For REAL COOP Members, Draft Executive Summary of INFO FOOD Initiatives for Cuyahoga County

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Fri, 07/10/2009 - 07:03.

Since our founding, in 2004, REALNEO has become a groundbreaking free, open source social network of global interest – recently recognized as one of the top networks of our type in the country, by the Knight Foundation.

In 2008, the members of REALNEO.US formed REAL COOP, an Ohio legal cooperative, which now owns and operates REALNEO.US and REAL.COOP. We are unique in the world of social computing, and a global innovator in the evolution of information systems.

From the REALNEO.US homepage:

Welcome to REALNEO! We are an open, free social network of a non-profit cooperative of people - REAL.COOP - interested in arts and culture, economy, education, environment, health and technology. REALNEO has a focus on North East Ohio - NEO - but REAL.COOP has global membership and perspectives. Please enjoy the content and feel free to set up an account and join the community.

In December, 2008, REALNEO founder Norm Roulet met with leadership of the government of Cuyahoga County to explain the value of REALNEO and Real Coop for Northeast Ohio, and to introduce the importance and growth potential of our sector of the economy... open source information systems and technology.

Real Coop drives significant innovation in Northeast Ohio, and draws the attention of millions of virtual visitors to here, from world-wide.

Real Coop intends to expand our value and impact by leading further global innovations in open source information systems and technologies here, and the benefits to the community will be revolutionary, in a very good way.

Through REALNEO.US, Real Coop leverages and demonstrates the power of cooperative open source social computing, knowledge management and community development to better our region and the world.

Through our REAL COOP INFO initiatives, Cuyahoga County government will help drive open source innovativeness worldwide, by contributing to global open source software and standards initiatives, and locally, by adopting open source information systems, standards and technologies in government and in the community, as means to transform our economy and better the quality of life of citizens.

Our cooperative proposes that Cuyahoga County government promote open source innovativeness locally, and invest in workforce and infrastructure development, to make NEO the free open source capital of the world.

Norm Roulet has also presented to Cuyahoga County leaders and the REALNEO community the case that there is need for Cuyahoga County to invest in cooperative development of our local foods economy, for our regional food security, social equity, economic development and environmental benefit for all.

Through REAL COOP FOOD Initiatives, Cuyahoga County will help revolutionize the local foods economy of the region, which has $ billions in growth potential, in statewide cooperation to make Ohio the Brightest Greenest State of Earth.

Through REAL COOP FOOD Initiatives, Cuyahoga County will make strategic investments in developing facilities and capabilities for everything from composting and greenhouse construction to food warehousing and distribution; workforce development and education; soil analysis and development; permaculture and vertical farming; water management and watershed protection; new urban infrastructure reengineering; remote monitoring and geographical information system innovation; material and food handling, sorting,  pricing, marketing, packaging, logistics and transit; food processing, entrepreneurship and commerce; wireless communications and data acquisition... revolutionizing concepts and practices leading to real “food security” everywhere on Earth, for world benefit for all.

Real Coop proposes Cuyahoga County leadership plan to develop the open source local foods and information systems economies of Northeast Ohio together, changing our landscape forever.

Cuyahoga Government leadership has been supportive of this vision, leading to development of a series of cooperative proposals for initiatives supporting our mission:

To Make NEO the Open Source Capital of the Brightest Greenest State of Earth

UNDERSTANDING FOOD SECURITY OPPORTUNITIES AND OBSTICALS:

In follow-up to his December 17, 2008, presentation to Cuyahoga County on Real Coop Food and Info, on February 10, 2009, Norm published “Preamble: Real Co-op for Open Food, Information and Community Development 2009” on REALNEO.US -  – which began:

In the Fall of 2008, I proposed to Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones that the local foods sector offers the people of Northeast Ohio $ billions in economic development opportunities that may be distributed to a huge percentage of our 1,000,000s of residents in very socially equitably ways. I also proposed similar opportunities are available in open source information and social computing. And I pointed out regional organizational, strategic, social and operational barriers to success and proposed specific solutions to maximize workforce and infrastructure development, massive scaling, and social equity.

To innovate with local foods in NEO as successfully as we are innovating with open information systems, with REALNEO and Real Coop, we must cooperate globally and act locally, demonstrating the greatest collective intelligence on the streets possible.

An article in the July 6, 2009, Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Cleveland's for-profit urban gardens are growing”, promotes positive potentials of the local foods economy, but concludes we are not demonstrating the greatest collective intelligence on the streets possible.

But there are many hurdles to overcome, Rokakis and Taggart agree. A big challenge: finding ways to sell a lot more locally grown food.

Without a bigger, established market, it could be difficult to recruit banks to invest in start-up loans or other capital needs, added Rokakis. He has a list of more than 700 vacant properties of a quarter-acre or more, and scores of them would be ideal for high-intensity farms.

"It's doable, but it's not going to be easy," Rokakis said. "We need to create a market for local products here. I don't think it's going to happen overnight.

"I think there is a model out there," he added. "We just have to find it."

