I am not a great lover of supermarkets, certainly the 'big four' have me gnashing my teeth at their air freighted, out of season, fruit, their excessive landfill-filling packaging and urges towards waste and over consumption with their BOGOF offers and slashed prices.
But I accept growing and rearing your own food 100% is an all but impossible dream. Fruit and vegetables, some animal produce are probably within reach - but growing grains to mill to make flour? Or grind to make pasta? All probably a little out of reach of the normal family's grasp I reckon.
I have used supermarkets and I guess will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future but I do have choice over which ones and can carefully select what I use them for. My supermarket of choice for several years has been the The Co-operative . I have a members card, several of their cloth bags to bring along and back at home we live easy walking distance from two Co Op stores. We buy our tea, coffee and sugar (fair trade), our fruit and veg (local, in season or fair trade) and our cereals, flour, pasta and tinned goods. I love the fact all of their own brand products are fair trade and excellent quality as well as being reasonably priced.
It was my Dad who told me a fair bit about how the Co-Operative started back in 1844 with the Rochdale Pioneers who were revolutionary in their actions and ideas and they are still going strong today, with a whole range of products under the Co-Operative banner. When we lived in Manchester for a few years it was plain to see how strong those roots still were and how proud of those early pioneers the local people still were whenever we visited Rochdale and saw the signs proudly proclaiming 'home of the Co-Operative' everywhere.
But the Co-Operative isn't just about financial services, food produce, funeral services and other branded products, they are also supporting countless initiatives both here at home and in the developing world, helping people to change the world around them. Empowering people to create co-operatives of their own. A campaign, launched this week is highlighting some of the amazing success stories made possible by the Co-Operative, including the inspirational story of Urban Bees whichwas set up by bee-lovers Brian McCallum and Alison Benjamin. They wanted to help protect dwindling honeybee populations in urban areas by educating city-dwellers in beekeeping.
Having already invested £500,000 into Plan Bee, our own bee protection and education programme, funding from The Co-operative helped Urban Bees to run training courses for beginners, give talks and work in partnership with other organisations and companies.
Brian and Alison have now established 20 new hives on rooftops and in community gardens and allotments across London, and they will have given training and start-up equipment to approximately 300 people by the end of 2011.
This article is really really interesting to us this week as we are at our first hosts WWOOFing and they are an intentional community, families all living together and pooling resources for working on the land, chopping firewood, cooking, minding children and just sharing all the tasks that need doing to create a sustainable, contained community. It's opening our eyes wide spending time here and giving us a great start on our 'wish list' of what we want long term for ourselves. I love the idea of grouping together for big tasks and workloads, for sharing skills, for using group buying power to get discounts. Our wish list is something we'll be coming back to lots over this year but reading about the Co-Operative, finding out how to Join the revolution and just educating ourselves more about the different ways to Get involved is something everyone could look at, whether they are learning in as extreme a manner as we are, or learning at home from their armchair and laptop.