Food cooperatives all around the world aim to provide access to fresh, healthy, and sustainable food while promoting social and environmental responsibility.
Food co-ops, including the Davis Food Co-op, often prioritize sustainable practices in various ways:
Many food co-ops prioritize sourcing products locally to reduce the carbon footprint which means that the food traveled less, which means less gasoline, travel, and probably packaging.
Organic and Sustainable Agriculture:
Food co-ops frequently emphasize organic and sustainable farming practices. They offer organic produce, meat, and dairy products, and they may also feature items with certifications like Fair Trade, Non-GMO, or Certified Humane.
Co-ops often allow members to purchase products in bulk, which can reduce packaging waste and lower the cost of goods. Members can bring their reusable containers to fill up on items like grains, nuts, and spices.
Food co-ops tend to prioritize eco-friendly packaging options, such as reusable bags, biodegradable containers, and reduced plastic usage. Some co-ops may even have programs in place to incentivize customers to bring their own containers.
Education and Advocacy:
Many food co-ops engage in community education and advocacy efforts to promote sustainable food systems. They may offer workshops, seminars, and resources to help members and the public make informed choices about their food.
Recycling and Waste Reduction:
Food co-ops frequently prioritize waste reduction and recycling efforts. They may offer composting services, encourage customers to bring their own reusable containers, and minimize food waste through smart inventory management.
What Sustainability Practices does the Davis Food Co-op have?
One of the founding principles of third wave co-ops in the 60s and 70s (US!) was environmental sustainability, and we have tried hard to keep to those principles.
The DFC’s Five Year Strategic Plan provides overall vision and guidance for making the Davis Food Co-op a “Model for Environmental Sustainability”. The Board and General Manager are working together to make changes in the store that follow the Five-Year Strategic Plan.
Here are just a few ways the Strategic Plan made the Co-op more sustainable:
- The Co-op uses 100% renewable energy from Valley Clean Energy
- The most recent store remodel (2018) saw the installation of energy efficient coolers and other equipment
- Drought tolerant native landscaping around the store and Teaching Kitchen
- Drip irrigation systems prevent water loss and runoff
Greenhouse Gas Emissions:
- 21% of items on our shelves are made by 378 local vendors (within 100 miles of the Co-op)
- Our Buyers favor local products partly because the carbon footprint from these items is smaller
- The Co-op incentivizes staff to bike or walk to work
- Our Buyers increasingly pay attention to product packaging to reduce single use plastic in the store
- The Co-op’s Bulk, Produce, Wellness, and Dairy Departments offer hundreds of items free of plastic packaging
- When supplies are available, we package Deli food in compostable containers
- In 2019 we conducted an internal review of plastic use in the Meat Department and found pre-packaging meat significantly cut down on glove use so we started pre-packing most of our meat ultimately keeping more plastic out of the landfill
- Participate in Plastic Free July providing education for staff and shoppers all month
- Learn about our extensive Food Rescue program here
- We divert as much from the landfill as possible by making 4 waste streams available to shoppers and staff at all times
- Educate staff and shoppers on waste sorting through signage and events
- We work with Recology, Terracycle, and others to offer personal care product recycling and battery recycling to everyone
- Cardboard boxes in good shape get put in the Box Bin for anyone to use for shopping, moving, etc.
Heres a list of just some of the MANY co-ops that prioritize sustainabillity practices within their co-ops and communities:
BriarPatch Food Co-op– Grass Valley & Auburn, CA
Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op– Sacramento, CA
North Coast Co-op, Eureka, CA
Rainbow Grocery Co-op-San Francisco, CA
Ashland Food Co-op-Ashland, OR
Great Basin Food Co-op– Reno, NV
Moscow Food Co-op-Moscow, ID
Monadnock Food Co-op– Keene, NH
New Pioneer Food Co-op– Iowa City, Coralville, & Cedar Rapids, IA
Community Food Co-op– Bellingham, WA
Food co-ops are at the forefront of fostering sustainable and responsible food practices, building strong bonds within their communities, and nurturing a culture of shared responsibility among their members.
Our dedication to ethically sourced and environmentally conscious food distribution positions us as key players in the ongoing endeavor to create a more sustainable and equitable food system for our future.