A related article in the same Plain Dealer, “Advocates of urban boutique farms envision cash crops, but successful farmer is not as certain”, quotes Marice Small (who helped develop our local foods vision for Cuyahoga County, addressing education), and concludes there are ways to make the local foods cluster prosper here.

"It is realistic," he said. "There are people all over the country who are making a living on less than an acre."

Making for-profit urban gardening work, he says, is just a matter of education -- teaching producers how to garden; teaching buyers about the advantages of local, organic produce; and helping financiers understand the risks and rewards.

FOOD SECURITY AND FARMLAND POLICY

That NEO and Ohio are not effectively addressing food security is well documented in a range of analyses from the Ohio State University Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics' Center for Farmland Policy Innovation, and reflected in the real local food deserts of Northeast Ohio.

When we are analyzing our local food security effectiveness, we must consider farmland policy innovation, including such big issues as farmland preservation and trusts, cross-jurisdictional water resource and ecology planning, zoning and smart development strategy, which all cross well beyond traditional governmental boundaries and understanding,

In the Center for Farmland Policy Innovation's DEVELOPING A MODEL FOR ACTION: Targeting Ohio Counties for Strategic Farmland Policy Innovation, Cuyahoga is one of only 15 counties in the state with a high need for intervention to develop strategic farmland policy.

CONCLUSION:
A total of 15 counties in Ohio were classified with “high need” of intervention relative to other areas of the state. While farmland preservation efforts are growing within Ohio, there remains a statewide level of need for collaborative strategies between governments, farmers, and the public and private sectors in order to comprehensively address the challenge of farmland preservation.

Four highly urbanized counties appear in the final 15 priority counties, including Summit, Franklin, Cuyahoga, and Hamilton Counties. These counties have remained in our analysis because we feel that their presence is significant, and provides us with a unique opportunity to rethink the future role of Ohio agriculture. They allow us to pose several questions, such as:  Is agriculture in urbanized counties protected by traditional preservation methods? What is the significance of these urbanized agricultural enterprises to Ohio’s economy and food supply? What local or state-wide strategies can be used to support agriculture in urbanizing counties?  With current trends focusing on local food systems in agriculture - the growing popularity of agri-tourism and direct marketing, as well as concerns over rising fuel costs - preservation efforts may have to look beyond large commodity farm operations to consider the role of small-scale, diversified metro farms. 

This study has revealed one further challenge facing farmland preservation efforts across the state: no comprehensive database of protected and threatened lands exists, and without data on the location and acreage of protected lands held by local and state-level land trusts in Ohio, it will very difficult to measure or chart progress over time. Comprehensive statistical resources, particularly maps of state and locally protected lands, would also enable preservationists to take strategic steps to protect critically located lands. 

Finally, what this model reveals is not only the need for farmland preservation in Ohio, but the opportunities that are present in the state - for state legislators, farmland preservation practitioners, and local communities – to create innovative and timely strategies to protect our agricultural resources.

Through Real Cooperative initiative, a team of world-experts in local foods and open source social computing has been collaborating and planning a cooperative model for local food and information economic development for Cuyahoga County, that really explores and addresses the core challenges to food security here.

The Real Cooperative team has developed “innovative and timely strategies to protect our agricultural resources”, and to make Ohio the Brightest Greenest State of Earth, through open source local foods and information systems innovations originated in Cuyahoga County.

FOOD SECURITY REALIZED THROUGH COOPERATIVES:

That we are a cooperative and look to put public land in trust, and return significant urban land to use as farmland, should place Cuyahoga County in a highly progressive status in the state and world, for innovative natural resources management.

REAL COOP FOOD will work with the Center for Farmland Policy Innovation and other farmland policy innovators throughout Ohio to make Cuyahoga County a recognized innovator with farmland policy, as a foundational principle of our local foods planning.

The REAL COOP INFO FOOD model of a FOOD COOPERATIVE developing farmland and food infrastructure is not unique, in the general agriculture world. But REAL COOP INFO FOOD is certainly unique in the context of the current urban farming movement, for the type and scope of farmland and infrastructure created, and for our innovative cooperative initiatives proposed for Cuyahoga County. Our model also appears unique in concept and design for open source information systems and technology integration, especially for food security – there has never been a system integrations cooperative like ours on Earth.

To leverage and expand innovation in the cooperative model of our initiatives, we intend to work with experts in cooperative organization design and operations, including at the Ohio State University Ohio Cooperative Development Center - as always, leveraging the best insight the state of Ohio has to offer.

ESTIMATING OHIO FOOD CAPACITY

To appreciate the scope of opportunities offered through our developing the local foods economy, and the gaps we may close through better strategies, consider recent research from Ohio State University.

Local Foods: Estimating capacity for Ohio Food Policy Council — Food Assessment Task Force -- Little research has investigated what percentage of foods can be consumed locally, given existing production patterns. This brief disaggregates agriculture into major subsectors to determine the percentage of Ohio food consumption that Ohio production could potentially satisfy.

