Multi-Stakeholder Food Co-ops – An Alternative to the Corporate Food System

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Our Table Cooperative is a locally sourced and organically grown farm and grocery cooperative in Sherwood, Oregon with a mission to address the key failures of the modern agriculture-business model that favors big business by creating a “revitalized local food system” that is fair to the farmers and workers, benefits the environment, and provides nutritious, local food to consumers. All those who contribute crops and products to the commercial store—work together, negotiate with each other, and share decision-making—all with the intention of creating a fairer and healthier system.

Our Table seeks to strengthen the local food system by helping local farmers cooperate instead of compete with one another. In a 2010 report examining local food systems, the US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service found that small farmers often don’t have the capacity to invest in marketing, to process or package their products, or to meet high-volume orders, making it difficult for them to meet the growing demand for their products. In Our Table’s model, the cooperative can invest in all these, bringing down the cost and allowing for more democratic decision-making on what services are most effective and needed.

This signature of multi-stakeholder co-ops is a model that has been growing in Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom. If Our Table is successful in the years to come, it could help make a case for the food movement to adopt more cooperative models.

Source: Mary Hansen and Liz Pleasant, “Local Food With a Big Twist: Oregon Super-Cooperative Takes Aim at the Corporate Food System,” Yes! Magazine, Feb 18, 2015, http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/local-food-with-big-twist-our-table-sherwood.

Student Researcher: Stephanie Armendariz (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)