October is Seafood Month!
Seafood is a whole category of animal protein with diverse flavors, textures, and preparation methods in addition to offering serious nutritive content. Even if you love seafood, you may worry it’s too expensive to incorporate weekly or too difficult to cook well. Learn how to shop and prepare budget-friendly seafood that doesn’t compromise quality or sustainability. You can find ingredients mentioned in this blog at the Davis Food Co-op.
You can always visit the Meat & Seafood Counter at the Co-op with questions! Our experienced Meat Cutters and Seafood Buyers know everything about the products in the case and can help with special orders if there’s something specific you are looking for.
There’s plenty of fish in the sea. Let this blog help you find the right one for your next meal!
At the Meat & Seafood Counter
If you’re looking for fresh seafood, the best place to go is the Meat & Seafood Counter. Both availability and price are largely determined by the season.
In many cases, you can make swaps to save some money. Steelhead Trout and Salmon cook up very similarly as orange fatty fishes – choose whichever is cheapest. Similarly, Tilapia and Sole can be used interchangeably as well as Cod with Mahi Mahi, and Tuna with Swordfish.
If you’re unsure of what to purchase, ask someone behind the Counter. They are very knowledgeable and friendly!
*At the Davis Food Co-op, all of our seafood is MSC and BAP certified.
Product Highlight: Bluehouse Salmon
Bluehouse Salmon raises salmon in environmentally conscious Bluehouses, the aquaculture equivalent to a greenhouse. Their Bluehouses are 95% water, 5% fish, and use 99% recycled and filtered water. In the Bluehouse there is no waste, no escapees, and no microplastics left into the ocean. The result is a salmon with no added hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides – only all-natural, protein-rich, sushi-grade salmon. Ranked Best Choice by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and recommended by Ocean Wise.
In the Frozen Aisle
You may have heard that frozen seafood is cheaper than fresh, and it often is! Don’t be afraid to source your seafood from the frozen aisle. Look for the following when shopping frozen seafood.
Filets in Bulk
You can find frozen filets of a wide variety of fish (and shellfish) available at the end of Aisle 10. These packages usually contain multiple individual servings/filets. Definitely price compare with what’s in the case to find the cheapest option (make sure to calculate price per ounce!) but this is a good option for someone shopping for one or a family.
Frozen fish must be thawed prior to use. Slow, even temperature changes are best for maintaining taste and texture, which means you should thaw the portion you intend to use overnight (or all day) in the refrigerator. If you’re human and forget to do this, your next best option is to thaw in a bowl of cold water or cold running water. It will take about 15 minutes. Do not thaw in hot water, in the microwave, or on the counter. These methods not only compromise taste and texture, but allow for more potential for harmful bacteria to grow.
Product Highlight: Pacific Seafood Clams
Harvested by hand from the West Coast of California and Baja Mexico, Pacific Seafood White Hard Clams are a rich source of protein, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, vitamin C, iodine, and selenium. And, as one of the cheapest frozen seafood options, frozen clams are one of your best tools in savvy seafood shopping and eating. If you don’t know what to do with clams, check out the recipes at the end of this blog!
Discount Fish (10–50% OFF)
Everyday the Meat Department freezes fresh fish from the case that has reached its “freeze by” date. You can find this 10-50% off discount seafood at the end of Aisle 10. This is a great way to save some money and try something new (ask at the Counter the best way to prepare your catch of the day).
If you’ve heard that you must use the freshest, best quality fish for sushi and sashimi, you heard right! We stock frozen sushi-grade Salmon and Ahi. Use sushi-grade white fish for ceviche too. Thaw overnight in the fridge for best results. Sushi-grade fish may not always be the most budget friendly option (but it’s nice to know we have it).
In the Grocery Aisles
Don’t forget about the grocery aisles when shopping seafood – you’ll find your most economical options here. Yes, we’re talking “tinned fish”, which you may have seen had its viral moment on the internet earlier this year. The internet (read: younger generations) went wild for canned Salmon, Anchovies, Sardines, etc. in part because of the affordability and sustainability of these products!
