Co-operative Communities

Over the past few days, my life has been very Co-operative. On Saturday night, I participated in a panel discussion about the past, present and future of co-operatives in Vancouver. On Monday night I was part of the riproarin’, kick-ass Annual General Meeting of the Eastend Storefront Food Co-operative. Here’s a quick – and awesome – synopsis of these events that will make you want to get outside and build a little community right now:

Communities Unite!

The Players: Marty Frost (Facilitator and Co-operative guru), panelists from Co-op Radio, The People’s Co-op Bookstore, East End Food Co-op, and CECC Credit Union.

The Venue: Rhizome Cafe on Broadway, hosted by Co-op Radio 102.7FM.

Awesome Quotation: “Pay day loan companies are directly responsible for the cycle of poverty in our communities. They are criminal and should be stopped.”

Amazing Moment: The myriad perspectives from the panel on the answer to the question: “How will co-operatives be relevant in the future?’ I won’t spoil it (you can listen to the broadcast at 102.7FM), but it had something to do with building community from chaos

The Result: Changemakers even cooperated to get each other drinks and help each other out the door. It was a beautiful thing!

The EEFC Must Grow or Die! (Seriously!)

The Players: The Facilitator, The Auditor, The Manager, The Board of Directors, Two Staff Members, and a Bevvy of Members New and Old.

The Venue: The Lion’s Den on Commercial Drive.

Awesome Quotation: “I don’t want this to be taken the wrong way – and maybe I’m just a yuppie, part of the gentrification of The Drive – but that railing in front of the store looks like it’s from a militant 1970s era that doesn’t exist anymore. What about the bright and shiny co-ops out there?” (Editor’s note: the dark, brooding, communist railing from the 1970s is now officially retro!)

Amazing Moment: BOD President Bill Bargeman’s heartfelt, frank and sense-of-urgency-laden report for the year. It was followed by an outpouring of enthusiasm from members and the Co-op now has a fully-peopled board.

The Result: Change is coming to Commercial Drive, people. And if my name started with a “W” and ended with a “Hole Foods” I’d be gettin’ pretty nervous* about my market share right about now.

Needless to say, both experiences were fantastic examples of powerfully positive communities coming together during not-so-great times in order to make a supportive difference. Now get out there and build some community!


*for the record, International Deliciousness Provider, Whole Foods, probably shouldn’t worry too much about the EEFC…pretty funny though, right?

To Quadra or Cortes?

Sunset kayaking in Drew Harbour on Quadra: GORGEOUS!

Last Sunday, my wife – it still sounds a little weird saying it…”wife”… – and I returned from our honeymoon. While I will not provide you readers with any details of our romanticism, I will discuss a dilemma-ridden, um, discussion that Michelle and I seem to be having each and every day. And here it is: Quadra or Cortes?

No, we’re not talking Spanish explorers or conquistadors or nemeses of Jack Ryan. We’re talking about two Discovery Islands nestled in between Campbell River and the rugged Coast Mountains of BC’s Mainland, which is where we spent our honeymoon. Here is a map to prove they’re real.

It was on these Islands that Michelle and I spent a week of post-wedding bliss. And it got us thinking about where to go when we – eventually – leave the city in search of a more real West Coast existence. So, on which Island will we make our future home? Quadra or Cortes?

Luckily, because I’m a huge nerd, it was easy to create a four-category-five-point evaluation matrix that will help us to determine the more superior island.

Here are the categories:

  1. Hilarious/Amazing Island Facts – cool and unique things about the island.
  2. The Cultural Landscape – the people-to-people vibe of the community.
  3. Local Inclusiveness – this one’s not just about the sense of community on each island; it’s also about how open and welcoming the community seems to be when it comes to newcomers.
  4. The Natural Landscape – woods, ocean, lakes, rivers, trails, hills, mountains, and other things that look and smell and feel really, really nice.

The Case for Quadra

John’s Gut Feeling: having spent a week of nearly every childhood summer camping and canoeing around Village Bay Lakes, Quadra has always had a special place in my heart – my recent time spent on the island not only re-ignited semi-dormant memories, but created entirely new and amazing ones, too!

  1. Hilarious/Amazing Island Facts – as an island, Quadra shouldn’t lose points for this, but they will because I’m ridiculous: the island’s community website is called “The Gumboot” – this may or may not be why this blog is necessarily called the Daily Gumboot. About 4,000 people live on Quadra year-round. It also has a fantastically intricate lake system, which I hear is great for naked swimming! Score: 3.5/5.

    A view of the Discovery Islands and the Mainland from Rebecca Spit on Quadra.

