Let’s create a group. A gang. Let’s call it a gang because it sounds cooler…. a food production gang. Making food, sharing it with each other.
The gang members wouldn’t have to share politics, you wouldn’t have to share religions, you wouldn’t have to share tastes in music. You would have to share mutual respect, and a reasonable amount of commitment, in order to share in producing food to benefit the gang. Everyone works a little bit to share a lot of food.
I like cooperating. Sesame Street sang songs about it, and my soft toddler brain became indoctrinated with muppet propaganda. I am now a full blown Sesamist.
But it also makes practical economic sense. With two people you get stuff done five times as fast as you would alone. And with 10 people you get stuff done 100 times as fast (I’m just making up numbers, it all depends on the task and how much you’ve been drinking).
And if all else fails, we’ll at least have some kick ass dinner parties.
Community Food Production Systems
From farmers markets, to community supported agriculture, to public vegetable gardens, to crop swaps, people are doing food stuff that requires a bunch of people to get together and participate.
I was a farmer for 7 years in North Carolina. The two markets I was a member of are 100% producer-owned, directly democratic corporations (I say producers because eventually bakers, crafters, etc were allowed in). There is a board of 5 producers elected at yearly required meetings, with rotating terms. There are monthly meetings all the producers were invited to attend, where they could give input on decisions made by the board about the by-laws. The by-laws contained things like dues payment and enforcement to make sure the members of the market were producing all the items they were selling within a 70-mile radius of the market. A few farmers started the market in the 1980s, and they, along with other farms and markets around the country, led to the explosion of the local food movement.
The reason I bring this up is to illustrate that a bunch of people can get together and produce food democratically, and on their terms, if they take the time to organize.
The other way our farm got income was from a system known as Community Supported Agriculture. Customers buy a share at the beginning of the year, and get a box of food of a certain size for a certain amount of weeks depending on what they paid. We did both veggie shares, and chicken shares. For 20 weeks during the year, we delivered boxes to the customers who invested.
Five Families with Vegetable Gardens… or maybe just an Oven?
One idea that can be expanded upon is to have, say, 5 families all grow vegetables throughout the growing season (spring, summer, and fall), or bake baked goods, to be shared equally. All the families would work in their own garden, but occasionally the gang members would get together as a group for bigger jobs in each garden.
A 5 family vegetable production gang would have an organizational meeting and plan the whole thing out. The idea would be for everyone to bring to the table something different, and enough for the other 4 families. All for one and one for all. All of the produce would be divided up equally and placed in boxes or tote bags. Then from there we could barter a little. Then everyone goes home with a weekly bag of food.
Crops fail, and entire gardens fail. If a family has nothing one week, they could bring baked goods or cook everyone a pot of something, and still go home with a box. This isn’t a group of people engaged in a business deal, it’s not a market, it’s a gang. We probably already know each other, or met each other through a mutual family, and we’re in this to help each other out and make the project work.
Meat is Yummy, but I say Keep it Vegan at First
The reason I would start off just doing vegetables, there’s about an equal amount of input, even if one garden is a little bigger than another. Another reason to keep it vegan is that vegans are into this kind of shit.
With meat products you run into problems. Meat products require lots of investment, and a lot more money than veggies. Inevitably the meat producer would be bringing a larger investment to the table. And it’s not easy to produce meat or even enough eggs for every family in a city (where we live). For 5 dozen eggs a week you’d have to have a flock of 12 young and healthy productive chickens. A flock only half that size is legal in most cities.
In order to offset conflicts, we don’t want one family producing so much that it would be cost prohibitive, even if they were generous and financially comfortable enough to do so.
However, we could decide all this at the planning meeting.
Shared Labor and Work Days
We could schedule days to all get together and help each other do big jobs, like set up the garden, plow or build raised beds, dig, plant, weed, plant some more, weed some more. We could knock that shit out in like 2 hours.
Think about how bad ass all of our gardens could be in our yards if you had like 10 people knocking it out on a Saturday.
Sharing in the Inputs
We have yards, we invest in our own gardens. But there are inputs we can share. Like tools and skills. Do you have a rototiller? I got me a chop saw. Can you drive without totaling a car? I can tell jokes. We can all throw in and do a bulk seed order and maybe get a price break. Maybe you have a discount at the Home Depot. When I was a farmer we used to do stuff like that with other farms to get a price break on fertilizer and seed potatoes. We were a bunch of small farms who functioned as one big farm. The Food Gang would be doing that on a smaller scale. We’d be a bunch of backyard gardens working together to function as a small farm.
Theme Song and Partying
We’d definitely have to have a theme song. And we’d also party. Oh, since we’re a gang we need a color, and an enemy color, so it would give us the right to fight anyone who wears the enemy color.
Tentative Five Family Food Gang Schedule
||Winter Planning Meeting
- At least one member of each family gets together and decides who grows what and how much
- Plan gardens and determine who can grow what
- Schedule the rest of the season
- Talk about bulk seed order/tool sharing
- Talk about everything else
|Late Winter/Early Spring
||Garden Prep Work Weekend/s
- At least one member of each family (hopefully as many as possible) gets together and preps all five gardens. Ideally we’d have enough labor to prep all five gardens in 1 or 2 weekends
- Raised bed building, plowing, digging, etc.
- Planting transplants in a greenhouse, if we have one
||Outdoor Planting Work Day
- we put first greenhouse transplant/seeds into the ground
||First Spring Harvest Produce Share (to be repeated weekly or bi weekly)
|Spring -> Summer
||Weekly Produce Share and Occasional Workdays
||End of season meeting/party
The Sloover family may be able to join a project like this in 2019. Maybe you can form a gang this year. This is meant to be a very basic outline to get us talking about it. What do you think? Give me your ideas/issues/problems that might arise in the comments.