign (now closed) saw them raise over £20,000 to help get started. Congratulations to the team – we can’t wait to see what happens next!
Day 10: JarSquad
It was time to say hello to JarSquad on Day 10 of Co-op Fortnight. The JarSquad project is a great example of cooperation in action, bringing communities together to make delicious preserves from food otherwise at risk of being wasted. Their next event is a yummy jam tasting session at The Plot on 13 July – click the image for all the details!
Day 11: South West Mutual
What difference could a bank make to building a sustainable local food economy?
For our next feature, we went beyond food to meet South West Mutual. They aim to be the only cooperative High Street bank focused solely on the South West, with a mission to support regional prosperity by supporting smaller regional businesses and social, community and charitable enterprises. You can learn more about their journey so far in this video, featuring Executive Director Tony Greenham.
Day 12: The Co-op
On Day 12 it was the turn of arguably the most recognisable of cooperatives on UK high streets: the Co-op. Representing community and fairness for their members and customers since 1844, it is owned by individual members and other co-ops, with members able to have their say in how the business is run. We were delighted to work with Co-op Member Pioneers here in Plymouth for our 2021 Fairtrade Fortnight collaboration with Fairtrade Plymouth and Food Is Fun CIC, and are also grateful for their donations to the The Aid Redistribution Centre – ARC.
Day 13: Co-operative resilience and COVID-19
We shared the latest research from Co-operatives UK, revealing, amongst other positives for co-ops, that they were four times less likely than general businesses to cease trading in 2020. We also shared the story of how local food co-op Tamar Valley Food Hubs adapted to a sudden surge in demand as the first lockdown began.
Day 14: The Village Hub
On the last day of Co-op Fortnight 2021, we rounded off our celebration of all things co-operative with The Village Hub, a fantastic community organisation run for charitable purposes by its members who live and work in the Electoral Wards of Stoke and Devonport in Plymouth.
Amongst their many different strands of work, they’ve teamed up with Good Earth Growers to bring Stoke Village fresh, organic, locally grown vegetables, and feature delicious healthy recipes on their website from the likes of No Whey Plymouth. After attending The Village Hub’s open day earlier this month, we’re looking forward to learning what’s planned for the future.
And that’s a wrap! If you’ve been inspired to learn more about how co-operatives are contributing to a sustainable food economy and where to find your nearest food co-op, visit the Sustain website to explore some fantastic resources and tool-kits, a handy map and more incredible stories from food co-operatives across the UK.