I feel responsible
I am very conscious about the impact of my consumption choices. Buying is voting, I believe we have actually more power in buying products that support the world we want to build. I feel responsible. If I buy a carrot that has been spread with chemicals that then goes into the soil and water, and impoverishes the soil, I feel responsible, because if I buy it, it means that I support it.
When I moved to Norway, I was really disappointed to discover that it was very hard to find affordable tasty local organic food. Organic, because I don’t want to put pesticides into the soils, water, or into my body. Local, because I want to limit my carbon footprint, and food transportation is responsible for lots of carbon emissions. I joined Kooperativet, a local buying club in Oslo, and I now get my vegetables from them. They are doing a really great job, enabling more than 1600 members to buy tasteful products from local organic farmers.
But I wanted to build an alternative that would give more choices to the people: in Kooperativet, you can only buy baskets of vegetables, meat or dairy, but you can’t decide about what is in it or the quantity, you can’t choose the products you buy. I want to be able to choose the products and the quantity. And being realistic, I also sometimes need to buy some imported products (who never eats bananas?) and I would like to be able to buy everything in just one place. I was also fed up with all those packaging in the supermarkets, every vegetables packed in a single packaging. And the small organic shops are so expansive! That’s how the idea of building a food cooperative started.
We started working with a group of 10-12 people
At the beginning we were two people, Sadie Lawler and I. I met Sadie through networking, talking to people who had talked to her and knew she wanted to work on a similar project. We built a first description and vision of the project and shared it during an open event where 80 people came. From then we started working with a group of 10-12 people who wanted to contribute in starting the cooperative. Of course, we also shared the project with our stakeholders and invited them to give feedback, we visited farmers and talked to people connected to the food system network.
I don’t believe in keeping ideas secret
The feedback we had from all the people we shared the project with! I don’t believe in keeping ideas secret. I believe the best way to make an idea true is to share it. Especially in a community project like Kjøpelaget. We met lots of people, farmers, consumers, people who know about the food system, etc. They all said it was something needed in Norway. There are not so many alternatives in Norway, especially community supported distribution initiatives, and I believe in people and community empowerment, I want people to realize, experience, that they can be the change they want to see in the world. Kooperativet counts now 1600 members and people are still queueing to get in, so there is definitely a demand!
An association of buying clubs
When working on the Kjøpelaget project, we needed a platform to start buying as group, and we discovered www.openfoodnetwork.org. We got connected with the Australian and UK team behind this great open source project and started working on implementing it in Norway, with Cynthia Reynolds, from Nesodden, who were working on a food cooperative project there and also wanted to use the Open Food Network platform. So to implement and manage the platform for Norway, we founded Altifrem, an association of buying clubs, and an incubator that helps other buying clubs to start and provide them not only with the OFN platform, but also with organizational tools, business models, by-law models, etc.
Kjøpelaget is a member of Altifrem, as a «hub under construction». In the Kjøpelaget team, unfortunately Sadie had found a new job and couldn’t stay involved in the project, but new people have come in, that’s the life of a volunteer based project 🙂
Calling out to farmers
The Open Food Network platform should be ready by the end of April. So the Kjøpelaget’s team is now calling farmers and looking for a pick-up point to be ready to start operating in May 🙂