How It All Began: A Brief History of Mass Local Food

Preparing the Soil for a Great Idea

One could say that Massachusetts Local Food Cooperative evolved in response to the concept of peak oil and global warming. In 2005, co-op founder Kelley O’Connor learned about peak oil, the point at which global oil production will peak and then begin a terminal decline. She became concerned about oil depletion and the ensuing global economic crisis that would impact the ability of corporate grocery giants to stock their shelves.

Kelley was aware that grocery stores stock only 3 days’ worth of food. If truckers went on strike because of skyrocketing gas prices, the food supply would quickly run out. The number of food miles most items in the industrial food system rack up also troubled Kelley. Food miles are the distance food travels from producer to consumer. The amount of oil that goes into transporting food and the resulting emissions are also measures of food miles.

Suffusing Kelley’s unease was her painful awareness of the number of small local farms, particularly dairies, that were going out of business because of the unfair competition imposed by industrial agriculture.

In light of all these complex issues, local food security became the focus of Kelley’s concern. She felt a strong need to help save the remaining small farms in Massachusetts and to encourage others to become farmers. Doing so would help ensure the availability of food in the event of a corporate truckers’ strike or other oil-related catastrophe. It was this reasoning that spurred Kelley to action.

The Seed Is Planted

Kelley began by driving to farms and local food markets around Worcester County, where she lives, in search of local produce and milk. A year later, after realizing how hard it is to find local food in Massachusetts and how much travel is involved in shopping for it, Kelley learned about the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.

Oklahoma Food Co-op had developed shopping cart software that connects local food producers and consumers through an online marketplace. In December 2006, the co-op announced that it would give away its software to people interested in using its model to start their own co-op. They scheduled a three-day training workshop for the following May on how to organize and operate an online local food co-op and delivery system.

On New Years Day 2007, Kelley attended a relocalization visioning session, where—for the first time—she voiced her intention to start a Massachusetts local food co-op modeled after Oklahoma’s. Her target for having the co-op up and running was three years from that time.

In May Kelley headed to the workshop in Oklahoma City, where she learned all about the Oklahoma Food Co-op’s operation and how it started. Oklahoma’s model addressed all the concerns Kelley had, and she was inspired by the co-op’s success. An online farmers market would indeed be a great thing to have in Massachusetts, she thought.

News and Alerts (Feb/Mar)

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day locally
Mass Local Food producers have all you need for corned beef and tasty leftovers. Check out the Shop page for suggestions.

Welcome University of Massachusetts Medical School
The latest Mass Local Food pick-up site in Worcester opens this month.

A local gift that keeps on giving
For that special locavore, how about a gift certificate for membership in Mass Local Food? You can find gift certificates on your order form. We will include the certificate with your order and the cost will be added to your invoice.