We offer a lot of tinned fish options, so here’s what to look for. The most affordable canned fish are usually Sardines, Anchovies and Tuna (Salmon, Oysters, and fancier things can be more expensive). Mackerel, Trout and Sardines are mild and less “fishy” tasting. Anchovies are little umami bombs that melt deliciously into sauces and dishes.
Another great way to get delicious, salty, fishy taste into your dishes is with Red Boat Fish Sauce (made with just fish and salt). Add to your next stir fry, starting with ½ a teaspoon and adding more as you like.
Product Highlight: Wild Planet Sardines
Wild Planet is our pick when it comes to affordability and sustainability. Wild Planet Sardines aren’t too “fishy” and have a delicious, mild flavor. Sustainably caught and firm in texture, Wild Planet Sardines are an easy way to eat lower on the food chain while gaining essential nutrients such as EPA and DHA omega-3s, iron, and potassium.
- Salmon filets
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rub each salmon filet with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place skin-side down on the parchment and cook for 12 minutes for every inch of thickness on the filet.
You can take it a step further and wrap your salmon in a parchment packet with aromatics, citrus, veggies, and a drizzle of olive oil. The steam trapped in the packet will infuse the fish with flavor and cook it gently, making it tender and juicy. The parchment packet method only takes about 15 minutes at 425°F. Try lemon, capers and parsley.
Saucy Clam Pasta
- 1 lb. pasta of choice (see what you already have!)
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 heaping teaspoon Italian herb blend or dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon or more red pepper flakes
- ⅓ cup dry white wine (whatever you don’t mind drinking the rest of!)
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- 2 lb. clams, thawed if frozen
- 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For serving: crusty bread
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add salt and dried pasta. Cook until just under al dente (about 2 minutes less than the lesser cooking time). Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining pasta. Set aside.
Meanwhile, melt butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-low heat. Add garlic, dried herbs, and chili flakes. Cook for about 30 seconds or until the garlic is fragrant. Add white wine and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, and reduce by half, about five minutes.
After reduced and thickened, add in vegetable stock and pasta water. Bring to a boil, again, then add the clams. Lower the heat to a simmer, and put the lid on the Dutch oven. Let the clams cook until they open, about 10 minutes. Once the clams have opened up, remove from the sauce, placing them onto a separate plate. Throw away any clams that have remained closed.
Add lemon zest, juice, parsley, pasta, and a good amount of grated parmesan and freshly cracked black pepper to the cooking pot. Let simmer until the pasta is al dente, 2-3 minutes. Taste and season with salt if needed. Add the clams back to the pot and serve in bowls with crusty bread.
Mediterranean Style Fish Toasts
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 big pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 2 cans sardines in olive oil, drained
- 4 slices fresh bakery bread
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. When hot, sizzle the garlic clove and red pepper flakes for about 10 seconds, stirring the whole time. Add the lemon zest, stir, and immediately add the sardines. Cook, stirring frequently, until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Toast the bread. Stir the parsley into the sardines, add a squeeze of lemon juice, and mix. Divide between the toasts and serve.
Tahini Caesar Salad Dressing and Veggie Dip
- 1/2 cup well-stirred tahini (Soom is a great brand at the Co-op)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 anchovy filets
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- About ½ cup water
Combine everything except the water in a bowl or glass jar with a well fitting lid. Whisk or shake until it comes together. The mixture may thicken and “seize”. Add water a tablespoon at a time while whisking slowly until the mixture relaxes and thins. Add water until desired consistency is reached. You can do this in a blender or food processor as well. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Tuna Banh Mi
- 2 (5-ounce) cans solid, water-packed tuna, drained
- 1.5 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup or granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 French baguette
- 1 large carrot, julienned
- 1 jalapeño, sliced
- 1 English cucumber, sliced
- Half a bunch of cilantro, torn
In a medium bowl, combine tuna, tamari, maple, sesame oil, and garlic. Mix. You can make it spicy by adding chili paste or your favorite hot sauce, but don’t overdo it since you’re adding jalapeños too. Set aside.
