Food Commons Fresno is growing a regional food system that fosters health, stewardship, equity, and economic security. This system includes the whole farming process, from production of organic food, via processing to retail sales, in Fresno, California, and the surrounding San Joaquin Valley, USA.
The project is an ambitious attempt to prototype a larger, integrated food system that can provide mutual benefits for everyone -- farmers, workers, distributors, retailers, restaurants, consumers, the community -- as well as for the long-term resilience of the rich agricultural ecosystem of California's Central Valley.
"Food Commons for us is a very fresh idea and all the people involved are committed to a lot of principles and the service to community."
# Aspirational Goals
Food Commons Fresno is a community food system that seeks to foster health, stewardship, equity, and economic development in its region. Specifically, it seeks to: - create a comprehensive farm-to-plate regional food system; - make local food more affordable to everyone; - work in ecologically sustainable ways.
# Legal Status & Location
# When did they start?
The Food Commons initiative was launched in 2009 by Dan O'Connell, Kiel Schmidt and Larry Yee, in collaboration with other leaders in sustainable agriculture and local food production. These include Fresno Metro Ministry, Tower Urban Family Farm, T&D Willey Farms, Sweet Home Ranch, and Ooooby (Out of our own backyards html ), and various Community Supported Agriculture farms, urban farms, farmers' markets, cooperatives and others. Food Commons Fresno has earned the support of the city's business, academic and social justice communities.
The project has spawned another food commons initiatives in Atlanta, Georgia, and in New Zealand. Similar projects are gaining support in Seattle, Los Angeles and Boston.
# How do they work?
Food Commons Fresno started as a local farm-to-family food system relying on personal pickups of food or home delivery. A local food hub aggregates and markets produce from trusted farms and distributes it to restaurants and institutions. In May 2017, an old, remodeled restaurant started to function as hub.
# How are they financed?
Initial business planning and feasibility studies were supported by private foundations, including the 11th Hour Project, the TomKat Charitable Trust, the James Millis Jr. Family Fund, and Patagonia Corporation.
Support has also come from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the US Department of Agriculture, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and individual donors. Cofounder Larry Yee believes that the food commons model can be emulated elsewhere in the world, but the biggest constraint is the lack of investment capital. He estimates that between US$100 -- US$150 million is needed for each regional project.
Food Commons Fresno also solicits general donations html and crowdfunding on its website to address irregular, unforeseen needs, such as the need for a "truckfund" after a truck driver suffered injuries in a road accident, slightly damaging the truck. html
Food Commons Fresno embodies many of the core dimensions of commoning in seeking to cultivate shared purpose & values among the many people with a stake in agriculture and food; ensure fair abundance so that even low-income people can afford quality food; and practice gentle reciprocity in placing humane social and ecological limits on how food and agriculture markets will function.
As a regional commons, the Fresno project is seeking to decouple giving & taking so that participants do not have strict, calculated gains that match contributions to the system. The point is to have spillover effects that can be mutualized fairly by all participants.
By reducing the need for pesticides and "industrial agriculture" interventions, and by concentrating on ecologically responsible soil and crop-growing practices, Food Commons Fresno seeks to deepen interdependency on nature. It also seeks to trust situated knowing about the rich agricultural ecosystem, rather than simply using unsustainable interventions (overuse of groundwater; soil-depleting growing techniques, etc.)
Food Commons Fresno consists of three main entities: a nonprofit Food Commons Trust that acquires and stewards land and other assets needed to grow and distribute food; a community-owned finance arm called Food Commons Fund to provide affordable capital and financial services; and a locally owned and cooperatively run hub, the Food Commons Community Corporation, that connects farms, food processors, distributors and retailers.
These are augmented by support services for "administration, marketing, scientific knowledge about sustainable agriculture, technical assistance and specialized vocational training," writes John Thackara in his profile of the project. html that acquires and stewards food-growing assets such as land and physical infrastructure.
Governance Structure. source
In the second phase of Food Commons Fresno, from 2016 to 2020, the project will launch its first retail market, attempt to buy more farmland, and expand hub activities to include a commercial kitchen and light processing. These represent attempts to direct capital to commons provisioning.
Both the hub and trust will be governed by boards that include representation from the agricultural, environmental, and health communities as well as customers and employees. This is an effort to assure commoners' consent in decisionmaking.
The structure and bylaws of the two entities will ensure that local food production assets and operations cannot be controlled or bought out by narrow interests. This is clearly an attempt to separate commons & commerce so that valuable assets won't eventually be enclosed. Yet it also allows market exchange to occur for mutual benefit -- an example of trying to set semi-permeable boundaries. These legal provisions serve to relationalize property -- assets are stewarded for the benefit of the community -- while helping participants work to develop shared purpose & values.
Campaigning for donations source
In its structure, practices and ethos, Food Fresno Commons seeks to [[share the risks of provisioning] food the people in the San Joacquin Valley. While market exchange is part of the process, the project is reconfiguring the value chain of agriculture, food processing and distribution, and retailing, so that the food can be higher quality and more affordable than conventional markets.
In its blending of commons and market activity, it is a hybrid that nonetheless is clear about what should be commodified and how to make markets more cooperative. In this sense, the project aims to cocreate generative change by bringing together the key players in food production to work together, rather than to extract and privatize as much as possible. This is an exercise that seeks to protect & extend value sovereignty among commoners rather than simply monetize as much as possible.
ontological ground and political culture
# Inner Kernel
# Realms of Commoning
Food Commons Fresno website html
Robert Rodriguez, "Food Commons Fresno," Fresno Bee, September 13, 2016. html
John Thackara, How to Thrive in the Next Economy (Thames & Hudson, 2015), pp. 70-74. See also html
# See also
-- , "Why Food Should Be a Commons and Not a Commodity," Our World website [United Nations University], October 16, 2013. html