January 2009, Brief #2009 - 1, Michael Webb and Jill K. Clark

The Problem.  While countless activists and many organizations advocate for increased consumption of locally-produced foods, little research has investigated what percentage of foods can be consumed locally, given existing production patterns.  To alleviate this gap, Timmons, Wang, and Lass (2002) devised a methodology that could establish the upper limit of foods that could be produced and consumed locally by comparing an estimated nationwide per capita consumption [(production + imports - exports)/per capita)] with the production for each state.  Since the authors only report aggregated amounts for each state,  this brief dissaggregates agriculture into major subsectors to determine the percentage of Ohio food consumption that Ohio production could potentially satisfy.

Methodology.  To identify what proportion of local foods Ohio’s production currently meets, we compare Ohio’s per capita production of various commodities to the per capita production of these goods nationwide.  In essence, we believe that nationwide per capita figures, adjusted for imports and exports, represent the closest estimate of individual consumption.  For Ohio, we divided the 2002 market value of nine commodity categories by a 2002 estimate of Ohio’s population.  We borrow the U.S. data from Timmons, Wang, and Lass (2002). 

Results. Results for the study are in the table below.  For each category, the table lists US and Ohio production per capita, and maximum amount of consumption that could be met locally, and the percentage of consumption that could come from local sources.  Overall, slightly less than half of consumption in Ohio could be met with Ohio-produced foods.  Our research shows that Ohio consumers could meet all of their grain and nearly all of the poultry, eggs, and dairy consumption with food produced within the state.  These are strengths to build on.  In contrast, the state’s aquaculture, fruits, berries, and nuts production significantly lags consumption within the state.  In the case of these products, Ohio has an opportunity to fill gaps in production.

 

ESTIMATING OHIO FOOD CONSUMPTION:

These figures represent 9 commodity areas. Further Ohio State analysis of aggregate consumption in Ohio gives a big picture of overall statewide pounds of food consumed in similar sectors, in billions.

Local Foods: Estimating Ohio consumption for Ohio Food Policy Council — Food Assessment Task Force -- As a push is made for increased production geared toward local consumption, important questions arise about how much individuals are consuming of certain products. In other words, if Ohio could produce all of its own food, just how demand do Ohio consumers have in the first place?  This brief provides some initial calculations to answer this question.

February 2009, Brief #2009 - 2, Michael Webb and Jill K. Clark

The Problem.  As a push is made for increased production geared toward local consumption,
important questions arise about how much individuals are consuming of certain products.  In
other words, if Ohio could produce all of its own food, just how much demand do Ohio con-
sumers have in the first place.  As such, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture devel-
oped the U.S. Food Market Estimator, which uses per capita consumption data from the
USDA’s Economic Research Service.  Users of the Food Estimator see that it is a powerful
tool that can convey a daunting amount of information. This brief presents just a couple re-
sults of the Food Estimator - per capita and total yearly consumption data for Ohio consumers
for a variety of commodities. 

Methodology.  We use the Leopold Center’s U.S. Food Market Estimator to calculate total
yearly consumption in Ohio for selected commodities.  The Estimator uses per capita con-
sumption data from the USDA and then multiplies it by the Census’ 2007 population esti-
mates.  Results are available for all states and counties, but the tool uses uniform per capita
consumption data across all geographies.  The tool includes over 200 different food products,
from broad categories (such as dairy) to specific commodities (like Muenster cheese).  Users
can choose for results to be reported in various units (pounds, servings, tons),  market targets
(production needed, amount received by retailers, amount consumed), and timeframe.  The
Food Estimator also allows users to choose the amount of consumption that will be met by
local producers.   

Results.  Results for certain major commodity groups are listed in the table below.  Unfortunately,
this tool cannot compare consumption with production, as data provided by the USDA
Agriculture Census is not provided in pounds (or any other unit the Food Market Estimator
provides).  Nevertheless, the results show the vast amounts of food consumed by Ohio con-
sumers and highlight  the many opportunities available to those local producers looking to
meet the Ohio market.   The large results in the  yearly consumption column suggest that
many opportunities exist for producers, even if they only hope to meet a sliver of demand.

As stated in the Plain Dealer, and clear through research, Northeast Ohio and Ohio do not have in place the systems, policies and economic models to meet current local foods market demand with local food we already grow, and we are not positioned to meet future increased demand resulting from policy and public attitude changes that encourage greater consumption of local food – we do not have adequate supply chain, distribution and information systems to grow an efficient local foods economy, despite clear market opportunity.

In fact, while we may grow enough food in Ohio to meet nearly 50% of Ohio food demand, in these nine food categories, it is reported local food consumption in Ohio is between 1-5%, and the previous analysis found similar results. As Ohioans eat over 20 billion pounds of the above foods a year – over 2 billion pounds in Cuyahoga County - we are clearly leaving great economic and social value to rot on the vine.

ANALYZING THE MISSING LINKS:

Further research at Ohio State University is focused on the issue of meeting current and future demand for local foods, and identifies needs addressed by REAL COOP.

