Co-ops Keep Democracy Alive
Our society should work for everyone
This should not be as lofty of a goal as it is made out to be. And yet, this simple idea must work through a web of institutional failures that we are tasked with undoing and fixing in order to become a reality. This work requires, among many other aspects, a firm commitment to democracy on both a national and local level.
A strong democratic society ensures that all voices are heard, resources are allocated equitably and decisions are made in the best interest of the entire community instead of just a select few. The ways in which a community can uphold democracy are extensive. Quality education and information sharing, political representation that reflects the identity of the community, and open public forums that encourage healthy debate are a few of the examples that may come to mind first. In addition, (and we may be biased on this) one of the most effective ways for a community to practice democracy is through the building and sustaining of local cooperatives.
Cooperatives (aka co-ops) are community-owned and operated groups and businesses that are democratic by nature. Whether they are a consumer, producer, agricultural, worker, housing, or any other type of co-op, their democratic processes prioritize shared decision-making which ultimately creates a more equitable distribution of resources. By giving Members/Owners a say in how the business or group is run, cooperatives ensure that the community’s needs are met in a way that benefits everyone in the collective.
Consumer grocery co-ops (like us!), in particular, can play a significant role in keeping communities democratic. These stores not only provide access to fresh, local, and healthy food, they operate under a cooperative model that give Owners a say in how the business is run, ensuring that it always serves the needs of the community. This means that a grocery co-op can be more than just a grocery store; it can be a pillar in their city that makes decisions around philanthropy, sustainable practices, inclusion, and more that help define the community in a way that traditional corporations often cannot, or will not.
As a community-owned store that started as a buying club in 1972, the Davis Food Co-op is proud to play a significant role in promoting democracy and equity throughout our organization as well as in the City of Davis and Yolo County at large. We believe that democracy is an essential part of establishing a just and equitable society and we know that process begins in our own community. By giving our Owners the ability to vote and run for our Board of Directors, we ensure that the entire community’s needs are addressed in the business decisions that we make. By promoting shared decision-making and a commitment to the greater good, our co-op can continue to build a future where our community works to serve everyone and can hopefully inspire others to strive for more control over their resources and decision-making as well.
As of the posting of this blog on 5/11/23, we are currently in the process of our Annual Elections. From now until 5/20/23, Davis Food Co-op Owners have the opportunity to vote online for three new Board Members as well as four new Round Up at the Register recipients. To sweeten the deal even more this year, we will be raffling off a $100 gift card to a lucky Owner simply for voting. For more information, visit our Elections page here.
Not yet an Owner but want to learn how you can become one? Visit us in store at the Customer Service Desk or at our Ownership page here.
Davis Forest School – DFC’s 2022 Apple a Day Recipient
Each year, the Co-op donates $0.10 for every pound of apples sold over the course of our fiscal year through our “Apple a Day” program. With 60,275.25 lbs of apples sold from October 2021 – September 2022, we were left with $6,275.25 to donate to a local nonprofit organization.
For this year’s donation, we have chosen Davis Forest School as our recipient.
The $6,275.25 donation will directly support the expansion of their Winter 2023 Program to include an additional skill-based class for 15 more children in the Davis community.
Our Marketing Manager Vince and Education and Outreach Specialist Anna recently sat down with founder Candice Wang, and had her answer a few questions about Davis Forest School:
1. Can you Tell us about Davis Forest School and how it came to fruition?
Davis Forest School is a non-profit nature play and outdoor education organization, and
was founded in early 2018. Our goal is to promote and cultivate understanding of, and
empathy for, the natural world, and for the local bioregion (in particular, the ecosystem of Putah Creek and the lower Sacramento River watershed).
Our programming is based on the forest school model, which meets outdoors in the wild, over time, and is a co-creating experience between children and the Forest Mentors.
This organization came to fruition from me being a mother to very spirited and wild
children. Motherhood was an initiation into deconditioning and healing from certain
aspects of my own childhood, and a commitment to following the lead of my children in
what they need. We discovered the forest school model together, and the first time I
spent hours in nature with my kiddos, I just felt so much peace. I could see all the ways
we are disconnected from our lives, each other, the land, and how important it is to find a sense of connection again. My children’s wildness led me to this work, and the layers of depth with our connection to this land keeps me here.
