Groundswell community forum targets Vancouver's small-scale food producers

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      A Vancouver-based grassroots training program is hoping to make an impact on the local food economy.

      Groundswell will host a Local Food Forum for DIY Foodies on Thursday (July 24) at 7 p.m. The free public event for people involved in—or interested in joining—Vancouver’s food community will take place at the Groundswell Café Space (566 Powell Street), which formerly housed the Fat Dragon BBQ restaurant.

      “We want to get a sense of who are the people working in the local food economy and what do they need?” Reilly Yeo, co-director for Groundswell and managing director of OpenMedia, told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. The event is targeted towards local artisanal food producers and people interested in starting small food-related businesses.

      Yeo, who joined Groundswell in spring 2013 soon after it launched, explained that the community organization provides training for people under the age of 35 who want to start alternatives to business, such as cooperatives, not-for-profits, and social enterprises.

      The group is inspired by other working cooperatives, such as Mondragon in the Basque region of Spain. In the past year, 22 people have completed the Groundswell program and created 12 enterprises between them, including a business that creates custom furniture from reclaimed wood and a plant collective that runs a second-hand plant shop.

      “If you look around the world at places where the economy works differently, where it’s more resilient and more supportive of people’s wellbeing, you’ll find that in times of economic downturn or unemployment, people generally have much better levels of equality,” Yeo said. “Basically we’re inspired by those more cooperative types of economic ecosystems and we’re trying to create that in Vancouver.”

      In the fall, Groundswell hopes to open the Groundswell Café Space to the public as a social enterprise that will serve breakfast and lunch. It also hopes to provide training programs and workshops tailored to people working in the food sector.

      “If you look at the economy in Vancouver and look at what could be run in a more cooperative way and be very transformative, food would jump out at you right away,” Yeo noted. “It’s such an important sector here and there’s so much potential to transform it and make it more cooperative and collaborative.”

      Register for the Local Food Forum for DIY Foodies online in advance. Find out more about Groundswell events on its Facebook page.