Sometimes ideas arrive slowly, drifting into our thoughts like clouds, interesting but without insistence, without any demand to be noticed or attended to. Sometimes ideas come in the box of other people's "shoulds", like a gift that you would rather take back but you feel too guilty to exchange it. Sometimes ideas are exciting and flamboyant, demanding to be the center of attention, the star of the show, but failing in the end to have any substance or depth. And sometimes, if we are lucky, an idea arrives that is just right. It is both exciting and practical, challenging without pressure, and the one that keeps you up at night unraveling the potential of it in your mind, the one that won't leave you alone.
For us, Long Table Grocery is that kind of idea that has caught our imagination and stirred our hearts to act. I (Amy) first heard of an online grocery store for local food from my good friends Diandra Oliver and Laura Sapergia who were the owners of Home Sweet Home Grocery in Prince George.
I occasionally was able to purchase from them (and LOVED it), and being friends with them was able to hear how it was going and how things worked for them. I was busy with other projects though, working on building the Love Northern BC sites and other consulting work and it never occurred to me to do anything similar. Last year I had the chance to attend the Community Economic Development Program at SFU with Diandra and we spent a lot of time talking about local food systems and community development as a whole and my thinking about local economies began to evolve and change. As well, last year I completed my work with Northern Development and handed off the sites we built to them to manage and run and found myself with the time and mental space to consider new projects. With this newfound knowledge, perspective and time I spent a lot of 2016 thinking about what I could do to help create some real systemic change in our local food system. During this time I also became obsessed with the Permaculture movement and began working to incorporate the Permaculture Principles into my life and business projects.
Recently my sister and her partner purchased a property in Bouchie Lake, (Long Table Cattle Co. ) and began working towards becoming cattle ranchers which has meant many conversations around our family dinner tables about the local food economy, entrepreneurship, farming and community building. Out of these conversations and my own experiences with the local economy movement the idea of Long Table Grocery landed with us and inspired us to act.
I realize we are (very) late to this conversation as there are many local food pioneers in our community who have been working on this cause for many, many years. Our own parents were a part of the organic food movement in the 70's and spent many years working on a local cattle ranch as food producers. We are exceptionally lucky in the Cariboo with incredible farmers, food producers, retailers and food advocates and organizations in our community who have been doing incredible and important hard work that we all benefit from on a daily basis whether we realize it or not. We are also inspired by these people, and want to do what we can to carry on and build on the work of those who came before us and support their legacy and commitment to organic and local foods.
Jenny and I are building Long Table Grocery with the 12 Permaculture principles as the framework of our business. At the heart of Permaculture is three ethics: care for the earth, care for people, and fair share. These ethics form the foundation for the Permaculture Principles which are listed in further detail at the end of this article.
As Long Table Grocery launches and grows we know that there will likely be all the challenges and ups and downs that come with starting something new but we are 100% committed to caring for people, caring for the earth and fair share in our efforts to build a sustainable business that supports our local food producers, growers, farmers and entrepreneurs. Our vision is to support our community and build capacity in our local economy while also making it easier for people to choose local, organic and fair trade products.
One of my favourite authors, Micheal H. Shuman says this about local economies:
“The relationship between any two communities in the global economy is not unlike a marriage. As couples counselors advise, relationships falter when two partners are too interdependent. When any stress affecting one partner - the loss of a job, an illness, a bad-hair day - brings down the other, the couple suffers. A much healthier relationship is grounded in the relative strength of each partner, who each should have his or her own interests, hobbies, friends, and professional identity, so that when anything goes wrong, the couple can support one another from a position of strength. Our ability to love, like our ability to produce, must be grounded in our own security. And our economy, like our love, when it comes from a place of community, can grow without limit.”
We believe this to be true and can't wait to see what comes next. We hope you will join us on the journey.
For those of you still reading, here are the 12 Permaculture Principles (as described by David Holmgren, the co-founder of the Permaculture movement):
- Observe and Interact – “Beauty is in the mind of the beholder” By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
- Catch and Store Energy – “Make hay while the sun shines” By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
- Obtain a yield – “You can’t work on an empty stomach” Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the working you are doing.
- Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation” We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge.
- Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – “Let nature take its course” Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
- Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not” By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
- Design From Patterns to Details – “Can’t see the forest for the trees” By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
- Integrate Rather Than Segregate – “Many hands make light work” By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
- Use Small and Slow Solutions – “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.
- Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
- Use Edges and Value the Marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path” The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
- Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be” We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.