Scaling-up Connections between Regional Ohio Specialty Crop Producers and Local Markets: Distribution as the Missing Link -- While direct marketing is one part of the developing a regional food system, it is limited by the low number of Ohio consumers that can conveniently reach farmers.  We must gain a better understanding of distribution in Ohio.  Therefore, this project will begin by cataloguing the types of products distributed, product sourcing, service area, trip logistics, food safety requirements, product point of entry and marketing strategies.

This work will begin Summer 2009 and is funded by the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grants.

In Ohio, the demand for locally grown food is growing, and 98% of Ohioans indicate state and local governments should be working to develop local food systems. Specialty crops are a key subsector to start addressing the development of Ohio’s food system. Ohioans consume an estimated 4.65 billion pounds of vegetables and 3.08 billion pounds of fruit annually, yet less then estimated 1% of these fruits and vegetables are grown by Ohio farmers. Given current production levels, Ohio farmers could be satisfying over 26% of Ohioans vegetable needs and 5% of their fruit needs. One of the missing links in connecting consumer demand and Ohio farmers is current food distribution networks. Focusing on distribution of specialty crops would create opportunities for Ohio farmers, distributors, and be an economic stimulus; however, a critical issue that must be resolved is to address gaps in the current distribution system as it connects producers and consumers. In Ohio we currently have little understanding of the mainstream specialty crop distribution system. Ohio State University’s Center for Farmland Policy Innovation (Center) and the Social Responsibility Initiative (SRI) will begin to address this gap with the proposed research detailed below.

Project Purpose

Developing a local food system is complex. Many advocates focus heavily on direct marketing. While direct marketing is one part of the solution, it is limited by the low number of Ohio consumers that can conveniently reach farmers. Further, direct marketing is hampered by inefficiencies – increased costs and energy consumption. In order to reach mainstream consumers and increase production levels, locally grown specialty crops need to be integrated into the mainstream distribution system. For example, the overwhelming majority of retail food buyers (83% of restaurants and 90% of retail outlets) preferred to purchase from a food distributor rather than direct from a farmer. Retailers already have long existing relationships with distributors and prefer the convenience and reliability of working with a few distributors over a large number of farmers. A limitation for local farmers to enter the mainstream distribution system has been a lack of understanding the structure of the distribution system. Further, Ohio distributors have been reluctant to work with local farmers claiming they are not market-ready because local farmers have a limited understanding of quality, quantity and flow of product.

Project Plan

Recognizing an absence of understanding the distribution structure, this project will begin by cataloguing the types of products distributed, product sourcing, service area, trip logistics, food safety requirements, product point of entry and marketing strategies. Additionally, Ohio has unique micro-climates and soil regions that can produce high quality specialty crops – it necessary to understand where they are and how distribution can foster growth in these regions through increased production and better marketing. Research needs to be conducted to create informed recommendations for current growers and distributors, potential new growers and distributors and policy-makers to enable local provision of specialty crops to be scaled up to meet demand.

REAL COOP INFO FOOD will partner and cooperate with experts researching these issues in our fields, throughout the Ohio university system and beyond, to develop world class innovations to optimize food distribution systems in Ohio, for optimal value worldwide.

We believe the initiatives proposed to Cuyahoga County provide a firm foundation for developing infrastructure to optimize  local foods distribution systems, and much more.

REAL COOP FOOD SECURITY SOLUTIONS FOR CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OHIO AND WORLD:

As previously introduced to Cuyahoga County, our initiatives develop workforce and infrastructure for growing our local foods and information systems economies, including state-of-the-art food supply chain, enterprise resource planning and logistics capabilities.

Through REAL COOP INFO FOOD Initiatives, Cuyahoga County will make strategic investments in developing facilities and capabilities for everything from composting and greenhouse construction to food warehousing and distribution; workforce development and education; soil analysis and development; permaculture and vertical farming; water management and watershed protection; new urban infrastructure reengineering; remote monitoring and geographical information system innovation; material and food handling, sorting,  pricing, marketing, packaging, logistics and transit; food processing, entrepreneurship and commerce; wireless communications and data acquisition... revolutionizing concepts and practices leading to real “food security” everywhere on Earth, for world benefit for all.

And, through REAL COOP INFO FOOD initiatives,  Cuyahoga County will make strategic investments in developing revolutionary information systems supporting an integrated field-to-family-to-field local foods economy that is best for the world, featuring world-class community broadband wireless mesh communications, geographical information systems, remote monitoring and system control and data acquisition,  supply chain optimization, enterprise resource planning, eCommerce, messaging and social computing in one integrated common operating environment for all local foods grown, processed and commercialized through a publicly owned cooperative – Real Coop.

REAL COOP FOOD AND INFO SECURITY COMMUNITY OF THE WORLD:

Core to realizing our regional objectives and statewide mission to lead the world with local foods economies is the ready availability of relevant world-class researchers throughout Northeast Ohio, at many universities, non-profits and businesses in Ohio AND through the REAL COOP network worldwide.

Unique to our state, relevant examples where Ohio universities offer best in the world knowledge range from research in the Lake Erie watershed and supply chain and logistics at University of Toledo to the many areas of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, environmental modeling, and even Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State.