Slice baguette in half (so you have 2 half size baguettes) and then slice to open each sandwich up. On one side of the bread, spread mayo. Split the seasoned tuna between both sandwiches. Then topped with shredded carrots, thinly sliced cucumbers, sliced jalapenos, and cilantro as desired. Enjoy!
Classic Tuna Melt
- 3 (5-ounce) cans solid, water-packed tuna, drained
- ¾ cup mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup finely chopped cornichons or small kosher dill pickles
- 3 tablespoons minced red onion
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 packed tablespoon minced fresh dill
- 1-2 green onions, minced
- 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 slices rye or sourdough bread
- 8 sandwich slices extra-sharp Cheddar
- 4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, plus more as needed
Place the tuna in a medium bowl and flake with a fork. Add the mayonnaise, cornichons, red onion, lemon juice, dill, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Depending on the size of your bread, spoon ⅓ to ½ cup tuna salad on each of four slices of bread, heaping it in the middle slightly. Divide the cheese among the sandwiches, tearing and arranging the cheese to fit neatly. Place a piece of bread on top of each and generously spread the top piece of each sandwich with about ½ tablespoon butter.
Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium-low. Place two sandwiches, buttered-side down, in the skillet, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the bottom pieces of bread are golden brown. Meanwhile, spread the top of each sandwich with another ½ tablespoon butter. Carefully flip the sandwiches, turn the heat to low, and cook for 3 to 4 more minutes, until the bottoms are browned and the cheese is melted. Repeat with the remaining two sandwiches and serve immediately.
The current 2018 Farm Bill is expiring on September 30th and members of Congress in the House and Senate are continuing to develop their drafts for its renewal as the government works to avoid a shutdown.
The Farm Bill sets policy for agriculture, forest health, food aid programs, conservation, and other areas overseen by the Department of Agriculture.
Many agriculture and advocacy groups over these past few months have convened listening sessions and voiced their concerns and hopes for the future Farm Bill. Some are hoping the new bill will include boosted support for environmental programs, like paying farmers to develop land conservation plans and incentivizing practices like cover crops to promote soil health.
If Congress fails to pass a new bill by Jan. 1, 2024,
some programs will revert back to 1940s-era policy
that, among other things, would see the U.S. Department of Agriculture buying dairy products off the market, driving up consumer prices.
Who writes the Farm Bill?
The Farm Bill is authored by members of Congress on the House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
What is not included in the Farm Bill?
There are several policy areas that are not included in the Farm Bill. Some of these include farm and food workers’ rights and protections; public land grazing rights; Food and Drug Administration food safety; renewable fuels standards; the Clean Water Act; and tax issues.
What programs are covered by the Farm Bill?
In addition to SNAP, the Farm Bill covers programs that assist with:
• Prices and income support for farmers who raise widely produced and traded non-perishable crops, such as corn, soybeans, wheat, and rice.
• Natural resource conservation efforts on working lands, as well as land retirement and easement.
• Federal loans
• Community and rural business
• Farm and food research, education, and extension for federal labs and state university-affiliated research groups
• Forest conservation
• Renewable energy systems
• Crop insurance
What will this Farm Bill look like?
The Congressional Budget Office’s recently released May 2023 baselines for USDA Mandatory Farm Programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) confirming that the 2023 Farm Bill, upon enactment, could potentially be the first trillion-dollar Farm Bill in U.S. history.
Total outlays across SNAP and mandatory farm programs for fiscal years 2024 to 2033 are projected at $1.51 Trillion. Compared to the cost of the 2018 farm bill at enactment of $867 billion, the 2023 Farm Bill will represent a $640 billion or 74% increase in spending – primarily driven by increases in SNAP outlays.
What’s currently happening?
The House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill are currently being written by their respective agricultural committees. Though marker bills continue to be introduced, the initial phase of Farm Bill drafting is coming to a close. Once they finish writing their separate versions of the bill, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees will debate, amend and vote on their drafts. Then, these drafts will be brought to each full chamber to be debated and amended.
The new 2023 Farm Bill holds immense potential for shaping the future of our agriculture industry.
As we eagerly anticipate its enactment, we must remain actively engaged, advocating for policies that prioritize innovation, environmental stewardship, and fair market conditions.
