Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cooking Cooperatively

Currently, there are five residents at the Ecovillage Training Center, and one kitchen. To save time, money and food we've banded together to create a cooking cooperative. There are many different types of co-ops, from strictly buying cooperatives to ones that share the buying, cooking, and cleaning duties every day. The kind that we have here is the latter. This model is most frequently seen in cohousing or intentional communities where people are interested in both cooking and dining together on a regular basis.

During a couple of short stays at Dancing Rabbit, an ecovillage in Missouri, I ate my meals through their open co-op, Sunflower. As an apprentice here at the ETC last year, I participated in the kitchen set-up run by the Hodge Podge Cooperative, the group of about seven people that collectively ran the educational opportunities. I loved the sense of community that manifested itself around the kitchens of both places, so I knew that I wanted to take what I had learned from both of them and apply it here.

As a co-op, we pool our money to buy groceries. Dry goods are purchased from either the local Amish bulk food store or a bulk foods catalog. Our fresh produce and dairy comes from either The Farm Store, a nearby locally owned market called Duncan & Son's, or straight out of the garden. We also share all cooking and cleaning duties. The simplest solution here was just to post a sign-up sheet on the refrigerator, so that people can choose what shifts they would like to cover during the week.

Not only are we saving resources by cooking together, we're learning so much from each other and having fun in the process. Five different people with five different sets of skills in the kitchen makes for a wonderful variety of dishes. Take last night for example. We hosted out first Second Saturday Potluck here and our contribution was made by an apprentice, Rich. He made a big ol' batch of vegetarian bean chilli with sweet potatoes in it! The smokey spice of the chilli really brought out the caramel sweetness of the potatoes. Yum!

We're also enjoying inviting other people to participate in the cooperative on a more temporary basis. The ETC plays host to a continual stream of travelers interested in sustainability and green living. I never know what I'm going to hear when I ask the question, "So, what brings you to The Farm?" People open up and feel free to share their stories over the welcoming, family-like atmosphere of a table filled with good food and good company. And that, as a well known pop-culture food guru would say, is a good thing.


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