Local food systems can be supported with complementary currency

Pathways to local food systems using a complimentary currency system like COGS.
Submitted by hipnot on Tue, 2005-10-18 08:34.
Robert Waldrop’s paper presented at the recent Community Solution conference offered ideas on how to set up local food systems. Based on his paper this article explores how to use our COGS currency or a similar complementary currency system to speed development of the community. As Robert says, this is not a cookie cutter recipe, take what you need and leave the rest!

fig 1 Local Food System
As you see from the diagram a group gets together to invest legal tender to buy what is needed to produce food. The group invests their voluntary time in the system too. What comes out is food, both as raw material but also preserves and even shared cooking rosters in community kitchens or restaurant duties.

COGS, or circle of gifts is a tally system where the voluntary work you do is given points, and when you receive the fruits of voluntary work, like take home a basket of vegetables, equivalent points are subtracted from your account.

Start small or we don’t start at all.
Robert suggests everyone star from their own situation. One simple start is to register as a COGS user on the clearing site and you can start giving and receiving COGS immediately. As members join you can configure the user group to include them and develop your information database.

fig 2 COGS Portal

COGS work in the voluntary, social economy world. One COG is the equivalent of one hour (with 100 points making up one hour), and we estimate that each person has 1020 give or take 20 per year available. So each hour a member of your group spends on developing Local Food Systems can be acknowledged with an hour to their account.

fig 3 Voluntary hours per year

Knowledge is power.
An information directory is one of the most important food structures, and Robert tells us how the Oklahoma Food Cooperative began initially as an internet directory. The COGS portal offers both database and cataloguing facilities. Furthermore, you can set the system up to reward members who contribute to the databases.

Knowledge shared gives points.
The COGS site rewards members for completing a poll, adding news, and posting downloads of useful information. So even before you have prepared the soil members start to see points accumulate.

Meals will come from basic ingredients
This system should produce high quality eating for less input of legal tender. It will also mean more food made from basic raw ingredients and should be healthier, and taste better. What you do not get is the convenience of manufactured foods.

Planning and organization will be needed
Because you will have the basic ingredients depending on harvest, you will have to plan your meals more. Instead of thinking “what shall we have tonight”, it will be “what is available right now?”
Frugal use of energy and resources will be rewarded.
All kitchen waste should be composted, and of course time spent on compost will be logged. If you replace electrical power with muscle power costs will come down as you ditch dishwashers, electric can openers, garbage compactors etc.

The main COGS accumulation method will probably be the time sheet. Each member records the time spent on the food system, and the administrator logsthis to their account at regular intervals. As time goes on your group will want to develop rules as to how much can be logged for what, the rules will be available on the clearing site.

Eating in season
Local food systems mean eating more with the seasons. Here again, knowledge is power and members can post down-loadable recipes for each season. For example you can set the rules so each download adds COGS to the recipe presenter and deducts them from the downloader.

fig 5 Database entry – recipe

Redeeming COGS put in
So far we have described how people input their time spent into timesheets. When harvest comes around it will be time to collect the food. This is easily done as members fetch the harvested food a certain number of COGS is debited from their account.

If someone sets up a kitchen or restaurant service you can do the same, and guests simply state their account number, rather like we state our room number in a hotel restaurant.

Maybe someone likes making preserves. They create a catalogue entry on the site and explain that e.g. the jam can be picked up in exchange for a voucher. The jam maker produces a voucher, which when downloaded debits the one account and credits the other.

fig 6 Voucher for jam
Vouchers can be used too for example for courses, where the trainer sets up a voucher to credit his or her account as they are downloaded, and debit the attendee.

If the group is small and everybody knows everyone else a simple list will probably suffice.

Sharing of all resources
As the group builds up resources, use of these could be subject to COGS points. For example, a common meeting room rented for a private party, or use of wine-making equipment.

And what about cultural events? After the festivities entertainers would be acknowledged with COGS, encouraging live entertainment.
As the Local Food System develops it benefits the living standard of all involved

Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.
If you cannot see the whole solution step back and pick up that you can understand and do that.
As you start to work with COGS and local food systems we hope you will see how reducing the legal tender input, and raising your voluntary hours can reduce food bills, get you better food and you will make a lot of friends along the way.

Robert Waldrops paper can be downloaded
From http://www.communitysolution.org

COGS can be found at http://cogs.avbp.net

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