Ramon Torres and his son take a break at the farm for a photo. Torres is a founding member of the Cooperativa Tierra y Libertad farming cooperative in Whatcom County and has been involved with CTL since its creation in 2016. Photo courtesy of Cooperativa Tierra y Libertad.
By JoAna McNerthney, Cascade Cooperatives Steering Committee Member
J: What’s the best thing about being a member of your co-op?
R: The best thing about being a member of CTL is that there is a progression from worker to membership and we also have the opportunity to be an owner of the farm with five houses. As a founder and owner I will live in one of the houses with my family.
J: What does your co-op do exceptionally well?
R: We grow food organically; we work without supervisors or managers. We provide breaks and allow workers to choose their own schedule. We have education on how to transform from worker to owners. Lately, we have had an increase in the number of workers because they are realizing that they can become owners. They are seeing an alternative to capitalism. Our coop gives workers an opportunity to participate to become an owner with a house and land.
J: How do co-ops improve our community?
R: Part of our work is education about cooperatives and serving the community. To serve the community we are planting a garden where we sell vegetables for a dollar. We are planting organic healthy food to be able to sell it to the community at a price they can afford. It will be a sliding scale.
J: In general, there is a large difference between coops and non-coops.
R: Coops are made from the point of view of the members. Other businesses are made for the profit motive. In a coop the revenue goes straight to the workers instead of through the owner. In a coop our knowledge is respected, there is transparency and it is logical. Wages and benefits are better.
J: How can Whatcom County co-ops benefit from a network like Cascade Cooperatives?
R: In case of an emergency, like we are in right now, a network of cooperatives should be well informed of the needs of the coop and be able to react. The process to apply for funds during this pandemic aren’t working. The network should be responsible to its members.
J: If your co-op had a mascot, what would it be?
R: Dogs, goats and pigs
Donate at foodjustice.org (please note Tierra y Libertad in your donation), or mail a check payable to:
Tierra y Libertad to PO Box 963, Bellingham WA 98227.