No one university, county or region of Ohio may optimize the local foods economy for Ohio and the world. This requires state-wide cooperation of the best brainpower the entire state and world have to offer. Our objective for Cuyahoga County is to lead beyond our fair share of this movement, and make certain our citizens benefit from best-in-class initiatives state-wide, leading the world. By initiating this innovation process in Northeast Ohio, many innovations will be piloted in our region.

The initiatives proposed for Cuyahoga County include development of core facilities to expand our local foods workforce and food distribution and processing infrastructure, which is core to the development of the local foods economy. Thus, much of our effort and investment will be in developing neighborhoods and people, in Star Neighborhoods, focused on being brightest greenest places on Earth.

REAL COOP INFO FOOD STAR NEIGHBORHOODS:

We propose developing the world's first REAL COOP INFO FOOD brightest greenest cooperative local foods neighborhood – Star Neighborhood – in urban east side Cleveland and East Cleveland areas of Cuyahoga County, radiating from the historic Star/Hough Bakeries Complex, at 1518 Lakeview Road, Cleveland, Ohio, 44112.

The former Hough/Star Bakeries is an underutilized 100,000+ square foot historic food processing and distribution facility, still in use for food production, with significant food-industry equipment, with several acres of land and significant parking on-site, and several useful outbuildings... surrounded by 100s of acres of underutilized scattered-site land, 1,000s of abandoned and distressed residential and commercial properties, and an eager workforce with high levels of underemployment and low levels of employability. 

All this is within a stone's throw of the nearly-insatiable local foods markets of major universities hospitals, institutions and the people, restaurants and businesses of the major population centers of one of America's greatest regions.

The initiatives we propose to Cuyahoga County include developing this first Star Neighborhood to implement local foods best practices and innovations in Northeast Ohio, first and best, as a model for the state and world... beginning with worms and composting.

The best practices and models developed in this Star Neighborhood will be implemented in other neighborhoods of Northeast Ohio, across Ohio, and worldwide, just as many innovations transforming the Star Neighborhood will be best lessons learned from other communities across the state, and around the world.

PROJECTING THE ENERGY OF A STAR NEIGHBORHOOD:

The local foods expert who seems to offer the best picture of opportunities for Northeast Ohio offered through local foods is not in Northeast Ohio, but Milwaukee... and now Chicago.

The July 6, 2009, New York Times Sunday Magazine features "Street Farmer", an article about Will Allen, an urban farming innovator who demonstrates the power of one farmer through Growing Power

14 greenhouses crammed onto two acres in a working-class neighborhood on Milwaukee’s northwest side... producing a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of food... provide healthful food to 10,000 urbanites — through his on-farm retail store, in schools and restaurants, at farmers’ markets and in low-cost market baskets delivered to neighborhood pickup points... employ scores of people, some from the nearby housing project... continually train farmers in intensive polyculture... convert millions of pounds of food waste into a version of black gold.

The need for innovative urban agriculture like this is as great in Greater Cleveland.

If inside the greenhouse was Eden, outdoors was, as Allen explained on a drive through the neighborhood, “a food desert.” Scanning the liquor stores in the strip malls, he noted: “From the housing project, it’s more than three miles to the Pick’n Save. That’s a long way to go for groceries if you don’t have a car or can’t carry stuff. And the quality of the produce can be poor.” Fast-food joints and convenience stores selling highly processed, high-calorie foods, on the other hand, were locally abundant. “It’s a form of redlining,” Allen said. “We’ve got to change the system so everyone has safe, equitable access to healthy food.”

Propelled by alarming rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity, by food-safety scares and rising awareness of industrial agriculture’s environmental footprint, the food movement seems finally to have met its moment. First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack have planted organic vegetable gardens. Roof gardens are sprouting nationwide. Community gardens have waiting lists. Seed houses and canning suppliers are oversold.

There are many similar models of urban agriculture excellence across America – many in Northeast Ohio - but none address the macroeconomics of local foods.

Toward the conclusion of the New York Time article on Mr. Allen:

So no, Growing Power isn’t self-sufficient. But neither is industrial agriculture, which relies on price supports and government subsidies. Moreover, industrial farming incurs costs that are paid by society as a whole: the health costs of eating highly processed foods, for example, or water pollution. Nor can Growing Power be compared to other small farms, because it provides so many intangible social benefits to those it reaches. “It’s not operated as a farm,” said Ian Marvy, executive director of Brooklyn’s Added Value farm, which shares many of Growing Power’s core values but produces less food. “It has a social, ecological and economic bottom line.” That said, Marvy says that anyone can replicate Allen’s technical systems — the worm composting and aquaponics — for relatively little money.

In the development of the Hough/Star Bakeries complex and surrounding Star Neighborhood, we shall “replicate Allen’s technical systems — the worm composting and aquaponics — for relatively little money” and go macro, to a larger scale than has been done in any community before, through regional and state-wide cooperative local foods industry transformation for the world.

And we do not need to look as far as Milwaukee for many innovative models for urban agriculture. We have developed many initiatives through our cooperative planning process, included in our proposals to Cuyahoga County, and we are identifying more innovations through best practices research.

