COOPERATIVE OWNED DIGITAL MARKETPLACE
Covid-19 highlighted that there is demand for healthy local food and a new interest in food security and how regenerative growing practices can support this. In many rural areas, small farmers and local artisans lost access to markets, sparking an increased demand for innovative new approaches to connect supply with demand. While there are other proprietary platforms available and gaining popularity, the focus of Open Food Network (OFN) is in engaging with the regenerative agriculture community. Producers favouring this approach subscribe to OFN values of open source tools, systemic change and ecosystem health. These producers see the value of working collectively and supportively as a multistakeholder network to shorten food chains, increase food resilience and encourage the growth of local economies that are based on environmentally sound practices.
A PLATFORM FOR PRODUCERS
The Open Food Network software platform allows food producers and farmers to sell produce online, at a price that works for them. It was built for selling food (but can also be used to sell other goods) so it can handle tricky measures or stock levels that only food has, such as a dozen eggs, a bunch of parsley, and a chicken that varies in weight. It offers a user friendly shopfront for individual enterprises but where it starts getting really exciting is when there’s a community of farmers and other local producers working together.
Proprietary digital market models have a pre-determined cost model, place certain requirements on producers/suppliers that can be exclusionary (they must have their own insurance and must be registered companies) and are prescriptive about how hubs are formed and how producers can come together to sell through them. With OFN, producers can simply have their profile listed (free), have their own shop front to sell their own produce or sell their produce through a hub hosted by themselves or a third-party. Once they pay the OFN contribution (2% of sales) the other fees for the running of the hub can be determined by each host according to their own circumstances.
BUILDING STRONGER LOCAL ECONOMIES
What’s just as important as the functionality of the software itself are the values that underpin it. If you’re trying to build a new food system – as a farmer, farmers’ market, food co-op or food hub – then why would you choose software that isn’t also contributing to a fairer food system? OFN is not-forprofit community supported software that exists to support local food enterprises and to build stronger local economies. By working collectively rather than competitively, members share the costs of developing adaptable new models to ensure that the platform is more resilient than many other proprietary models. What does the platform offer? It offers a cooperative and community-oriented way to respond to the pandemic, a range of shopfront types, detailed reporting and downloads, a means to collaborate with other enterprises, integration with accounting packages, and facilities for recurring subscriptions like box schemes.
The networked structure and different groups of stakeholders that make up OFN lend themselves to the establishment of a solidarity (multistakeholder) cooperative. The central organising principle of a solidarity cooperative is broader than that of a traditional cooperative and the model embraces differences of perspective and experience, captures a range of interests and impacts, recognises and honours their interdependence and retains a commonality of needs and aspirations. With OFN Ireland, this will allow for the representation of the interests of local markets and food co-ops/hubs, producers supplying the platform, consumers using the platform and other organisations that hope to see the development of an efficient and resilient food system in Ireland, one that is not only meeting immediate needs but is also planning for future, more long-term needs and food security. This digital platform is an exciting opportunity to explore a new way of cooperating that invites representation from a diverse group of stakeholders who share this common interest.
GETTING SET UP
To get setup as a producer selling goods on the platform, all you need is an internet connection, a spreadsheet of the items you have available to sell and a stripe account to accept payments. Open Food Network is an international community that is currently operating in 9 countries, with 1000’s of local producers using it to reach markets to sell their products every day, building resilient local food economies that are capable of withstanding shocks such as the pandemic and lockdown that showed the vulnerability of many local supply chains.
If this sounds like something you would like to get involved with, OFN Ireland will be hosting a webinar next Wednesday, 23 July from 8-9.30pm [see noticeboard for more details].
Drumlin Nature Watch – by Liam Murtagh
To see a nut tree in the garden producing its first crop is very fulfilling. Ten years ago, I planted two heartnut trees – the heartnut is a relative of the walnut and doesn’t have the bitterness of the walnut. Last week I saw that one of the trees is producing heart shaped nuts (pictured) but it will be well into autumn before they can be harvested. Nuts were collected and eaten by people in the Stone Age but their cultivation began about 6000-7000 years ago. In Roman times, almonds, chestnuts and walnuts were being grown across much of mainland Europe.
The only native tree with edible nuts in Ireland is the Hazel (Coll in Irish) – it has also been used for fencing, timber and wickerwork and it supports a lot of wildlife. As a child I played shop in a grove of hazel trees and we used hazelnuts as play money. In recent decades, hazelnuts were seldom harvested. However, a friend of mine collects hazelnuts annually in order to grow hazel trees. Every year we in Ireland import around 90,000 tonnes of hazelnuts, so cultivating and harvesting hazelnuts in Ireland could have economic benefits. In addition, there are potential human health benefits as there is a lot of research indicating that if we eat a handful of nuts daily, we will reduce the risk of getting many diseases.
