This is EcoLocalizer’s contribution to Blog Action Day, which is about Food this year!
Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage (where I live) is a small eco-minded community located in northeast Missouri. This is the second article about the village. For information on what exactly an ecovillage is or more general information about Dancing Rabbit, see my first article: Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage: An Introduction.
Living at Dancing Rabbit, one of the first things one notices is that most of us eat in groups as opposed to alone. Those groups are called co-ops and they are all slightly different in how they operate and function. I asked long-time resident of DR Jibran Ludwig to give me the low down on the different co-ops:
“In our modern culture, people generally cook and eat by themselves or in small family units. At Dancing Rabbit, most people eat in food co-ops. Let’s take a look at these co-ops. There are several reasons food co-ops are better than eating alone; the financial and the ecological. It is far less expensive to eat in a food co-op then to eat alone. It is far more destructive to the environment to have twenty people cooking their own meals on propane stoves. It also eliminates the need for every one to build their own kitchen, meaning that they save a lot of money right off the bat and they don’t have to have a fridge draining their power system all the time.
The largest food co-op at Dancing Rabbit is Sunflower. It is the only food co-op you can join without an invitation. They are a vegetarian co-op that serves primarily vegan food. They use the common house’s kitchen, which was ironically only intended to be a snack kitchen. Cooking is done in shifts. Sunflower has anywhere between eight and fifty members depending on the time of year. Sunflower purchases almost all of it’s food from UNFI (United Natural Foods Industry) in bulk. This further cuts down costs and is more eco-friendly than buying in smaller quantities. Foods like beans and rice are often a staple in Sunflower. Seitan, a delicious meat substitute makes a regular appearance on the menu as well. During the summer months, Sunflower buys as many fresh vegetables from Rabbits (ecovillage residents) as they can. This last summer, Dan Durica, a residing farmer, supplied Sunflower with salad greens and a smattering of other fresh produce.
Bobolink is the second largest food co-op at Dancing Rabbit. Bobolink is a pure vegan food co-op. They are housed in Skyhouse, which is an income-sharing sub-community of Dancing Rabbit . Cooking is done in shifts. While they also purchase a large quantity of bulk food from UNFI, much of their food is from Skyhouse’s garden. They also eat a lot of fermented foods and foods canned from the previous year’s garden.
Ironweed is the primary producer of yogurt for Dancing Rabbit, as well as being the only kitchen with a finished building designed for the express purpose of being a kitchen. All of Ironweed’s counter-tops are made with earthen plaster, the same stuff used on many walls at Dancing Rabbit. They also have a wood-fired stove and oven. Ironweed eats a vegetarian diet, and keeps chickens near the kitchen for their eggs.
Wabi-Sabi cooks exclusively on a wood stove. They are the newest of the co-ops. They eat largely their own vegetables and buy their staples from UNFI. They have a shed-sized non-permanent kitchen. They are currently working on a permanent kitchen. As far as current plans go, they will have no electricity in their new kitchen. Wabi-Sabi exists not only as a food co-op, but also as sort of a “back to the earth” sub-community. They use little electricity and many hand tools.
The food co-ops at Dancing Rabbit are well varied and well organized. The co-op setting also forces people to eat together, encouraging socialization. They give people somewhere to eat until they finish their homes. They allow people to waste less time cooking and saves them large amounts of money. In every.. pretty much every way, food co-ops are beneficial to Dancing Rabbit. In mainstream America, cooking is something you do on your own for you, your family, and maybe a friend or two. Dinner is a quiet time in most households. At Dancing Rabbit, it’s one of the main social events of the evening.”
Personally, I have enjoyed eating in the Sunflower food co-op quite a bit, and have enjoyed the community I have felt there. Curious about Dancing Rabbit? Have more questions about what it is like to live in an ecovillage? Leave a comment below!