The No Hopers, Jokers and Rogues
Once upon a time, there was no Falmouth Food Co-op. The universe was just a residual soup, long since boiled over. The stinking, maggot infested left overs of capitalism. Within this heinous milieu was hidden a tiny rebellion, a group of families who refused to swallow their post industrial rations. They discovered a secret, something so powerful that if delicately nurtured, could one day bring an end to all the suffering - organised co-operation. They called themselves the No Hopers, Jokers and Rogues. Their leader was a mysterious figure known as Comrade JOE.
The NHJRs discovered that they could combine their weak and splintered means to negotiate for cheaper goods from a prominent vendor of bougy non-industrial food. Food that didn't poison the land, their bodies and the bodies of all the other animals.
The Benevolent Dictator and Banana Splits
At the end of 2018, the administrative burden became too much for Comrade JOE and the group co-opted Ben Moloney to become the Benevolent Dictator. Comrade Ben wasted no time in stoking up collectivist sentiment with communist propaganda via a monthly email and banning selfish individualist "weazel" behaviour...
Historical attempts at an enforced, collectivised approach to food production in various vernacular interpretations of Marxism have famously and tragically lead to famine. Conversely, however, it is within environments of abundance (such as Essential's overflowing silos of raw cacao coated mulberries) that both the fields of history and ecology have witnessed the most promising examples of egalitarianism. It is our firm belief that cooperative consumption can lead to food sovereignty and greater shared prosperity by redirecting consumer spending into the cooperative business model at the expense of supermarkets who only serve to undermine the food system through exploitation, extraction and concentration of wealth into fewer hands.
This isn't to say that any excesses of home production - for example products of labour free biologically-automated agronomy such as a glut of apples can't be generously and joyfully shared among our sisters and brothers. Indeed there is an ongoing directive from Comrade JOE, the first ever Dictator of the group, directing us to nourish, care and share our sourdough starters, SCOBYs and kefir babies with the hope that these thriving symbiotic cultures inspire deepening mutually beneficial relationships within our community, transcending contemporary primitive neo-liberal Homo economicus societies and metamorphosing into SCOPYs (Symbiotic Cultures of People and Yeasts). Please bring along such spoils to the decommissioning of hauls.
The Benevolent role rotated and Ben was followed by Zephyrine Craster. The two of them would go on to jointly manage the Falmouth Food Co-op Grocery. More roles were created...
One problem the Benevolent Dictators were charged with solving, was that at first, each household had to order whole cases of everything from the wholesaler. There was no efficient way for everyone to split cases to share amongst themselves meaning that everyone had to fill their hallways, stairwells and attics with enormous sacks and boxes of porridge oats and raw chocolate coated mulberries respectively.
The first attempt at a solution was called Banana Splits. Essentially, it was a meeting in Beerwolf Books where we would discuss what we were going to split. A Whatsapp group would be posted to with live updates and absent members could message in with anything they would be willing to go in on...
The Banana Split only happened once. It rapidly became apparent that the system was dreadful and someone called Nairme said something like, "there needs to be a spreadsheet for this!". This sentence was met with bemusement as nobody really knew what spreadsheets were. But it didn't fall on deaf ears and the suggestion led to a new line of enquiry. Comrade JOE got the ball rolling before comrade Ben, who was badly injured for a year got stuck in. Forums were scoured, and help sought from the darkest, geekiest depths of the interweb. Comrade Ben, who had spent the previous 3 years as a farm labourer and lived off-grid in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, went from Luddite to spreadsheet wizard in the course of a year.
Eventually we thought it would be a good idea to become a proper co-operative business and incorporated as a co-operative CIC in June 2019. We wanted to start supplying more fresh food and supporting local farmers and decided that we could have a greater impact by scaling up our operation.
Our first iteration of selling fresh local produce wasn't very popular. We called it Vegbox 2.0 and it was a little different from a conventional vegbox scheme in that you could mix and match smaller vegboxes from our different suppliers.
This is what Vegbox 2.0 looked like. (The FFC Levy meant that we had introduced a markup and thus marks the beginning of our shift to operating as a social enterprise)
We came up against the same problem that other box schemes do. People want to be able to choose exactly what they want to eat. We then started Vegbox 3.0 which resembles the Automator spreadsheet and allowed people to choose whatever they wanted and the Localiser was born. A complex spreadsheet system provided a cheap and efficient administrative system that made the process of creating customised vegboxes simple. This change proved popular and began to take off quickly and thanks to Zephyrine's great work in post as supplier liaison officer, the list of wonderful local suppliers grew and grew. The Localiser became so popular that we started to get a little ahead of ourselves :)
In the winter of 2019/20 a small group of zealous FFC members decided to start a learning group to discuss different issues around food. The first issue to be tackled was about Social Eating Spaces, inspired by a talk given by the National Food Service:
The NFS started with a belief that there should be a public eating space on every street and in every community of the country.
Everyone in the learning group was given a different piece of reading to go away and read at home and present at the next meeting. Everyone involved was so inspired that the group decided to start their own Social Eating Space - Falmouth Food Co-op Kitchen. With no suitable location to call their own, they started by organising a monthly Community Feast at the Dracaena Centre community centre in Falmouth. The FFCK feasts were participatory events for everyone to join in and get involved with, be this organising, preparing meals, serving food, enjoying suppers, talking with others at the table, washing up, supporting local groups and food suppliers. They were a huge success, however only two had taken place when a deadly virus began to spread around the globe and by the end of March, Cornwall was about to enter LOCKDOWN.
With the believe that everyone should have access to good food - particularly in a pandemic - the FFCK team rallied around the idea of delivering free meals for those who needed help. Toots Parkyn, Jessie Cotter, Rosa James and logistical legend Charlotte Higgins volunteered hundreds of hours coordinating the project with 3 dedicated teams of volunteer cooks - The Gendalldem, The Barge Crew and Team Anchor. A hotline was started and more spreadsheet wizardry and within 2 weeks, the teams were cooking a meal a day for each person per household that subscribed which were delivered by a fantastic fleet of volunteer drivers. The community responded to the need with generous donations coming in each day and Cornwall Community Foundation and Cornwall Council both provided generous grants.
In what was possibly the most turbulent time in recent history, the Falmouth Food Co-op Kitchen shone brightly and provided hope to us all.