There is little or no tradition of nut tree cultivation in Ireland. This is hopefully going to change as farmers and Government are now looking at new and more sustainable options for the use of land. Our warming climate means that we will be able grow a wider range of nut trees than heretofore. According to an article in The Irish Times by Manchan Magan, many European cultivars of hazelnut, walnut and sweet chestnut , that can be grown in Ireland, will produce “at least one or two tonnes of nuts per hectare which sell in their shelled state for € 8-10 a kg, that’s a potential income of €8,000 a hectare”.
More research on which nut tree crops will thrive in Ireland is needed. Andy Wilson, of ‘Fruit and Nut’ has set up a research nursery in the west of Ireland. He says that nut trees have a lot of potential by virtue of “their higher calorific, protein and lipid content”. Andy is also a retailer of nut trees as well as some unusual fruit trees. Another supplier of nut trees Future Forests, is in west Cork. I have two cobnut trees that came from them. Cobnuts (pictured) are a large and sweeter form of a hazelnut – some cobnut species are referred to as filberts.
Insect Asides – by Patrick Gleeson
Peppered moth: The moth that changed colour
When thinking about the imagery of the industrial revolution, what often comes to mind are tall chimneys and clouds of smoke. Old paintings of industrial towns in England at the time show a landscape that at times is lacking in green and appears to be the antithesis of nature.
Before the industrial revolution in England, the peppered moth was mostly seen in its pale form. This allowed them to be camouflaged on trees among lichens. However this changed during the industrial revolution as the lichens died and the trees became covered in black soot. Their pale colour against a dark surface made them stand out, being susceptible to predation by birds. As a result it appeared that the peppered moth changed colour as the pale form died out and the darker, black form thrived. The light coloured pattern became common again when pollution levels reduced. This phenomenon is known as industrial melanism and it caused a stir at the time as it laid bare the evidence for Darwin’s natural selection which was at odds with creationism.
In a world of extinctions and climate disruption, maybe the story of the little peppered moth is like the candle in the dark for the natural world. It demonstrates the resilience of nature and its ability to adapt to change. Sadly, many species cannot adapt fast enough to the changes that are happening today.
IN THE NEWS
Scientists Attribute Record-Shattering Siberian Heat and Wildfires to Climate Change: Siberia’s scorching, 100-degree temperature record made headlines in late June, but it was just the latest spike in a decade of historic heat waves across the Arctic that also set records for wildfires, thawing permafrost, and melting sea ice. Such extremes, scientists said, show that Arctic warming is accelerating to outpace all but the most dire climate projections. [insideclimatenews.org].
Vulnerable states urge EU to link recovery funds to tougher 2030 climate target: Leaders from 27 member states met last weekend to agree on the terms of the European Commission’s proposed €1 trillion budget for the next seven years (2021-2027) and a €750 billion recovery fund to weather the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. The EU Commission has promised to deliver a “green recovery” in line with its commitments under the European Green Deal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 – a move backed by a majority of member states. [climatechangenews.com].
Portugal ends coal burning two years ahead of schedule: Portuguese energy utility EDP has announced the closure of its Sines coal power plant, bringing forward the planned shutdown of coalfired power plants in the country by two years, from 2023 to 2021. “Portugal had already accelerated its coal phase-out of coal from 2030 to 2023. The fact that it is being brought forward yet again to 2021 shows just how fast a country can clean up its energy system when it commits to clean energy and climate action,” said Kathrin Gutmann, director at Europe Beyond Coal Campaign, which also stated that seven more countries are expected to end coal by 2025: France (2022), Slovakia (2023), Portugal (2023), the UK (2024), Ireland (2025), and Italy (2025). [optimistdaily.com].
Open Food Network Ireland Webinar: This webinar will introduce producers and other local artisans to the platform and illustrate the benefits of OFN as a food platform (also looking at the Covid context). It will demonstrate a new approach to cooperatives and offer an opportunity for anyone who is interested to ask questions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the registration link.
The Organic Centre: Sunday, 26 July, Summer Garden. Saturday, 1 August, Yoga and Ayurvedic Food Workshop. Sunday, 2 August, Wild Mushroom Foraging. See theorganiccentre.ie for more details.
Irish Seed Savers Workshops: Saturday, 29 August, (1) Introduction to Scything and (2) Introduction to Seed Saving; Saturday, 12 September, Introduction to Composting & Green Manures. See seedsavers.ie for more details.
Transition Longford Global Goals Programme: (1) Thurs 6 August, Life Below Water; (2) Thurs, 27 August, Sustainable Cities and Communities; (3) Thurs, 10 September, Good Health & Wellbeing. Email email@example.com for more details.
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“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.”
[Robert Louis Stevenson]