“Instead of waiting for the government or industry to decide we are important, we organized a co-op to meet our needs.” — Angela Dawson
In the 1990s, economists Katherine Gibson and Julie Graham began to publish a series of books with the University of Minnesota Press, under the pen name J. K. Gibson-Graham. The authors wrote about the community entities that hold our societies together, such as schools, neighborhoods, family-based businesses, faith, volunteers, bartering, household labor, and cooperatives.
The authors also wrote that “the commons” (land, air, trees, and water, as well as a public health system, internet, working roads, communication tools, and traditions) are valuable resources for working societies. They point out that Americans put a lot of energy and political investment into an inflated capitalist system that is only a sliver of how our communities work.
“The Community Economy is necessarily positioned as the ‘other’ to the so-called ‘real economy’ of international markets, competitive dynamics, and agglomerative tendencies that operate at the global scale,” Gibson-Graham writes.
Recognizing the value of the community economy, they wrote, is to “recognize and negotiate our interdependence with other humans, other species, and our environment.”
“In wealthy countries we are told that we are consumers and are asked to increase our consumption to help grow the economy. People’s overall level of prosperity and ‘worth’ is communicated by their consumption,” they write.
After reading Gibson-Graham last year, I was also struck by the simple insight in a New Yorker essay about mutual aid: “We can be so moved by the way people come together to overcome hardship that we lose sight of the fact that many of these hardships should not exist at all.”
In “Grocery Activism: The Radical History of Food Cooperatives in Minnesota,” I learned that individuals recognized the threats of food industrialization a century ago. They asked: How will small farmers survive? How will we retain soil nutrients with the growing fertilizer market? How will people be healthy if we consume unhealthy products?
As the archives of Minnesota Women’s Press reveal, people who ask the right questions do not tend to get traction on corporate and political change until there is a collective body behind them. That is why our new Changemakers Alliance membership is being formed. We will use the power of story — and our connections with rural and urban innovators, readers, and doers — to share actionable solutions for long- standing issues about ecosystems, equity, trauma, and justice.
We believe in the power of cooperative ventures designed by and for locals who are engaged with the land and each other. In 2020, we coined the term “Ecolution” to focus stories on revolutionaries who are developing equitable economies alongside regenerative ecosystems. The people in this month’s magazine are prime examples: co-op entrepreneurs, energy agents, regenerative farmers, forest conservationists, and everyday investors.
Money & Business
Tapestry — What Makes a Healthy Ecosystem?
Action = Change — Agriculture at the Center of Change
Perspective — Ranae Hanson: On the Range and in the City
Thoughts — Linda LeGarde Grover: The Stone Tomahawk
Legacy — Minnesota’s Co-op History