Additional Farm Bill Resources
An Ode to Bees on National Honey bee Day
Close to 3/4 of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators, and a big chunk of that is the humble honey bee. It’s difficult to fully grasp the vast and delicate balance that our ecosystem rests upon and the part that bees play in that. And for as much as we appreciate a drizzle of honey in our tea, many of us may overlook the larger implications surrounding honey bees and their dwindling populations. Let this blog serve as an opportunity for a newfound (or renewed) appreciation.
National Honey Bee Day, held every third Saturday of August, shines a light on these tireless pollinators and the equally tireless beekeepers tending to them. Beginning as a National Honey Bee Day in 2009, the essence of this day has spread and its purpose is twofold: to savor the sweet nectar that is honey and to stand in solidarity with efforts that sustain honey bee populations.
This year, we would like to help spotlight the amazing flight of the honey bee and capture the moments that accentuate its beauty and significance to us all.
Some Quick Fun Facts About Honey Bees:
- The amount of distance that bees travel in an effort to make enough honey for one jar is about 100,000 air miles
- When the temperature in the hive drops below anywhere 50 degrees in Winter, bees shiver themselves warm with the help of their flight muscles. In this way, they can heat their home back up to over 85 degrees
- Bees communicate with each other using a special “waggle dance.” Through specific movements, they can convey information about the direction and distance to patches of flowers yielding nectar and pollen, water sources, or to new nest-site locations
- Bees can fly at a speed of up to 15 miles per hour and their wings beat about 200 times per second
Our connection to honey bees goes far beyond the jar of honey you have in your pantry. Their pollinating abilities play a critical role in our agricultural systems. Without their intervention, many foods that enrich our diet wouldn’t even make it to our plates in the first place. Global and national reports such as the annual Loss & Management Survey show that the decline in honey bee populations is alarming. This makes World Honey Bee Day more than just a day of acknowledgment—it’s a call to foster environments that support honey bees.
The rich agricultural landscape of Yolo County and its surroundings is a testament to the hard work of local farmers and, of course, our buzzing friends. However, the region’s dependency on pollinators like honey bees brings to light the urgent need for sustainable practices to bolster their populations. Pesticide use, habitat destruction, and other factors challenge their survival here.
While it’s pivotal for us to urge policymakers to devise bee-friendly policies, it’s equally essential for us to integrate practices into our daily lives that amplify their well-being right here at home.That’s why we prioritize sourcing from local, organic, and sustainable producers . This conscious choice aids in promoting bee-friendly agricultural practices so that we can preserve and uplift bee habitats.
While the blooming flowers of 2023 after a wet Winter have brought a prosperous season for our pollinators, it’s imperative that we maintain our momentum in supporting and celebrating them, not just today but every day. So, next time you spot a bee (or beekeeper for that matter), make sure you say something sweet as honey to them to show your appreciation.
Support Relief Efforts in Maui
Like many around the world, we have been devastated by the loss of life and land caused by a recent wildfire in Maui. When these tragedies occur, it is natural to want to lend support to relief efforts that are helping victims. However, with so many different organizations to choose from, it can be difficult to know where you should best focus your attention. Below is a list of vetted local organizations in Maui that are providing grassroots support for the victims of this wildfire.
Ama OluKai Foundation
The sustainable footwear company OluKai, a certified B-corp, has a decade-long history of supporting the Hawaiian community through its Ama OluKai Foundation. The Foundation is set up to take direct donations and is matching funds up to $200,000 to directly support victims of the Maui wildfire.
Hawai’i Community Foundation
The Hawaii Community Foundation has been the leader in Hawaiian philanthropic efforts for over 100 years. They immediately set up the Maui Strong Fund to solicit donations for fire relief which has raised more than $27M from over 100,000 donors in more than 40 countries. They are continuing to raise fee-free donations that can be deployed quickly, with a focus on rapid response and recovery.
Hawai’i Food Bank
Hawaiʻi Foodbank is a non-profit 501(c)3 agency that provides food assistance to the state of Hawaiʻi. Online donations will be quickly utilized to help provide support and food assistance to those in need through their partnership with the Maui Food Bank.
