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Because, Nashville

An appeal for a food co-op in our city

A new friend of mine, like more and more of us every day, is a new transplant to Nashville. One day not too long after she’d moved here and had started to get herself out and about, she remarked, “I can’t think of another city where people talk THIS much about their city.”

And she’d lived in DC and NYC, so, you know, not exactly slouchy cities in the resident-pride department. But it’s true! We Nashvillians LOVE to talk about Nashville. Those of us who have been here for more than even a few years feel entitled to comment on how much it’s changed even since we’ve been here.

Do you remember the tornado? The flood of 2013? Do you remember The Gold Rush or 5 points when you didn’t go to 5 points or fill in the blank with your favorite haunt no longer gracing Nashville streets? 

“I Believe in Nashville” Mural
Photo by Lauren MacNeish on Unsplash

But a few things continue to bring us all together, new and old—our live music, beautiful parks, sports teams, (no grumbling Titans fans y’all are getting a new stadium for Pete’s sake, ONE of these years will be our year!) And of course: our food culture. 

Nashville loves to eat and drink, and we do it well, and the rest of the country knows it. Tennessee itself is an agricultural behemoth, and chefs and foodies are flocking here to take advantage of every amazing local ingredient they can get onto their plates. Our farmers’ markets bring together amazing vendors and growers from the whole region, and of course, when it’s in season the big Market is top-notch. 

Tennessee itself is an agricultural behemoth, and chefs and foodies are flocking here to take advantage of every amazing local ingredient they can get onto their plates.

All this, and we are the largest American city without a single Food Co-operative. Maybe because we have these amazing options…when they happen, and if you can make it on the day, at the time, to the place….personally, I’m always missing the farmers’ markets because I work in hospitality (holla to my fellow bar/restaurant nuts!) 

A shared table

Besides logistics, why else do I believe there needs to be a co-op? Because I believe in democracy like I believe in apple pie made by my mama with McIntosh apples she picked herself, (I may or may not have just outed myself as a born and bred Yankee but I’ll die on this hill: McIntosh and Cortland apples beat the REST OF THEM PUT TOGETHER. Full stop.)

Anyway, after you’ve forgiven me for my apple hubris, consider this in all seriousness: a food co-op, where growers and members have a say in how the place operates is the ultimate place to strengthen and celebrate our community. 

In my family, food is love. Everybody knows memories are made with food, at a shared table, over an amazing meal. Whether that meal is Michelin-starred or matriarch-crafted, (patriarch/theychriarch actually cooking is basically how my dad won my mom’s heart but I digress, again), the point is: when it’s made with love you can tell. When the ingredients are grown with love, you can tell. When they were harvested, cleaned, prepped, and delivered with loving care and attention, you can tell. 

Again, connection

Connection begins with food. We ARE what we eat, and that’s the nutrients that start in the soil that make their way to our gut biome. That is the fuel for all our endeavors. That care and attention radiate from our very cells. And we all acknowledge we need more connection these days, not less. 

Whatever your politics, we all heard “people can’t talk to each other anymore” a LOT, increasingly over the last few years. We can acknowledge that kind of problem doesn’t just happen overnight, and it doesn’t get solved overnight. But it won’t be solved by wishing it would go away.

Hint, hint…

What if we came together at a co-op? What about conversations you had after a cooking class as you shared a meal everybody contributed to preparing? It’s harder to troll somebody when you’re breaking bread with them, especially if you’ve helped each other make said bread. 

Lofty dreams, goals, and ideals start somewhere. Why shouldn’t they start at Nashville’s very own food co-op? Take the first step, and become a co-owner today!

Land Acknowledgement

The Nashville Food Co-op acknowledges what we call Nashville, Tennessee was and is the traditional homelands of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Shawnee Peoples, stewards of the land and waterways, and their various inhabitants, and who are still here in this place.

About the Author

Ariana Hodes is a performing artist by training—acting and singing since she could walk and talk. She is a photographer, videographer, writer, traveler, bartender, reader, and imbiber of media except for horror. Not gonna do it. She finds spirit in nature and thinks it was no coincidence she ended up working on a small natural farm in NH during the height of the pandemic learning from the best kind of 3rd-generation steward of her land. Land acknowledgment: that land and waterways that was and continues to be stewarded by the Abenaki and Penacook peoples. This is land that was more than likely commandeered, and it’s important to remember that legacy whenever we’re talking about land and caring for it.

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