  2. The Cultural Landscape – given its size – big for a Gulf Island, yet delightfully intimate – Quadra has a lot of things going for it: a perusal of The Gumboot  showcases a healthy barter-economy, exceptional arts and crafts, a vibrant community centre, and even Bazaar, complete with knife-wielding performances! Unfortunately, Quadra Island loses a point for the racist shop owner we met. “Where are you guys from,” he said. “Vancouver,” we replied. “Yeah? I used to live in North Vancouver. It’s changed a lot and I’ll never go back,” said the racist shop owner. “Because of all the development, you mean?” asked Michelle. “No. Because of all the Iranians. You know they want to change the street names,” said the racist shop owner. We took a step. And we walked away. You will be happy to know that by the time you go to Quadra his store will no longer exist. Score: 4/5.
  3. Local Inclusiveness – during the Spain/Germany World Cup Semi-Final, I was pretty much one of the locals at the Harriot Bay Inn. Best of all, I sat in between a gnarly fisherman and a social entrepreneur from the We Wai Kai Nation who knew each other well had shared a ton of stories during the game. And they were both named John, which leads me to believe that Quadra Island would be a good base camp for a Johnism Education Centre. People also literally walked out of their homes to give us directions and chat with us (this was probably partly due to the big, huge blue heart on the front of our car). Score: 5/5.
  4. The Natural Landscape – speaking of locals, many were impressed that Michelle and I traveled to the very end of Granite Bay Road to explore some under-explored hiking trails and lakes. Quadra was heavily, heavily logged at the turn of the century – last century – so there are some pretty sizable second-growth forests that have been nicely preserved and provide a healthy amount of shade. The lake-swimming on Quadra is second to none. Sure, it’s big, but you can get lost in the wilderness – figuratively and literally – easily and have a great time doing it. Score: 5/5.

Total Score for Quadra Island: 17.5/20.

The Case for Cortes

John’s Gut Feeling: Cortes Island is one of my happy places – its remoteness and chilled-out cultural landscape has made it a hippie-haven as well as a destination for super-funky thinkers.

  1. Hilarious/Amazing Island Facts – the locals have recently received some flak for

    John and Michelle break rules at Smelt Bay Provincial Park!

    not cutting down enough trees – see, there’s no view to the ocean from many (if any) of the roads; there are 950 year-round residents on the island; the “capital” of the island is called Whaletown and, in the “town,” there is a church that fits, like, nine people. Score: 5/5.

  2. The Cultural Landscape – Hollyhock, Canada’s “leading educational retreat centre,” is located on Cortes. I feel weird about the place. It’s semi-cultish and really expensive, which negates inclusion (I’m a fan of inclusion). Hollyhock has altered the cultural landscape of the island, as there is clearly a part of the Cortes economy that caters specifically to Hollyhock-goers. Michelle and I checked out a “farmer’s market” that would make the one in Kits look affordable – $20 for a kid’s t-shirt?! This being said, it is a scientific fact that island-communities (except for Manhattan and Hong Kong) are relaxing, chilled-out places – so, you can imagine the vibe on Cortes, which is an island-off-an-island-off-an-island. Sweeeeet. Score: 3.5/5.
  3. Local Inclusiveness – Hmmm…at the East End Food Co-op on Commercial Drive, the amazing staff asks everyone “do you have a member number?” This did not happen at the Cortes Co-op – sure, we looked like a tourists, not locals (sort of…I mean, I was in perfect Island Plaid at the time…), but the courtesy could still have been extended. And there is definitely a “locals vs. tourist” vibe that underscores all interactions. This being said, the kid who was parking cars at the Whaletown ferry terminal made up for nearly all of the semi-standoffish nature of some of his fellow islanders. Score: 4/5.

    Jellybean was a noble chariot during the island-hopping-honeymoon.

  4. The Natural Landscape – gorgeous and woody. I love Smelt Bay and someone who may or may not look like me may or may not have harvest clams from the lagoon in Mansons Landing once or twice; however, Hague Lake is a delightful romp that might be my favourite spot on Cortes. The bike riding was exceptional. Score: 5/5.

Total Score for Cortes Island: 17.5/20.

Shit. It’s a tie. Well, this was to be expected, I suppose. Perhaps the best idea would be to set up Johnism’s base of operations on Quadra, you know, so it doesn’t compete with Hollyhock and so that Kurt can visit more often because it’s just a little closer, and then we could live in a Cortes-Island-Tree Fort a couple of months of the year. What do you think, Michelle?

Thanks for the memories, Quadra and Cortes. We’ll be seeing you soon!


Grow or Die!

Celebrating 35 Years

The East End Food Co-op (EEFC) is Vancouver’s oldest – and only – consumer-owned grocery store. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the store, too. Honestly, it’s probably the second best part of my neighbourhood, which is located at the Northern end of Commercial Drive – the best part of my ‘hood are the people who live across the hall from me. For the bast two years, I’ve been a member of the EEFC’s board of directors – we do our best to represent the needs of the Co-op’s membership. These needs, wants and ideas range from providing a healthy range of local products, building relationships with ethical vendors, offering a selection of fair trade products amongst our non-local items (like delicious, delicious coffee), and personalized orders.