Regenerative Education Center
REC is a sustainable Nonprofit farm on the south side of Lahaina that teaches regenerative agriculture. Although the farm was heavily damaged by the fires, they are offering generators, solar power, plumbing, food and the shade of their mango trees as an off-the-grid shelter option for displaced residents.
With the end of Plastic Free July, we wanted to give a quick recap of how it impacted the Davis Food Co-op
As you can see in the charts below:
- We reduced the number of plastic products carried at the Co-op by 2.2% in the month of July, compared to the month of June.
- Plastic product sales decreased by 2.1% for the month of July, compared to the month of June.
- For our Fiscal Year of 2023, we have reduced the number of plastic products carried by 0.6% compared to FY 2022.
- For our Fiscal Year of 2022, plastic product sales have decreased by 12.5% compared to FY 2022.
For the month of July, we offered 2X rewards for Owners who purchased items from the Bulk Department.
Owners increased their bulk purchases for the month of July by 106.44%, compared to 2022.
Research shows that 88% of participants made one or more changes that have become new habits and a way of life.
The Davis Food Co-op encourages customers to go beyond the month of July and continue their plastic-free journey.
By consistently making seemingly small changes, we accumulate significant impacts over time.
Each year, the Co-op donates $0.10 for every pound of apples sold over the course of a year through our “Apple-a-Day” program. With 61,959 lbs of apples sold from July 2022 – June 2023, we were left with $6,196 to donate to a local organization.
For this year’s donation, we have chosen Ujamaa Farmer Collective
as our recipient.
as our recipient.
The $6,196 donation will directly support the Collective’s fundraising efforts to “build a Black-led, BIPOC-centered agriculture business cooperative committed to providing long-term, affordable land access for multiple existing BIPOC farmers/ranchers struggling with land security” here in Yolo County. In this blog we will tell you more about the vision of the Ujamaa Farmer Collective and how you can help them achieve their goals.
Ujamaa Farmer Collective Leadership Team
(pictured from left to right):
Keith Hudson (Grocery Croppers, LLC),
Brian Pinkney (We Grow Urban Farm),
Nathaniel Brown (Brown Sugar Farm),
Nelson Hawkins (We Grow Urban Farm)
To best understand these goals, we must first consider some historical context. In 1910, around 14% of farmers* in the US were Black and they owned more than 16 million acres across the country. Today only around 1% of US farmers are Black while nearly 95% are White. Many factors over the past 100 years have led to such a sharp decline.
* It should be noted that “farmer” is also known as “producer” in these counts and consists of a farm’s owner, a member of the owner’s family, a manager, a tenant, a renter, or a sharecropper and does not include the employees (known as farmworkers).
Since the early 20th century, Black farmers have faced a long history of injustices including unequal access to credit and federal aid. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has faced multiple lawsuits, including the landmark case of Pigford v. Glickman in 1999, for its history of discriminatory practices that have limited Black farmers’ abilities to invest in their farms and acquire land. Compounding these economic challenges, many Black farmers deal with the complex issue of heirs’ property – a form of land ownership that arises when a landowner dies without a will, leading to the vulnerable division of property amongst the deceased’s heirs. This precarious situation resulted in a 90% decline in Black-owned farmland nationwide between 1910 and 1997, resulting in an estimated capital loss of $326 billion . In addition to these systemic inequities, Black landowners have also faced intimidation, violence, and illegal land seizures, all furthering the gap in land access for Black farmers.
Enter the Ujamaa Farmer Collective. Meaning “fraternity or familyhood” in Swahili, the term “Ujamaa” is the fourth principle of Kwanzaa created through cooperative economics as a practice of shared social wealth and the work necessary to achieve it.This is at the root of what the Ujamaa Farmer Collective hopes to achieve. Created by a compassionate group of advocates within the CDFA BIPOC Advisory Committee, the Collective has been created to work towards addressing the challenge of land tenure amongst historically underserved farmers.