Davis Forest School is also a testament of what can be created from a tapestry of
community members who share a vision and are deeply devoted and passionate to their work. Rosemary Roberts, a parent to one of our first students, took on running the
school when I moved away for a couple of years, and was the person to establish DFS
as a community entity. We are now supported and led by a team of parents behind the
scenes. We also have the most wonderful Forest Mentors who take so much ownership
over what we do, such as Molly Damore Johann, who was the person to connect us
with this opportunity with the Davis Food Co-op.
2. Why do you believe this way of schooling is a good alternative to formal schooling?
For now, we don’t replace other schooling models because we mostly run as an
afterschool program (although we have a homeschool morning class that we would like to expand!). Our organization is more of a counter environment to the formal schooling that children receive, and divests from our culture’s fixation on busyness. Rather than having a top-down model of education, we allow space for spontaneous learning through unstructured imaginative play and exploration. Our staff members are “Forest Mentors”, and not “teachers”, and take on the role of guides for the kiddos during our time out in nature together. We trust children in their innate sense to learn through play and exploration. Our programming is child-led, although we follow a daily rhythm and include naturalist studies, nature connection routines, and earth skills. When children are told what to do, what they need to learn, or what our time together should look like, this can cause them to shut down and resist what’s in front of them. When children have space to just be, their curiosity and sense of openness expands. Children learn so much from following their curiosities, and by returning to the same natural spaces over and over again, throughout the seasons and years.
3. Why is land acknowledgement and reparations an important part of Davis
Our work is deeply entwined with the land. Since time immemorial, the Patwin people have been stewards of this land. Acknowledging that we are on occupied Patwin land, through words, is the very bare minimum entry into land acknowledgement. We are learning that true land acknowledgement comes from how we run our program, and through partnering with Indigenous folks and support organizations. As a society, we need to move away from a model where we commodify nature, where we view it as something to further extract from. Nature programming can easily become about how nature can serve us. Beyond words, land acknowledgment is embracing and honoring Indigenous models of being in reciprocal relationship with the land.
DFS offers reparations to our Black and Indigenous families because we are running land-based programming on stolen land, in a country that was built on the backs of Black labor. Offering reparations is also a step towards dismantling systems of power, and prioritizing equity, in outdoor spaces.
4. What are some of the things the kiddos have said they enjoy the most in the programs?
We hear from the kiddos that they really enjoy swimming and playing in the creek. They love whittling, building shelter, catching crayfish, and going on expeditions. The kiddos have high-excitement moments when we see certain animals, like an otter eating trout by the shoreline. The children love our Forest Mentors, and having time together each week. At the start of our Fall Program last month, a few children said that Forest School is unlike any school they’ve been to before, and that they are free to play. I think children come into our program expecting what they know to be school, because we have “school” in our name. It reaffirms the work we do when we witness children open up and embrace their sense of autonomy in a higher freedom environment.
5. When someone donates to Davis Forest school, what does it go towards? What
are other ways people in the community can support Davis Forest School?
Right now, all donations go directly towards our equity fund for tuition assistance and reparations, which supports our goal of creating more equity in the outdoor space. People in the community can also support us by continuing to share DFS with others, and by sharing with us grants and funding opportunities that are relevant to our organization. We are in a critical stage of growth and formation, where we need to find the balance between being able to offer accessible programming and being able to provide sustainable jobs for the amazing team we have. I do want to acknowledge how we already feel so embraced by this wonderful community. Davis Forest School is here today because of the people who understand and appreciate the work we do, and have uplifted us throughout the past few years. We very much look forward to expanding and continuing to anchor in this work.