An interesting opportunity the Coop should explore is described in an article published June 27, 2009, in the Toledo Blade, "Sylvania nuns are feeding the hungry year-round" reports on two nuns who have developed strategies for “beating Mother Nature”.

"We are in the bread belt and the state of Ohio is third in the nation for hunger. It doesn't make sense," Sister Jeremias said.

Sister Jeremias and her colleague, Sister Grace Ellen, decided they wanted to find a way to beat Mother Nature.

With help from numerous volunteers and experts who provided labor, financial and material donations, and advice, the two Catholic sisters last fall built a 48-by-20-foot Quonset hut-style greenhouse on the nuns' 89-acre Sylvania campus.

The project proved to be a success, producing several healthy crops of tomatoes, squash, carrots, onions, potatoes, lettuce, broccoli, and more in the midst of one of the coldest winters in Ohio history.

Yes, these sisters invented a state-of-the-art greenhouse.

The sisters have met with U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) several times to keep her apprised of their progress, and they have also keeping in touch with local agricultural and education officials.

The nuns also bring in young schoolchildren to teach them about growing plants and vegetables.

"I ask them what if Kroger's is closed and your refrigerator is empty," Sister Jeremias said, "could you feed yourself and your family?"

The greenhouse on the Sylvania Franciscans' campus cost about $5,000, but a bare-bones version could be built for $3,500, the nuns said.

The sisters envision similar greenhouses being set up in needy neighborhoods so the poor can grow their own food year-round.

But they also hope that their small-scale project will lay the groundwork for some big group or company to take their ideas to the next level.

"If we could do a little itsy bitsy thing and work the kinks out and complete the experiment and be able to say this does work, then someone else on a larger scale can afford to take this concept and move forward," Sister Jeremias said. "We're maxed out with the two of us doing all the work."

So, really, we are learning from the best practices of two maxed out sisters, to respond to a shared realization that  "We are in the bread belt and the state of Ohio is third in the nation for hunger. It doesn't make sense."

We hear Sister. Jeremias' plea. "If we could do a little itsy bitsy thing and work the kinks out and complete the experiment and be able to say this does work, then someone else on a larger scale can afford to take this concept and move forward".

NEXT STEPS FOR REAL COOP INFO FOOD PLANNING

To complete planning of the core components of REAL COOP INFO FOOD, and begin initiatives developing the Star Neighborhood, the following 10 focus areas should be funded by Cuyahoga County, with a total planning budget of $100,000, managed by the following 10 lead consultants, and a board of cooperative membership.

This phase of planning will be completed in 60 days, and make recommendations for all future REAL COOP INFO FOOD planning.

Cooperative Development and Integration
Norm Roulet, Lead Consultant

Geographic Information Systems
Jon Cline, Lead Consultant

Supply Chain, Enterprise Resource Planning and Logistics
Joe LaMantia, Lead Consultant

Social Computing and Content Management
Acquia/Dries Buytaert, Lead Consultant

Wireless Mesh and Portal Planning
Sascha Meinrath, Lead Consultant

Star Neighborhood Planning
Joe Stanley, Lead Consultant

Star Neighborhood Architecture
Richard Fleischman, Lead Consultant

Star Neighborhood Permaculture
Nick Swetye, Lead Consultant

Star Neighborhood Food Infrastructure
Brad Masi, Lead Consultant

Star Neighborhood Food Education
Maurice Small, Lead Consultant

When complete, the entire proposal for REAL COOP INFO FOOD to Cuyahoga County will be posted to REALNEO.US and voted upon by membership.

If REAL COOP members do not vote to adopt the initiatives proposed to Cuyahoga County, as the organizing entity, a new cooperative will be formed and will operate separate from REAL COOP.

info/food business plans and Realneo

 

 
Hello Norm,  7/9/2009
 
I have read your real.coop info food proposal and,  based on the following considerations, I  suggest that the info/food operation be conducted through a legal entity separate from Real.coop.   I will be glad to help you set up such an entity.   Cost $125 for State of Ohio, about $100 for a COOP web domain.  The name could be REAL FOOD REAL INFO. COOP  or similar.
 
Rationale for separation includes the follwing:
 
 1.         BOOK KEEPING REQUIRED
 Rather than operate what will be a legal business – requiring book keeping, W2,s,  bank account, post office box or office,  EIN, (all of which are legally required and time consuming and for which your proposal does not provide any funds) through  Real.coop…set up a separately funded,  legally separate office operation. 
 
Up until now volunteers have been able to manage the business and technical operations of Real.Coop only because those operations/money flows/technical issues to date have been very minimal.   If the County, or others, invest sums of money, volunteers will not be able to manage the books, thus jeapardizing the stability of Realneo/Real.coop.
 
 I suggest  also that a request  be made in your proposal  for money for office management for the info/food project for the number of weeks for which you believe the project will be operated.   I would allocate $1,000 per week for office/management.  This project will need at least one full time office management person.     Without a strong office organization and business manager the project will struggle. The project will need a details oriented "nag" on the telephone making it happen all day every day.
 
2.         PURPOSE  OF REAL.COOP vs  INFO/FOOD  
The purpose of Real.coop is to be a legal entity to operate Realneo.us and perhaps other similar web sites.  It is not clear to me that users/members of Realneo/Real.coop intended to get into urban gardening or community wifi or open source development (all of which are good goals).   Rather than asking “for a vote” on Realneo (do anonymous users vote?) and, if the “members” (yet undefined) approve, AND having some now-undetermined “board” on Realneo handle Info/Food decisions through Real.coop  - set up a new special purpose food/info coop -And any persons who are interested in the new ventures can join those ventures.
 
3.         RISK MANAGEMENT
Realneo is stable right now financially and legally.   Rather than adding the complexity and risk of a new and different venture to Real.coop, just as a risk management strategy, (liability law suits, you name it)  it is advisable to separate the new purposed enterprise rather than operate through Real.coop. 
 
4.         CREDIT  FROM REALNEO 
Credit to you and recognition to you for the development of Realneo.us is not at all distracted/detracted if a separate legal entity is created for the express purpose of Info and Food rather than operating through Real.coop  
 
5.         BOARD OF DIRECTORS  
Choose a Board for the new Coop from the persons who are intending to receive funding, or who have interest, passion, or skills for the INFO/FOOD operation. 
 
 Best,
jeffb

 

 

 

As I replied to Jeff B, Yesterday:

I don't really care one way or the other, but I'll make a case for going with REAL COOP as we proceed with our planning - that is not a deicison to be made by us today.

At least $75,000 of the initial planning funding is for other expenses. So some of the funding will go to COOP development, whether real coop or new coop.

I'll be asking everyone I know if they want to work on this and or volunteer so I expect to have good people available for just about anything we must accomplish. In short order, we'll leverage the value of our university systems statewide and its funded researchers, programmers, and experts.

I don't think either of us are in a position to decide anything for real coop - it isn't in a good position to decide things for itself, but we shouldn't avoid fixing that, or allowing members to evolve our mission and operations.

I'm going to post my proposal tomorrow morning, with an appropriate header, and ask for feedback from members. I'd appreciate supportive feedback and openness to exploring various options, or some space to let others reflect without negative influences.

You have your opinions and you voice them strongly - other members have different visions...

Let's see what real NEO people see when they look ot these visions.

Disrupt IT

Open web debate - can it achieve higher goals?

 

This discussion about the direction of Real.coop is the embodiment of the open web. 
 
 Norm introduced a proposal which I strongly support, but not in the format Norm has presented.  
 
Norm and I discussed it briefly off the Realneo site, could not come to consensus, and now the issue is fully public.
 
"Fully public" is not the usual way of “board room” type discussions.  
 
And that is the brilliance of this medium.
 
I have my view, Norm has his view. Now each are in the public view.  
 
I have a feeling that there may be other viewpoints, avenues, strategies, which neither Norm nor I have considered. 
 
  By having the discussion publicly, there may well be input which will produce a result superior to what either Norm or I have envisioned.  
 
It’s new territory…jummp inn!

 

It is cool, I love it.It

It is cool, I love it.

Posting this is timely and can only; actually will help with the land bank, it justifies it.

It is very important to look at who and what might be adverse to this, that consideration needs to be done from 360 degrees. Many very good ideas do not get far enough because they do not address or foresee the potential obstacles.

What I wrote is only my brainstorms, and should only be taken as observations and not inclusive. That being I am only commenting off the top of my head. The proposal is very through in itself.

The best economic models are very inclusive and highly cooperative.

It needs its own web site, it needs digital maps and linked data sets. I am seeing boatloads of synergistic alignments on this….wow!

 

I look forward to your help

Get in touch OENGUS and anyone else interested in planning this - there is a budget for some help in this next phase of planning, and this is the beginning of somethings big so it represents a great "ground floor" opportuntiy for everyone around NEO and especially REALNEO.

I don't know if it has dawned on most REALNEO members - REAL COOP owners - but this proposal includes planning the development of globally important open source information systems and technologies, to optimize the efficiency of our new economy, and 10,000s of acres of land, for growing food, and 1,000,000s of square feed of facilities, for distributing and processing food, and new, ecologically modeled infrastructure, designed for the food economy community, and 10,000s of people, to BE the local foods economy that doesn't exist today, in neighborhoods now abandoned by the old economy.

The COOP will decide its exact roles and responsibilities, but the intention is to put what should be PUBLIC in the hands of the PUBLIC cooperative, which protects what is private property, from the data defining our identities to the food we grow in our backyards, for the individual.

This is all about protecting public and private property of individuals, in the new economy, from the corruption and inefficiency of the old economy.

Disrupt IT

Knight Foundation

  REALNEO has received Knight Foundation recognition?  This is good...how good?  I am sending my vibes on your behalf Norm Roulet to the MacArthur Foundation :)   Growing power is GOOD.

Not directly from Knight,

 

The Knight Foundation did not recognize Realneo.us directly, but rather The Knight Foundation funded a study at, as I remember, the University of Missouri school of Journalism.  
 
Both Norm and I spoke with different researchers from the School at different times.  
 
The journalism school selected 238 civic journalism focused web sites from around the US and contacted the web site administrators.  The selection was made by size of city in which the web sites were focused.   !/3 of the sites were in the largest metro areas, 1/3 in medium, and 1/3 in the out back. I think Realneo was in the medium city group. Realneo was the only Co-op owned site of the 238. 
 
The researchers were interested in what the motivations were which drove the creation and operation of the site.  Numerous questions about funding, ad income, business management model, etc.  The interview was oral (I asked for a copy of the questions, they didn’t wish to provide it because their interviews might be skewed if some had prior access to the questions).   I spent about an hour on the telephone with an interviewer.   I took hand written notes and have been remiss in not typing them up for posting.
 
When the study is completed, the school will make it public. 
 
I believe the Knight Foundation sees that the press is out and the internet is the news vehicle.  No one really knows how civic journalism will evolve, and the funding provided by Knight is intended to help understand this new dimension in communication and community building via citizen journalism.  

 

 Very good, once again

Very good, once again the need for digital interactive maps and databases apparent.

I am smiling?

There is a digital map that is rudimentary, it links to every parcel the city uses it. But its rudimentary.

What is needed is that map superimposed on satellite image, and overlay. Imagine Google maps with a feature…show parcels. Then parcel type, agricultural as green, industrial as red, residential as blue…

That all linked to data tables, the parcel number by type, the type agricultural, then you have a list all the parcels that are coded as agricultural. Each parcel would have detailed information, you look at that in what is called a 'Form', it offers a view and data input as well.

Can I have access to the permanent parcel data? I do not want to be able to access all the data fields just the parcel and then add the coordinates from the craptastic map; the one that the city planner use on their website. Then I would call upon Google and ask them to get involved. I want the coordinates and data sets to align with the satellite map.

You know it does not have to be Google, but I really would like to be able to index and list hypertext addresses in the data as well, the retail stores would need a URL. Anyhting can be a field in a data table.

Clicking on the parcel could bring up anything from what is public as what the county currently displays or a full blown customized portal to second life…..

With some resources I could set that up in a relatively short time.

But it has to code all parcels with a township district, because it all moves towards regional districts.

I think it may be possible to set up licensed stores, like storefront stores the old corner store.

Beware because the giant eagle has connections….then you have local 880, there are a lot of interests in food distribution.

Municipalities do have the rights to limit licensing, and a neighborhood stores can get some serious business. That’s why you have all these mini-marts. The local markets got stung with the onset of Convenient, Lawson, Dairy Marts and even the gas stations are in on it. Those are forces that work behind the scenes, they influence politicians and they have the right to.

Defining your piece is important but including some aspect of the above and politicians in alignment is obviously imperative.

I think the link is that of prodcuts that are natural and organic, a distribution of small retailers that are supplied through the local producers. If the retailing is local and well located then the state could offer healthy choice food vouchers. That being a higher amount then normal, but limited to be used in the cooperative stores. (potentially controversial)

I think that would be described as a pull system rather than a push, funding the consumer rather than the grower. You could also have or get people to use food cards, that being they could buy credits and then get a discount.

Buying from the local growers then also buying out of established channels of organic products from the already existing wholesalers. The later would be local as well, regional or even state, but not outside of the state or nation unless it is a product that cannot be produced here.

So your map could offer a look at what parcels in the county are producing and where and then also identify locations for cold storage or even processing. Having coded parcels universally would allow details and codes to offer quick searches, and then shine light on capabilities at each parcel. Say for instance; food processing and then maybe; juice production as codes, then offering a marker for such on the map. It shines light as some may then say wow…I did not even know that we do that locally.

I think it is all good stuff and it is timely now to get the maps and then align on the land bank. One aspect is agriculture and there are others as well.

In favor

 I am conditionally in favor of the REAL COOP proposal as outlined above.  Jeff, can't legalities of existing REAL COOP be redrawn to attend to financials--with an executive board assuming accounting liabilities etc.?  Why do we need a separate entity? Are the folks listed above to be the executive board?  Will the executive board be obligated to respond to the voting issues presented here at REALNEO, where everyone who signs in as a member can vote?  (Yes--not everyone who participates at REALNEO has an interest in the economics of feeding a community.  I imagine that those folks would just opt out of voting when presented with voting items...)

Jeff B--I have read your rational for separation and the points you make are all valid and should be incorporated, but I still don't see the rationale for a separate entity, especially if the proposed funding mechanism could keep REALNEO.us/REALCOOP perpetuated as a social network.  I think that adding another layer would just add confusion to the original intent of REALNEO--which is to keep dialogue alive.
 

Welcome to REALNEO! We are an open, free social network of a non-profit cooperative of people - REAL.COOP - interested in arts and culture, economy, education, environment, health and technology. REALNEO has a focus on North East Ohio - NEO - but REAL.COOP has global membership and perspectives. Please enjoy the content and feel free to set up an account and join the community.