Jamie Harvie on Early Lessons from The Food Commons

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search

= Article: Early lessons from The Food Commons: A new economic whole system approach for regional food. Jamie Harvie, Institute for a Sustainable Future

In: Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development ISSN: 2152-0801 August 22, 2019



"The Food Commons is an agro-ecological approach to local and regional food in which the health of employees, the community, and the commons are considered holistically. Food Commons Fresno is operationalizing the model with wholesale, food box, hub, commissary, and farming businesses managed through a linked for-benefit corporation and a community trust. Aside from typical start-up challenges, the key hurdles include the cultural and economic unfamiliarity with ecological models and relational operating systems."

Principles for a Just and Sustainable Food Commons (The Food Commons, 2011)

"1. Fairness Across the entire value chain all participants’ needs, from farmers and food business owners to agricultural and retail workers, are met in a balanced way, and all get a fair deal. Throughout the food system, the value of human labor is fairly recognized and appreciated. Individuals and institutions shall return to their communities’ fair measure for what they receive.

2. Sustainability and Stewardship In all aspects of food production and distribution, stewardship of our land and marine ecosystems is required to ensure that succeeding generations will have an equal or better opportunity to flourish from its resources. With respect to human relationships, active stewardship is also required to ensure a holistic vision of sustainability that includes ecological, social, and economic components. The true costs of food production should be reflected in market pricing to the fullest extent possible, though not all social, environmental or ethical values can be monetized.

3. Economic Opportunity Create economic opportunities that facilitate the pursuit of Right Livelihood, so that people may earn a living without compromising the underlying principles of the Food Commons. Expand ownership opportunities for those who may not have access due to the high cost of infrastructure and expand career opportunities and access to good jobs with benefits and security, restoring hope to the unemployed and restoring craft and pride to labor.

4. Food Sovereignty All people have the right to have access to quality, healthy food that is produced and distributed through environmentally and socially sustainable methods.

5. Integration Create an integrated value chain, from farm to table, in order to achieve economic efficiency and fairness. Think systemically.

6. Transparency Openly and honestly, share costs and pricing information essential to the equitable functioning of the value chain. Facilitate traceability of products, procedures and other relevant information throughout the value chain.

7. Ethics and Accountability Governing bodies maintain the highest standards of credibility and ethical conduct, fair and accurate dissemination of information and full disclosure and accountability for their affairs. Representatives are accountable to the environment, to workers, to the public, and to future generations. Representatives set policies, but do not have any personal ownership in participating businesses.

8. The Commons The segment of the food system that falls within the Food Commons is based on the establishment of shared and collectively managed infrastructure and resources, operating for the benefit of communities.

9. Subsidiarity Decisions should be made at the most local level possible. Regional and national decisions should involve only those matters that are relevant to that level of governance, coordination and representation. The Food Commons will provide structures for overall coordination to allow decentralizd management structures to operate efficiently and develop network linkages for formal and informal connections at the local and regional levels.

10. Reciprocity The whole is responsible to all of the parts as well as the parts being responsible to the whole.

11. Representation and Decision-making Equitable participation of the Food Commons stakeholders shall be present at all levels and entities of governance throughout the Food Commons, from farmers, to workers, to consumers. Decisions and deliberations must fairly represent the diversity of affected views and interests and not be dominated by any single view or interest."


"The Food Commons is but one entity working nationally to demonstrate a new systems approach. It offers an important new operational model that links the health of individuals, community, and the planet. TFC’s strategy of systems change driven by community ownership and governance structures and beyond-the bottom-line returns links its work to a whole host of movements from climate change and environmental justice to worker equity and living wages, from cooperatives to community financing, as well as to the many facets of the sustainable agriculture, Good Food, and food democracy movements. TFC is helping elevate the collective benefit of a living systems model and the intractable resistance of culture and economy to change. The lessons from TFC suggest the need for rapid development of true regenerative capital, deepened networks, and collaborations with similar whole-system, place-based models and communities of practice across sectors."

More Information