And, as a member, you get to have a say in what we do and how we do it.

As written about before on this blog, co-operatives are a thing to celebrate. Whether your business is mountain equipment, food in Toronto or professional hockey, it is a refreshing thing to have your shareholders be the very consumers of your product(s) and/or service(s). According to Harvard’s Henry Mintzberg, the future of business will look more like these examples of co-operative, community-minded models than, you know, the non-accountable shareholder and profits-before-people models we have now.

Recent findings show that 99.2% of people on Earth agree with this necessary, from-business-to-community transformation. Unfortunately, we’re quite far away from such a thing.

The Need to Grow or Die

Our world is a chaotic one. Times have been better for the EEFC, not to mention pretty much every other small, community-minded grocery store on Commercial Drive and beyond. Many things have added to our business being in a tough spot. The recession. The Olympics. Opportunistic multi-national food conglomerates. Fuel prices. Razor-thin-operational margins. Pirates. All of these compounding factors have impacted – or are impacting – the EEFC in a negative way.

Like I said, we your help. We need to grow our business or die trying. If you’re a member, you’ve got a stake in this campaign – heck, you’re one of the many owners! So, over the summer, I encourage you to spread like wildfire these Ten Amazing Rumours About the East End Food Co-op:

  1. Member Appreciation Days: Are you a member? Awesome! Do you want to be a member? Awesomer! You get 10% off everything in the store on Wednesdays and Thursdays all summer long!
  2. Doug Smith is a Rock Star: Doug is the EEFC’s fearless leader who also plays a mean bass – if you’d like to know more about Doug’s rockin’ ways, please email me today for exclusive video footage!
  3. Organic, Fair Trade Bananas! What?! Such things exist? Yes. They do. Stop by and check ‘em out.
  4. Great deals. Check out the Manager’s Specials today!
  5. Stop supporting Corporate Socialism. Ridiculous subsidies to agro-business and petroleum-based supply chains have rigged the food-delivery game against local initiatives like the EEFC. Nobody (except Kurt and Monsanto) likes socialism, so reward good, local, sustainable free enterprise by shopping at the EEFC.
  6. The EEFC supports its community. Buy a re-usable cloth bag and a portion of the money goes to a local charity or special cause, like the Stone Soup Film Festival!
  7. BOD Hugs! That’s right, folks. Free hugs. Just track down an EEFC Board Member and let us know what kind of hug suits you best.
  8. Kraft Dinner. Sorry, Rumour 5, but the EEFC listens to its members. Even if those members want Kraft Dinner.
  9. Shopping Carts. The carts are so amazing and agile that a few were taken from the store! Not cool, a-holes. Kinda cool, possibly senile seniors who mistook the carts for their walkers.
  10. Celebrity Appearances. Every now and again some local/international celebrities show up to the Co-op. Thing is, the only way to see them is to make sure you’re in the store every day. Will Trevor Linden stop by and give out free hugs with the Board Members? Yes!*

So there it is. Some 100% absolutely mostly true rumours that you must spread about the East End Food Co-op. We’ve got the best food for the best price from the best people in Vancouver. And we can’t wait to see you again or meet you for the first time!


*No! …this probably won’t happen…but it could!

Phil Soloman

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to an ongoing segment here at The Daily Gumboot. It’s called “Get to Know Your Community” and, basically, it goes like this: each and every Sunday we will profile someone from a community somewhere. Each person is asked the same five questions (see below as well as in the “Ideas from Everywhere” page). At the end of the profile, the Gumbooteer (member of this blog’s Editorial Board) who found the person will list their three favourite things about the highlighted community member. Savvy?

Here are some ideas from everywhere. Here is one way that we try to build community. Have fun with it!

Phil, intimidated by the amazing and powerful head shot of Doug Smith, didn't send one along - use your imagination on this one, people!

Phil, intimidated by the amazing and powerful head shot of Doug Smith, didn't send one along - use your imagination on this one, people!

1. Who are you?

I’m Phil Solman, publisher of Edible Vancouver magazine. I’m a Brit by birth, but Vancouver and Greece are my spiritual homes; the places that I feel most ‘me’.

2. What is your favourite community and why?

Am I allowed two favourites? East Van; in particular The Drive, which is a ‘real’ community with tons of owner-operated stores and cafes. Whenever I have free time I gravitate towards The Drive to visit bookstores, coffee shops and to pick up great produce, cheese, meats, etc. The whole area is created for human interaction whereas most shopping streets are designed to shift maximum product in minimum time and have no soul (strip malls!!! Ugh!)
My other favourite community is Edible Communities. It’s not a place; it’s a family of independent magazines from all across North America that are dedicated to rebuilding local food systems in their region. When we get together once a year it’s a great buzz. Imagine publishers and editors from 60 Edible magazines sharing stories, successes and challenges. We are on a mission to change the way North America eats.