Back to School Sale
On Saturday August 20th and Sunday August 21st, the Davis Food Co-op will be giving everyone that spends $100 or more, $25 off of their order*
* Limit one use per customer. All orders over $100, regardless of the total amount, will automatically receive the onetime $25 discount to their order. The discount will be applied immediately and cannot be redeemed at a later date. The following purchase exclusions apply and do not count towards the $100 necessary to receive the discount:
– Mermaid Sushi
– Owner Equity Payments
– DFC Gift Card purchases
– Donations (such as Round-Up at the Register)
– Co-op Cooking Classes
– Event ticket purchases
– Tickets the Co-op sells on behalf of other organizations or fundraisers
– Bottle Deposits
– Sales tax
– Paper Bag purchases
– Alcohol purchases
– CBD purchases
A Conversation With Emma Torbert From Cloverleaf Farm
We were fortunate to have the chance to speak with Emma Torbert from Cloverleaf Farm to hear about the unique structure they have and the sustainable practices that they use. Emma got her masters in Horticulture from UCD and worked for the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis for seven years. Cloverleaf is an 8-acre organic orchard and farm outside of Davis, California on the Collins Farm that specializes in peaches, nectarines, apricots, figs, berries, and vegetables. The Cloverleaf follows regenerative principles including no-till, rotational grazing, and cover-cropping. The farm is co-owned by Emma Torbert, Katie Fyhrie, Kaitlin Oki, Yurytzy Sanchez, Neil Singh, Tess Kremer, and Kyle Chambers; who all manage the farm together in a cooperative and consensus-based fashion. You can find The Cloverleaf Farm’s produce at the Sacramento Farmers Market on Sundays and at various grocery stores in Davis, Sacramento, and the Bay Area.
Cloverleaf seems to break the mold of what a traditional farm functions like. Traditionally farms are passed down generationally within families, but all of your farmers come from diverse backgrounds, how did that model get started at Cloverleaf?
“We started out a group of four women and then the farm passed through a number of different partners. As different people were leaving we were realizing that for the sake of future transitions and the longevity of the farm operation a worker-owned cooperative farm would be best, although we are currently still structured as a partnership. There are currently seven partners right now.”
“We’ve been working with the California Center for Co-op Development for the last four years trying to figure out a way that everybody can own equal equity in the farm. 2014 was the first time that we started profit sharing and equity sharing. The equity sharing is not yet equal but that is what we are working with the CCCD on.”
“One of our core principles in our vision statement is working as a team. An important thing in thinking about farm management for us is recognizing everybody’s different skills and working together without an established hierarchical structure. We rotate who gets to be the crew leader every couple of weeks, so they are essentially the boss for those two weeks, which means everyone gets a chance to step into a leadership role.”
How do you limit your greenhouse emissions?
“In terms of limiting our carbon footprint, we do a number of things. In terms of the transportation of our food, we try to deliver as locally as possible. We purposefully choose markets that are closer and do not take our products further than the bay area. We are always making the decision to try to sell closer to home.”
“As for what happens in the field, all of our vegetables get grown no-till. Our orchards and all of our annual crops are no-till, which means that we don’t use a tractor very often at all. In doing that we use less fossil fuel. We’ve also put solar panels around the farm, and can’t wait until we can add more.”
“Something else that really contributes to greenhouse gas emissions is water use. We use moisture sensors so that we use as little water as possible. We tread that fine line of watering as little as possible without stunting the growth of the trees in our orchards.”
What are your pest management practices?
“We are an organic farm so we don’t spray any pesticides while the fruit is on the trees. We do use pheromone sprays, which disrupt the mating cycles of a lot of stone fruit pests. We put out raptor perches and owl boxes. The main pests that we have trouble with are ground squirrels and gophers.”
How do you try to limit your food waste?
We’ve been trying lots of different things for many years and I feel like this year it’s all coming together, we have very little food waste coming from our farm right now. Our compost pile is pretty tiny right now considering the size of our farm.
“We have an Ugly Fruit club, which allows people to buy our third-grade fruit at a discounted price. We also create a lot of value-added products like jams and dried fruit, which allows us to still sell our less aesthetic fruit instead of wasting it.”
“Something else that we do is donate to the food bank, especially this year when we’re worried about our community being food insecure.”