|Lawrence University Chapel at Bjorklunden, Wisconsin.|
Not too long ago, a friend of mine described the Sugar Beet Food Co-op as my "church". Soon after, another friend jumped in and called it my "place of worship." Tickled, I was delighted that folks around town are demonstrating kindness, companionship, support, and celebration over my own positivity about our food co-op, the first of it's kind in our area. I got to thinking about how apt this description is.
If I were to ally myself with any group of ideologies or religions, I suppose it would be the Secular Humanists, in which I believe that human beings (myself included) are capable of being moral and ethical without the rulings of a supreme being or faith community. (This post has no intent to embark on a conversation about the merits of organized religion/or not). The fact that I'm not religious doesn't escape the view of my bestie, and of course, it makes it easier to apply this idea that my religion is the co-op.
What I got to thinking about is the similarity between my faith in the co-op and a religious community. After all, if the place of worship is our new Sugar Beet store, is not it fair to define what my faith is?
It's quite possible, even probable, that the religion that I adhere to is one which is much more universal, or global, than what is immediately presented to a congregant who enters our new co-op. So what is my Faith found in co-operatives? This is a beginning, and I've included images from some of my foundational faith system (those places which have nurtured my ideas about faith and renewal) :
|Sundance Foods, Eugene, OR|
- Food system politics: small, local producers are good for the economy, good for communities of producers, ethical production is worthwhile.
- Good food: the more salt and msg and artificial sweeteners, the further we go from health and our ability to enjoy basic nutrients found in whole foods.
- Small is good: I hope I don't have to argue the devastating effects of chain stores, box stores, and their impact on climates, community centers, and the ability for people to have diverse employment and production experiences.
- Local ownership, shared input & decision making: an old adage *the personal is political* or *the biggest political impact we can have is local*.
- Food from scratch is good (Slow Food): the slow food movement reminds us that when we create something that takes time, it delivers psychic, health, and community benefits. We must slow down.
- Hippie Health food stores from the seventies were a good thing that inspired so much (see WF and Walmart & Costco organics) we owe something to those foundations: Whenever I get to talking to a Midwesterner who didn't grow up around hippy health food stores I'm all the more thankful for what we had in Eugene, even though my parents were largely middle of the road taste profiles. That said, we benefited from the overfill of bulk containers, fresh veggies, varied restaurant experiences, and everything that i could find out in the world when I jumped on my bike. We owe the small store trying it's best a giant payback. Small, hand written signage, friendly staff, even dirty produce (dirt don't hurt)….know where it all came from!
- Building community through food/grocery experiences: Community. Community. Community. We do it very well in Oak Park, this is another avenue for that connectivity, and it circles back to what we put in our bodies, and what we share with our guests.
- Employees are important and deserve independence, camaraderie, supportive, and non-bully style leadership: I love going in to a store and not following a script with an employee. I love the give and take of chatting with someone who works at a small, local venue.
- Best practices in production: The Sundance website uses a phrase that I really like, which is, that the store acts as a "gatekeeper" for the shoppers value system. Food politics are so difficult, and nobody's hands are ever entirely clean, but I feel proud to support an endeavor in which the organization is doing it's best to honor ethical practices, from production to selling.
- Access: everybody should be able to be a part of the organization as members, owners, community members, shoppers, employees.
- Process: thoughtful about how and why things happen. This is not a bottom line endeavor. There are many factors that shape every decision.
- Community activism and support of progressive and green causes: The co-op is involved in the greater community and finding alignment with its mission and values.
|Fort Collins Food Co-op|
|Fort Collins Food Co-op|
Sometimes congregants attend a church because it is the nearest to what they hope their church should deliver, although not exactly as they would design.
Sometimes there is a falling out and someone chooses to not attend any church at all, if the organization has strayed too far from what is perceived to be the faith.
|Willie Street Co-op, Madison, WI|
|Old Time True Believer spotted on the road.|