3. What do you do for fun?

Spend time with the Editor of Edible Vancouver. No, really! We’re a couple and even though we live and work together, we still love to just hang out with each other, talk and laugh.

4. What is your superpower?

Optimism in the face of seriously negative news.

5. How do you use it to build community?

Pessimism may seem to make sense, but none of us actually ‘know’ the future and pessimism creates a ‘What’s the point’ kind of attitude, so it’s ultimately defeating. I get angry when I see all that’s wrong in our world, but I choose to be optimistic and talk about what’s possible in the future, rather than dwell too much on what’s wrong today. This way I inspire myself (and hopefully others) to work towards making things better.

My three favourite things about Phil are…

1. He is a helper. I met Phil because of his generous offer to use the power of the internet to spread the word about the East End Food Co-op. The EEFC is fortunate to have a champion like Phil, who weaves our modest little grocery store into the story of local food in Vancouver. Clearly, Phil approaches life, the universe and everything with humility, passion and a true sense of connecting communities to improve the world.

2. He likes pirates. First thing we talked about during our meetings were pirates and the role they play on The Daily Gumboot. He knew his stuff about the democratic nature of a pirate crew, shared some interesting ideas on modern piracy, and even taught me a thing or two!

3. Entrepreneurship defines him. Edible Vancouver is beautiful in a myriad of ways. And Phil helps make it so. The way he is using Twitter and other social media to raise Edible’s online presence and leverage their position as the story on local food in the city is truly impressive. He is creative, visionary and, with our help, can take the his publication to spectacular new heights. After all, the world is turning more and more to local products, eh?

As told by John Horn…

Doug Smith

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to an ongoing segment here at The Daily Gumboot. It’s called “Get to Know Your Community” and, basically, it goes like this: each and every Sunday we will profile someone from a community somewhere. Each person is asked the same five questions (see below as well as in the “Ideas from Everywhere” page). At the end of the profile, the Gumbooteer (member of this blog’s Editorial Board) who found the person will list their three favourite things about the highlighted community member. Savvy?

Here are some ideas from everywhere. Here is one way that we try to build community. Have fun with it!

Doug Smith: rocker, leader, community superstar

Doug Smith: rocker, leader, community superstar

Who are you?

I am Doug Smith, man about town, rock and soul bass player and General Manager of the East End Food Co-op. Taurus, 44 years of age, sarcastic sense of humour, single (ladies?) and proud papa to a cool jack-Chi/Basenji puppy.

What do you do for fun?

Music. I live for music and I love people and find a great joy in living. It is better than not living from what I can tell. Please advise if this is untrue or you know of a portal I can visit the afterlife from…as long as I can come back. I like to mentor and groom people and impart the knowledge I have learned in life. I feel my own quest for knowledge should not go to waste. This knowledge is never forced…it is imparted gently and with much love. I play bass guitar in a local soul/rock & roll combo called the Beladeans. I am not responsible for your hips moving too much at our shows.

What is your favorite community, and why?

My favorite community is East Vancouver. I live and work in East Van and love the grassroots people and the tough as nails work ethic present in my community. The diverse cross-section of personailities makes it entertaining daily. The slice of life from the East Van “pie” is always tangy, tart, sweet and fuity…unless it is savoury…then it is a whole other pie,tasty as well, but perhaps more of a meaty free range taste treat!

What is your superpower?

My superpower is my ability to transform into Bassasauras Rex [tm].  I drop the bottom end on any dance party and take no prisoners while doing so.  I like to offer everyone free pony rides, but sometimes they just have to settle for me – and my dry wit and tasty bon mots…it aint so bad to be me…

How would you use this superpower to build community?

Everyone should be able to laugh at themselves and at life and everyone needs to get down with their bad selves. If we all shook our asses when we were in too deep or felt like crap – the world would be a funkier place!

My three favourite things about Doug Smith are…

1. Leadership. Doug is a big lad with a commanding presence and also possesses some dynamite active listening skills. His down to Earth nature and genuine passion for community-building and social justice makes him the kinda guy who can rally people to his cause.

2. The East End Food Co-op. Speaking of “causes” – Doug is the Manager of the East End Food Co-op. Not only does the EEFC distribute the best produce in town, but, under Doug’s leadership, also actively gives back to the neighbourhood as well as communities beyond The Drive.

3. His Rock ‘n’ Roll Soul. ‘Nuff said. Doug brings the funk wherever he goes. And recent findings show that the world needs more funk.

…as told by John Horn