SELMA, AL -
The Local Farm Cooperative is located in Selma, Alabama - a city known around the world for it being the stage for the United States Voting Rights Movement. Not only is the city steeped in history dating back to the Civil War, it is also known as the Queen City of the Black Belt, an area of Alabama named for its black, rich soil ideal for growing food.
With all of the ways that Selma is amazing, it is also in great need. The city is an example of what advocacy groups refer to as a "food apartheid", but what is commonly known as a food desert. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food deserts as, “areas where people have limited access to a variety of healthy and affordable food”.
In a report from the Economic Research Service, “Areas with higher levels of poverty are more likely to be food deserts, but for other factors, such as vehicle availability and use of public transportation, the association with food desert status varies across very dense urban areas, less dense urban areas, and rural areas”. Selma, a rural community. Has a population that is 80% Black where 40% of the people live below the federal poverty line.
OUR COMMUNITY PARTNERS
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There are a variety of types of co-ops, but you can learn a bit about the shared goal of building community businesses and community wealth here , or check out some brief videos summing up some of their general principles here and here. The NYTimes just wrote about some of how they have helped people cope with the massive economic challenges of the pandemic, both in the U.S. and abroad. The Farm, as well as the Restaurant, co-ops have evolved over time. Our origin story dates back some years & has evolved along the way as a labor of love & commitment, but includes initial incubation support from the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth & Reconciliation & gifts of time, treasure & talent by plenty of others.
the Local Farm Co-op has been learning great lessons from the 50+ years of work the Federation of Southern Cooperatives has done, the powerful leadership and accompaniment of folks like the late giant of Southern movement/co-op work Elandria Williams who came to Selma multiple times to support this work, from the rich food justice and urban agriculture work coming out of the South in general, as well as places like Detroit and Chicago (e.g., Growing Power and one of its successors the Urban Growers Collective); we're also learning from some other farm co-ops like Our Table Cooperative in Oregon and Our Harvest Cooperative in Ohio--they have all taken creative approaches to building local food economies and diversifying their revenue, and we've been actively learning lessons from them and others. And if you weren't aware of the rich connection between the Civil Rights Movement and co-ops, take a look at the solid book Collective Courage A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice .