Malcolm McDowell Woods
From the Outpost Exchange editor

Talking ’bout a revolution

By - Apr 1st, 2010 04:00 am
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Malcolm McDowell Woods

It feels sometimes as though I’ve been doing this forever. This summer will mark my 16th anniversary as editor of the Exchange. I’ve written more than 190 of these Editor’s Notes.

But I’m a piker compared to some around here. Our GM, Pam Mehnert, has spent 30 years working at Outpost. Most of her adult life.

Still, that’s not as old as the co-op itself. It was forty years ago this month that a handful of activists banded together in a pretty revolutionary step for the day and created Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative. Their goal was simple — to take back some measure of control over the foods they consumed. They desired foods that were more natural and less processed. They sought to re-establish connections between themselves and the men and women who grew or produced the food. It was a form of protest — they were consciously fighting against the industrialization of the food supply and their choice of a cooperative business structure was a shot at “the man.”

We have many old copies of the Exchange here and the various newsletters which preceded it. One of my favorites is a front cover of an owner newsletter from the early 1970s. Typewritten and mimeographed, the cover is a poster advertising a potluck picnic lunch at an east side park for coop owners. It was called the “No Shit-Food Picnic.”

Perhaps those were more profane days, marked by war, riots, protests, campus bombings, etc. Just think of the world of 40 years ago. A man on the moon and Nixon in the White House. No cell phones. No personal computers. Just four television networks. Living in the shadow of the bomb.

While we have made much progress in 40 years, the world today might seem eerily familiar to one of those hippies: war, recession, environmental woes and worries about food security and safety abound. Even in the aisles of Outpost, “the man” looms, as conglomerates crowd into the organic movement, gobbling up little companies and once again centralizing food production — somewhere else.

But look at the fresh departments at Outpost. The produce department is filled with fruits and vegetables from local growers, from farms Outpost staff have likely visited, grown by farmers our managers and shoppers may actually know. And the dairy cases are packed with cheeses from small farms around the state and with milk from cows with names. We’re taking back control.

In the community, too, signs of a healthier (economically, environmentally and socially), local food movement abound. In the greenhouses of Growing Power, in the artificial rivers of Sweetwater Organics, in countless victory gardens and rooftop farms, in farm stands, CSAs and at farmer’s markets – people are forging that connection — taking back some measure of control.

In steps large and small, in backyards, store aisles, small farms and on rooftops, we’re taking it back, because it’s time for another revolution.

No shit.

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