Alternative currency and the local food economy

I met yesterday with a man named Tim from a place called the Hub, an org that I might be getting involved in. They basically create a space where like minded-folks, entrepeneurs that are working toward social and environmental goals can get a workspace and collaborate. Pretty cool stuff.

Somewhere in our discussion the idea of alternative currency came up. Tim had just been working in England to establish the Brixton pound, a local alternative currency. Apparently they had 40000 pounds in circulation when he left to work for the hub.

Apparently there are alternative currency movements happening all over the world, some in our own city (there is something called “Bernal Bucks” that is gaining traction in that neighborhood). It’s such an interesting idea. We all talk a lot about supporting small business, and keeping dollars local, but if you create a currency that is totally local, you can see the real effect of your purchases, with the growth of your local economy.

My immediate thought was to create/use a local currency at the SF Underground Market. How great would it be if we only accepted SF Bucks (or perhaps some more catchy currency name), and the vendors would be able to spend that money to buy ingredients from local farmers to make the products that then would be sold at the next market. And it wouldn’t need to be just the market, or farmers that took it, but also local restaurants, cafes, maybe giving a percentage discount if you used it… I have to admit that this idea has its fair share of inherent problems.  We would need a much larger pool to really create a currency that could be used. Get more businesses involved etc.  But it would be really amazing to take this idea of local community support to the next level/keep more money local/give more incentive for chefs/producers to buy locally….ideas?  Anyone want to take this on? I’ll help.


~ by foragesf on April 27, 2010.

23 Responses to “Alternative currency and the local food economy”

  1. We talked about this very same idea last week regarding the Boise Underground Market. I’d been thinking a lot about the way that the food works at the Thai Temple – you buy the tokens, then you trade the tokens for food. We were considering that as a model for how to “do business” at our market. This most recent inaugural event we didn’t do it, but we might for next time.

    • You had an underground market in Boise?! How’d it go?


      • It went really, really well. We set it up a month ago, and it was held on Sunday. 9 vendors, 10 if you include the restaurant where we held it in downtown (they’re normally closed Sundays). It was packed! We sold out of lots of things including the foraged morels, the fresh local goat cheese, and the homemade andouille sausage. 92 people showed up. It rocked. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. sounds great for keeping the currency local… thoughts on keeping it green? (i.e. not having to print for different currency) like gift card-style or strictly virtual a-la sims money or goods valuation for trade? ‘really excited about what you’re doing and hoping to catch the next FM!

  3. Bay Area Community Exchange, Hayes Valley Farm, Transition Towns and Evolver have been discussing this concept of a local food currency that could support the development of more local, sustainable food production and consumption. We could make this the topic of our next BACE project roundtable meeting (our scheduled presenter for May cancelled) and invite key people from the community to discuss.

  4. Hey Iso, thanks for the shout out about The Hub and the Brixton pound. It would be great to see this happen and I recommend keeping close with Mira about this as she has her finger on the pulse of local currency in SF/Bay Area. I would also like to correct something about the post, the Brixton Pound has about £40000 pounds in circulation while the Berkshares project has $2M ‘bucks’ in circulation. Both very exciting. I hope I get to play a role in its creation! Tim

    • Tim, no problem, thanks for giving me the idea for the post. There is already a meeting being organized in May! Very exciting, you should come.
      p.s. fixed the misprint.

  5. Just curious, what problem would does a less-liquid currency solve? You realize that the IRS doesn’t care whether you’re trading in dollars or shekels or rubles or dinars or Tenderloin Tidbits or whatever, right?

    • It doesnt have anything to do with the IRS, but is used as a means to keep money local, to grow support in local business and culture.

  6. also more abundant currency, especially in the hands of those who are having trouble getting US dollars, would help support the flow of food to people that need it in reciprocity for work and the flow of work to urban food projects and other local food production enterprises in reciprocity for giving people healthy local food…basically creating flows of energy for food consumption and production

  7. Great idea for the marketplace.
    Keep it green with Yupo Tree Free paper, and Tough Tex ink
    North Fork Shares used these

    Bishop [community currency mag] (Portland, OR)

  8. Some local currencies function by offering a slight trade advantage. For example, Berkshire Bucks in western Massachusetts are worth $1.05. Just enough to incite people to use them. This has the effect of creating a “locals discount” of 5% off for people who live in the area and are able and willing to use the currency.

  9. Sounds like a good idea to me. Plus keeping things local in addition to a local currency makes it feel like a club, and let’s face it: people like being included in that kind of thing. I heard about something similar happening elsewhere in the country, possibly in my area (philadelphia), but I can’t be sure where exactly.

  10. here is the program in philly

  11. Jct: Sure, a community currency is always sufficient locally, but global use wouldn’t hurt either. In 1999, under the Time Standard of Money, I paid for 39/40 nights in Europe with a timebank IOU for a night back in Canada worth 5 Hours which I recorded on my public do-it-yourself timebank account:
    If one of you members gave me 5 Hours worth of your units to stay in Canada, and I didn’t come claim it for 10 years, why should that impact on your local needs? Using your chips globally too won’t affect their use locally because there’s always enough interest-free chips ready to go.

  12. Carrboro, NC has had the Plenty (catchy name) for almost a decade. Check it out

  13. The various local currency concepts seem immensely valuable even if they only begin as exercises to promote and expand general consciousness of our local resources and services, how often and where we decide to invest our own fiscal resource (our dollars), and to eventually strengthen our local businesses. A group that I am increasingly involved in, The Wigg Party, is very interested in local currency issues and, as we grow as an organization, would love to get more involved with the work of the groups that Mira has mentioned above. I look forward to seeing what actions we can take in SF!

  14. Jct: LETS is ideal for political parties. Major parties can’t use them because they’re philosophically opposed to using any tokens other than those issued by their owner-banks but small ones can. Just start a timebank and register the time your volunteers provide knowing the world will accept those hours as valuable contribution to straightening out our civilization.

  15. See this link – using time/hourly work/help as currency..

    Looks like this was mentioned above, but with no link…Heard about it just recently from…Mira Luna above…just heard about it and haven’t scoped site myself…

  16. One of the main problems with usury and interest on debt is that there are never enough cards in the game to begin with- think about it. Interest on debt that was printed up as fdic backed bank loan. fdic are conveying a ‘benefit’ to the check writers who are by Maritime contract the underwriters of the debt who with the fiat dollar value placed on each wards birth certificate as promise to repay the debt in the future. Foreign banks may certainly invest in the Company of the Corporation of the united States with birth certificates as collateral and, as always, the option to default to swindle federal lands and wilderness areas over to the foreign banksters. Gov is your administrator and should be paying anyone with a birth certificate contract a royalty on all the business and manufacturing / production factories being shipped overseas. Furthermore, your administrators conveyed the benefit of protection over you its ward. But when the import tariff is non-existent and foreign copies of your inventions enter the domestic market at a smaller price then your investment into research and development of new technology is not being protected and neither are you the guy who would have had a job manufacturing the products. All the other countries administrators are invested in domestic product instead of foreign bankster product.

    Time to wake up and smell the coffee here boys and girls. Land ownership that is free and clear of maritime contract and commercial debt is like a castle protecting a piece of land that produce abundance of property and wealth. All wealth comes from the ground, food, filtered water, minerals, cattle, cement and other building materials, gold and silver.

    What you may want to produce is food, shelter / warmth, drinkable water, clean air, light and tools relating to the production of 5 essentials.

    Come see us,

    We’ll trade for things like land, cattle, silver, gold, horses, freeze drying equipment and other good and valuable items.

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