What is a Free Market, really? It’s certainly not the dominant world trade system of exploitation and unsustainable conversion of real (natural and human) capital into artificial (financial) capital for the gain of elites at the expense of communities and landscapes, underpinned by a debt-based monetary system.

A truly free market is a fair market, embedded in a social and ecological context. It’s a market that allows free, mutually beneficial exchange between free individuals or groups acting as equals in a respectful relationship. Although such a market is somewhat discouraged by an exploitative monetary system based on debt, it CAN be built within the institutions of the existing market, given enough co-operative organisation. Also, local energy currency systems that are not beholden to central bank control can be built at a grassroots level – again the main requirement is human co-operation.

CO-OPs allow for autonomous, people centred business enterprises. They provide a good structure for producer groups, consumer groups, or an integration of mutual producers and consumers. Co-ops provide scope for Value Adding to raw materials so that those who value add work in co-operation with those who produce the raw materials, or the value-adding co-op may be composed of primary producers.

COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE builds a close relationship between producers and consumers of food and other agricultural products. Consumers share the risk of production by “buying shares” or “subscribing” to a farm or group of farms. Consumers may share production work, a common example being the harvesting of food.

FARMERS MARKETS and other local markets allow direct marketing between producers, crafts people, artists etc, and their local community. They encourage a convivial, community based market where quality assurance is based on trust between buyers and producers.  Producers are directly responsible for the quality of their produce, and buyers are directly responsible for offering a fair price for it.

FREE EXCHANGE SYSTEMS can operate very easily, and very informally. Freecycle is a global network of local groups freely giving things away to build community and avoid waste. Local Seed Networks are another good example of free exchange networks: Farmers and gardeners in a locality freely give away and share surplus planting material, building a diverse, resilient local genetic stock of useful plants as a community. In this example, group members also freely exchange ideas and inspiration, building and supporting each others’ knowledge by freely sharing observations, learning experiences and insights. This creates an atmosphere where “Open Science” flourishes – sharing knowledge as equals means that everyone is a “scientist”. Landcare Groups and other local groups operate in a similar way in regard to free knowledge exchange for the common good. This may be with sponsorship and/or technical assistance from agencies, or more informally and independently.

LOCAL ENERGY EXCHANGE SYSTEMS provide a framework for communities to literally create their own currency, freeing them to varying degrees from the debt-based, centrally controlled monetary system.

Food Freedom – blog on farmers’ rights to farm as they choose and market what and how they choose, and consumers’ parallel right to purchase food of a type, quality and nature of their choice.

National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association: the name just about says it all. The mission of NICFA is to promote and preserve unregulated direct farmer-to-consumer trade that fosters availability of locally grown or home-produced food products. This is a US association, but the same principle could be applied anywhere, at any level of localisation. A network of networks fostering co-operation


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s