Built upon the work of AB 1348: The Farmer Equity Act, the Collective notes in a blog on the Kitchen Table Advisors website that their focus is “to provide land for BIPOC farm businesses to steward through long-term, affordable leases. These leasing opportunities, ranging from ½ acre to 20-acre plots owned by the collective, will enable existing farm business owners to grow their operations on secure land parcels. The collective also aims to provide on-site housing for the farmers, allowing these business owners to fully immerse themselves in their farms while also raising and tending to their families”
The Collective has already successfully advocated for state funding to acquire a 50-100 acre parcel of land in Yolo County and recently attained counsel to aid them in establishing their 501(c)(3). They have raised $1.25 million towards their campaign goal of $2.5 million so far and are working with Possibility Labs as their fiscal sponsor to make this dream a reality. The work to choose and develop a site is underway as they continue to fundraise to build these equitable opportunities for Black and BIPOC farmers. While the Collective has made great progress, and the Co-op is happy to contribute towards that progress, the work is far from complete to reach their campaign goal of $2.5 million. That is where we are calling on our Co-op community to help support these continued efforts.
As a co-op in our community for the past 50 years, we know the power of collective effort to make changes in our local food systems. In recognizing that, we must also recognize that the changes that our co-op has influenced during that time have largely benefitted only White communities. As noted in an article on the Cool Davis website, supporting this project “is a once in a generation opportunity to do something well within our grasp that will have a significant positive impact right here at home. The impact will reverberate in all aspects of Yolo county racial equity lived experience, in our sustainable food system, in the resilience of our community”.
In conversations about environmental sustainability, it’s common for plastic to play the part as a universal villain.
Indeed, the harmful environmental impacts of plastic pollution are well-documented and significant. And while we spend the month of July recognizing Plastic Free July with calls to reduce our reliance on plastic, it’s critical to remember that the ability to completely avoid plastic consumption is a privilege that not everyone shares.
Plastic pollution not only disproportionately affects marginalized communities, it also greatly affects their ability to reduce plastic use due to socioeconomic circumstances. Undeniably, plastic has been so deeply woven into the fabric of our societies because it’s cheap, durable, and convenient. Because of this, communities in economically distressed regions often depend on plastic for its accessibility and affordability. To expect these communities to prioritize plastic reduction over immediate economic concerns is not only unfair, but also unfeasible.
This begs us to question – Who truly has the ability to avoid plastic use? The answer shouldn’t be surprising. Those who are best suited to afford to live a plastic-free lifestyle typically enjoy a certain level of economic stability and live in environments where plastic-free alternatives are readily available. They have the privilege to make this choice – a choice that is not universally accessible.
This is not a justification for complacency. Rather, it is a call to broaden our understanding and work towards true inclusive sustainability. Just as with our discussions on climate change and its disproportionate effects on marginalized groups, the dialogue on plastic consumption should also include its social and economic dimensions.
The discourse around plastic use reduction must include plastic-free options that are affordable and accessible to all communities. Green initiatives need to extend their reach beyond the privileged and include those on the front lines of plastic consumption. And most importantly, we should never shame people who make the decision to purchase plastic products. While we may be in a position to avoid plastic consumption, it is unfair to assume that everyone has that same luxury.
Inclusion is a key to a truly sustainable future. This blog serves as an invitation for us to widen our lens and recognize the privilege inherent in our consumption choices. It calls upon us to be advocates for change not just in our actions, but in our understanding of sustainability and the challenges faced by others in achieving it. The pursuit of sustainability should not be a luxury, but a necessity, and it must be done so through a process that holds those in power accountable so that it can be a pursuit that includes us all.
There are many excellent organizations that work at the intersection of environmental justice and social equity. Here are a few that you can learn more about:
Green For All is an organization that fights for a world that is green for all, not green for some. They work at the intersection of the environmental, economic, and racial justice movements to advance solutions to poverty and pollution.
The Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice Program, one of the oldest environmental organizations in the U.S., has a program specifically dedicated to promoting environmental justice and reducing health disparities by engaging leaders in communities that are most affected by pollution.
WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that People of Color and/or low income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices.
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders aims to serve as a resource to increase the capacity of philanthropy to support just and sustainable food and agriculture systems. They offer various resources and avenues for involvement.
Indigenous Environmental Network was established by grassroots Indigenous peoples to address environmental and economic justice issues, and to empower Indigenous communities towards sustainable livelihoods and preserving their cultures.