CoFED inspiregizes future food co-op leaders across North America. We support students with training and tools, and connect them with peers, mentors, and allies in a solidarity network.

Road Trip: I <3 Down To Earth

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-October 10, 2013-

I’m starting off the road trip to meet up with Yahya in the land of some of the greenest trees I've ever seen and I’m always excited to get to visit a cooperative I have had the honor to know & love for going on a year now: Down To Earth Food Coop (DTE).

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But seriously, they're the most lovable. It's not hard.

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Yahya and I go on an adventure with Paul and Lauren to the Goodwill where Paul is getting supplies for constructing a water filter gift, Lauren finds an awesome collection of jars for keeping all the things in, and we find a sturdy table cloth for banner making purposes.  On this visit, I also catch a cold, an auspicious beginning for any journey, but Yahya makes some magic garlic ginger lemon honey cayenne tea and I fight it by napping on the futon.  The no-bake cookies Libby offers for breakfast-DTE’s catering Newark Bike Project’s opening in their new location-also help.  Member dinner features wild foraged foods: chicken of the woods mushrooms, Chinese chestnut, nettles: if I were to choose a place to get sick and try to get well, this would definitely be it.  There is some good kitchen table conversation with Elana, Libby and Lauren about some great questions around how to direct the energies of the group, to divide labor equitably, to continue to empower people, size & structure, food politics, & baking times.  These are all great problems to have and DTE has opened up space to negotiate and debate these in a way that wasn't offered by corporate foodservice at U Del.  

I first met members (Elana, Melanie, Will, Dan, Nikki, Eliza, O'Neill) of what would become DTE at the CoFED Northeast Convergence in the Fall of 2012: Solidarity: Food, Money & Justice at the Park Slope Food Coop in New York.  Christine, the previous Northeast Regional Organizer (who initially took me under her wing as an intern co-planning the convergence) had worked with some University of Delaware students earlier that year, giving a presentation to a small group, and Eliza, one of the founding members, had been to other CoFED events in 2011-12 in Philadelphia, New York and California.  After the Fall Convergence, they won a $1,000 Good Maker Grant and moved from a potluck of about ten people in the initial stages to a fundraiser dinner for almost 100 people, with the support of some donations from Newark Natural Foods, a community grocery cooperative.  They launched with formal membership as a dining cooperative in Spring 2013 with weekly member dinners + community dinners open to non-members as well.

At the end of this first semester, we collaborated on an end of year retreat to celebrate, reflect and plan.

Some gems from one of the activities we did sharing favorite DTE memories:

in April we had our first Calvert workday.  It was bright, chilly, Spring is just about to explode.  We spread 3 acres of mulch that day and it was easy.

we are able to make it happen because we do our own part.

some people had never been on a farm; wheelbarrow racing, vitamin D up the wazoo. hysterical laughing.

DTE Brinner (breakfast for dinner): eggs are my favorite and I love cooking them all the time so it was great to do that together.

I took a picture and sent it to my parents saying “this is real life” It really happened, it did.

I got an invite & I was like, What the hell’s a DTE?! I walk in and I’m like woah. Glad I found this community.

Finding DTE gave me something to want to stay for-I was proud to be from here and to stay here.

You accepted me, have been friends with me, inspired me.

To see people effect so much change in a place with often a lot of disconnect

we’re autonomous, we go places together, we’re a small family

when I can look back at everything as a whole, then it becomes something that feels like a real movement-we’re capable of so much.

we are a force to be reckoned with.  

In addition to running their day to day operations, they also work to grow the network of student food coops.  They shared their space and their knowledge hosting the Summer Student Food Coop Gathering with folks coming from Stevens Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania, and Temple University to participate in and facilitate workshops on cooperative theory and history, organizational structure, anti-oppression and sourcing and relationship building between cooperatives and farmers.  DTE also joined CoFED as members this year as part of their ongoing commitment to support and empower others to start their own unique projects in their communities.

If you want to meet these awesome people in person, one of the time-spaces you can catch them at is their Community Pot Luck this Saturday November 23rd at 6pm at the New Century Club in Newark.  

Look at this amazing poster DTE member Rhiannon made for the occasion!:    

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