How do we show up in the world?
What is our impact? What are we embodying? How can we grow?1
- Adrienne Maree Brown
Even though nearly every video call these days begins with a check-in I never know what to share. But this week is different: I joined a cooperative and a friend wrote me a love poem!
Two years ago I moved back to my home town, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and started looking for people doing work in the area of solidarity economy, cooperatives, labor unions, time banking, transition towns, etc. I reached out to organizations, talked with activists, and got involved in a few projects, like Colorado Springs Food Rescue and the 2019 Pikes Peak Foodshed Forum. One such connection led me up a dirt road to the Flying Pig Farm where a group of young activists had gathered to test play a new labor union themed board game, called “Strike!”
Flying Pig Farm is a “community learning garden” which:
“provides a sanctuary for native plant and animal species in an accessible urban environment, practices responsible, respectful cultivation of nutritious food and medicine, provides a neighborhood growing space and learning environment...and recalls and reclaims communal knowledge of agriculture, local plants, and ecological systems.”
The farm is an LLC on the way to becoming a 501(c)3, but runs a lot like a collective: all the board members also work on the farm. It’s a lovely place and I was impressed by the group, including a local school teacher and farm education coordinator Barak Sol Ben-Amots.
It’s hard to judge a board game by one play. As I recall Strike! was focused on balancing the financial risks to a union that goes on strike against the possible gains, a rational but somewhat bureaucratic framing. In any case, I had a nice time and left the house a copy of Gibson-Graham’s book Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming Our Communities.
Flash forward several months to the arrival of Covid-19. A small group of people interested in cooperatives and active in some aspect of the local food system – farmers, food rescuers, food educators, community activists, cooperative members – started meeting online to talk about cooperative responses to the health and economic crisis, and the underlying conditions that have been exacerbated. One focus of our discussions has been the regeneration of the Colorado Farm and Art Market, a sixteen year old producer cooperative with two dozen or so member farmers and artists. Ruthie Markwardt, who works at Flying Pig Farm, became the Farm and Art Market’s manager, just in time for Covid-19. She is busily preparing for the June opening of the 2020 season and has initiated several new projects, including greater collaboration with food sovereignty organizations and a local buyers club, a Covid-19 appropriate way to distribute food, a new online market using Open Food Network, and a revived consumer membership.
Which brings me back to the poem. To promote the Farm and Art Market’s revived consumer membership, Barak made this offer on Facebook: “First 10 of my friends to sign up get a love poem written to them by me: just reply to this post once you've finished signing up!” I had already signed up, but still put in a reply.
Here’s the poem he gave me:
Collaborate to make this mudpie town into a delicious treat for those yet to come as we
dance out the possibilities to break what is broken and build what will last
Just as we wonder where to go next—
Matt Noyes steps in quiet and probably wearing a crash test hat
ready to plunge into the chaos the rest of us have not yet seen and
Your voice echoes your ears instead of the other way around
and the ground trembles in excitement as your plans are planted to hatch into glowing industry-capitalist nightmares.
As Adrienne Maree Brown points out, it is good to find out how you show up in your larger community. I like the way Barak shows up here, offering poetry as an incentive to solidarity. He and Ruthie and our other collaborators embody cooperation, creativity, empathy, and humor. This is what cooperative development is about: “dancing out the possibilities to break what is broken and build what will last.”
- 1Emergent Strategy, AK Press 2017
Matt Noyes (2020). A Gift for Showing Up: Coronavirus Check-in. Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO). https://geo.coop/articles/gift-showing