Co-op-erate and bake!
Anna Louise Batchelor - 11 March 2013
Last week I blogged about a meeting being held by the True Food Co-op to vote on opening a real bread bakery. A big thank you to everyone who sent me messages of support and curiosity; “did we vote yes”? We certainly did!
It’s great news and “exciting times ahead” seems to be the saying of the moment. However the story doesn’t stop there as we search for an artisan baker, get baking and actually sell enough bread to make the venture financially viable. The story doesn’t stop there on another count, as it’s a tale of co-op-eration.
There are always challenges in running a co-op but when a group of people come together, pull together, for the benefit of their community the result is overwhelming. What is even better still is when co-ops co-op-erate. I think that one of the strengths of the ever growing UK co-operative movement has been the ‘networking’. In plain English I mean co-ops talking to each other, sharing info on what works and how to get things done.
At True Food we have been really lucky to have had the help from the biggest co-operatives; a small grant from The Co-operative, assistance from Infinity Foods, support and advice from Unicorn Grocery and most recently, quiet literally, hands on bread advice from Tom Baker, founder of the social enterprise ‘Loaf’. Tom has supported True Food with the business plan for the bakery, providing expert advice on bread making and even travelled from Birmingham to be with us for the members meeting. How can we reciprocate? We ‘pay it forward’ as recently we hosted a visit at our shop for ‘Stirchley Stores’, the co-op sister project to Loaf.
In some ways it’s a really hard time for new co-ops like Stirchely Stores to enter the high street; the recession, the demise of the high street and the power of the ‘big four’ supermarkets. In other ways there has never been a better time; as the horsemeat scandal rocks the big retailers local shops are thriving.
The only way that True Food, Stirchley Stores or any of the hundreds of other co-ops out there can survive is if you support them. So pay it forward, pay it to your community so we can all co-op-erate and bake!
Anna Louise Batchelor is an environmental scientist who has worked in academia, government and industry. For the last six years she has been part of Reading's True Food Co-op.