The Food Commons

Each year, The Buckminster Fuller Institute invites scientists, designers, architects, activists, entrepreneurs, artists and planners from all over the world to submit their innovative solutions to some of humanity’s most pressing problems. A $100,000 prize is awarded to support the development and implementation of one outstanding strategy.

Cursor_and_buckminster-fuller-beauty_jpg__2271×1250_The Food Commons seeks to build a complete and fully integrated system for local/regional food that is community-based in its ownership and operations yet networked nationally/internationally for governance, learning and innovation.  It is not seeking to level the playing field of the globalized industrial food system, but rather to create a new playing field, especially for small and medium-sized food enterprises that have been marginalized by the current system.  It is a back to the future concept that aligns perfectly with the criteria of the Fuller Challenge.  

Imagine under one umbrella, a system of small farms, processing facilities, distribution services, and retail markets all dedicated to bringing the freshest, tastiest local food to your tables.  And imagine all this owned by the citizens of your community. 

In essence, the Food Commons is a more fair and equitable food system that embraces the philosophy of the commons and community stewardship. To read more about the Food Commons model, visit

Twenty Semi-Finalist proposals, including ours, have been selected out of an entry pool of over 450 applications and have undergone a rigorous review for adherence to the seven-point Challenge criteria: Visionary, Comprehensive, Ecologically Responsible, Feasible, Verifiable, and Replicable. Our application has been through three rounds of vetting by the members of the Challenge Review Committee, including analysis and evaluation by an interdisciplinary team of experts and advisors. 

“Each of these projects deserve the attention of the world for their commitment to ‘solving for system’ – an approach that takes an unusual degree of insight, patience, tenacity and courage”, said Elizabeth Thompson, The Buckminster Fuller Institute’s Executive Director. “The teams behind these initiatives have made extraordinary efforts to define the systemic context underlying the problem they are seeking to solve, and have designed strategies that provide enduring and sustainable solutions. Each is a remarkable example of the transformative power of individual initiative and provide much needed hope and encouragement that solutions to our most entrenched problems are indeed at hand.” 

Making connections

Ooooby profileSo many new connections are being made, as the wave builds behind the move to natural and local when it comes to food production, distribution and consumption.

On Wed 13th August, the first Ooooby Waikato boxes went out to 48 customers. That night there was a wonderful Pecha Kucha talk at the beautiful Wintec Atrium where I got to share a perspective on future-focussed food production and distribution.

Across to the Hawkes Bay the next day to visit Greg and Rachel Hart at The Family Farm and make plans for the Beyond Organic Tour (Mar 2015).

Then back over the range on Route 5 to make more friends with Catherine, Neville and the lovely people doing the next module of their PDC with Plenty Permaculture.   Bay Permaculture Food Forest module

 Sharing ideas about multi-layered systems of mostly perennial plants

A few months ago, Catherine and I were introduced via a mutual friend and in a Skype call, shared our passions for various aspects of rebuilding the local food system. After swapping stories about what people all over the world are doing to rebuild their local food systems, Catherine invited me to present the Food Forest module for their PDC course on August 16th.

Coming to hear about Ooooby

Learning about Ooooby at the lunch break

Tauranga has one of the strongest local groups on the original social networking site that has facilitated many people to share ideas and knowledge along with produce and plants. Carina has been a key thread in the fabric of this group, and she kindly agreed to put the word out to the Ooooby Tauranga group, and they arranged their monthly meeting to coincide with this month’s Permaculture Design module. If you are, or know someone who may be, interested in starting an Ooooby operations, please leave us a note, and we’ll get back in touch.

The mighty Waikato

Coming down off the Kaimai Range into the mighty Waikato

Back to the Waikato on Sunday morning to meet with Danielle and Mateusz, part of the growing crew of people working to see it thrive there. We began the conversations in March, and thanks to the not-so-small inaugural team, who led the early exploration creatively and with patience, as we worked out the strategy together.

And here it is!

The current phase is building numbers to 120 regular customers, then we can develop an enterprise around a local sorting hub supplied mostly by local growers and artisan food producers. If you’re interested drop a quick note to

What a whirlwind five days!

How do loosely-held teams stay connected

Slack, the communications tool which Ooooby has been using for the last few months, is proving to be very effective in supporting everyone to self-manage within the roles they have taken on. On this trip Greg and Catherine started to get familiar with Slack for the Beyond Organic tour.

Here’s how we use it in Ooooby. When people connect around a shared purpose, and have a desire to collaborate, there’s a growing number of excellent team communication and information sharing tools available to help.