The Co-Op is a project which provides both immediate and long-term direct mutual aid to our community. We combine commerce, agriculture and education in order to meet a variety of needs. The potential grant funding for such projects is great, but we are more likely to get funding for big things if we start small on our own. Through these projects, we will not only provide a market place, community farming, education and increased economic opportunities, but also hope create a template for other rural communities to follow.
This project is active, and we are currently seeking volunteers. This project is an easy one to plug into – even if you have a busy schedule. And the rewards to the community can be immediate.
The Three Sisters of the Co-Op
The Co-Op is broken down into three major sections: Education, Agriculture, and Commerce. These parts are referred to as “The Three Sisters” due to the way they intertwine and benefit each other. The material produced in one section through an educational workshop can be sold in the store. Development projects can become educational opportunities. These are projects with multiple tactics and multiple outcomes and many possible ways to volunteer.
Big Bend’s isolation can make meeting material needs frustrating and expensive. In 2016, the BBCLT started a community yard sale, to sell donated items to residents on a sliding-scale basis. The success of the yard sales led to an expansion into a community bazaar, offering a place for local merchants to sell their wares. Eventually, the Community Thrift Store was created as a more permanent functioning business, which is located in a shed on the BBCLT farm. We plan to establish a more developed storefront with semi-regular hours, and also hope to have a regular farmer’s market in the near future.
Growing food is a mainstay for many Big Benders, yet many locals lack the time, space, fencing, skills, or fitness to grow what they need. Working together, however, we can create a surplus of delicious organically-grown garden produce. With the help of grant funding, the BBCLT volunteers created a new 150’ by 150’ horse-proof fenced community garden in 2019. In 2020, a farm manager was hired, more fencing was added, and local farmers began grazing sheep and horses on the CLT’s pastures and in the garden, post-harvest. Livestock grazing is an important part of our goals to improve the topsoil on the farm, while supporting more local food production. Future plans include continuing to improve the farm’s grazing facilities and ideas like starting a CSA-like egg co-op, where volunteers will care for the chickens in exchange for eggs. We also hope to increase opportunities for educational programs and farm produce sales, as the Community Farm continues to evolve.
The School of Ordinary Skills, or S.O.S., is an initiative to provide educational opportunities for residents. Skill-shares can provide opportunities for neighbors to enlighten each other. Workshops can teach people how to make things, repair things, or operate machinery or tools, for example. Some proposed S.O.S. events include a Spanish language club, music classes, sewing workshops, martial arts instruction, and other educational opportunities for both adults and children. Eventually we can develop different places and programs for production and learning, such as fabrication shops for woodworking, metalworking, etc.