Seasoned Spoon Co-op

Collaboration Works! at Trent University

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Seasoned Spoon, the co-op café at Trent University, was under renovation this summer when we toured in July, but it was still a lovely space. Huge windows opening out into the view over rolling hills and forest, cozy sitting areas are fitted in all around, and the tiny kitchen turns out 150-200 meals each day during the school year. The members of the co-op are the students who eat there.

New kitchen space and a better cash register area are going in to manage traffic flow at this well-established café, celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. It currently provides work for four core staff and thirty volunteers; Aimee Blyth is the manager, and was kind enough to provide a tour during the off-season. Thanks to the university partnership, they also have sixteen paid work-study student positions. They serve breakfast and lunch daily during the school year from September to April. Students can eat there on their menu plan; the focus is vegetarian meals, sourced as locally as possible.

Seasoned Spoon is much more than a café though; they provide weekly skill-building workshops, and Pay What You Can community meals with a speaker or video presentation. There is no locked in contract with a food service company like Sysco (as is often required at universities), so they can prioritize local food. And local for them is very local; the Trent Vegetable Gardens provided 7000 lbs. of food to the café last year, and the gardens are just a short walk from the café.

 Of course, the major harvest is in the summer holidays, so they also have created storage solutions. In the summer they freeze everything they can, including spinach and other greens.

They can also boast of a magnificent root cellar, built as a rammed earth bag structure in partnership with the natural building experts at the Endeavour Centre and the Trent Community Research Centre. They got a zero interest loan from the student union to build it into a hill (see photo). It has a solar panel on top, and temperature sensors to maintain a stable climate.

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They also buy a lot of ingredients from over twenty local suppliers; they focus on farmers with winter storage to balance the produce they have from the garden in season.

The gardens have been there since 2006 and reflect a social purpose and co-operative framework as well. Emma Macdonald (on the left in photo) is currently the Farm Manager of the ¼ acre market garden. Local community groups can have their own plot there in the community quadrant; OxFam has a garden for low income people in the area, and a Three Sisters (corn/ bean/ squash) garden is managed by the Flint Corn Community Project in partnership with  Farms At Work. The greenhouse is shared with the Environmental Science program. An impressive pile of compost is courtesy of the university’s green bin program, and accepts also several bags of trimmings each day from the café. There is more produce than the café can handle, so the gardens also donate to other community organizations. They work with the Seasoned Spoon Café to deliver workshops like canning, seed-saving, bee-keeping.

You can learn more at Seasoned Spoon website:

Together We're Bitter Brewery Co-op


Together We’re Bitter co-op is owned by seven worker owners and seventeen community investors, and is brewing up a storm in Kitchener. They have been able to thrive with community support and an extraordinary band of worker members that have expertise and determination for everything from brewing to taking a commercial Cadbury chocolate mixer and turning it into their “Hop Tub”. Starting a brewery is capital intensive, and they were not able to get traditional business development funding, even from a credit union; they had a successful Kickstarter campaign to get some equipment (the “People’s Fermenter”) and they went to the community for support. They have a welder and an electrician on their team, and everything was done in-house or by local artists, including the counter made from an old bowling alley, and the water heater made from an old lager-brewery from Croatia.
Out of their small and lively space comes some great brews like Hydrocut (a portion of sale of this Session IPA goes to support community-run mountain biking trails), Wobbly Wheel (IPA) and Milky McMilkface a (you guessed it! Milk Stout). A couple of the recipes are aged in barrels (Sloppy Santa: Imperial Spiced Stout aged in rye barrels), Wry Old Elf: Old Ale aged in rye barrels) and there are the small batches too, so you never know what might be new there!
Alex Szaflarska, one of the founders, says “With a co-op you get to build a team you really need and to leverage that”. Right now they do 700 litres on a brew day, about 1400/ week plus small batches; they are already pushing the limits of their current size. Since the space is small—all they could get with high prices downtown and zoning restrictions—they do lots of events and outreach, focusing on co-ops and community. Avocado Co-op uses their location as a pick up point. On Sunday they have live music (folk and bluegrass). Coming up soon they will be at the Hold the Line festival, a community festival to celebrate Waterloo’s Countryside Line on September 7th and 8th (check it out here:
Together We’re Bitter is in a small manufacturing area surrounded by residential zoning, and there was a constant stream of thirsty neighbours coming by as we talked. As we left with a good taste in our mouths and a smile on our faces, the place was packed. As Alex said, “the night is young and the fermenters are full!”.
You can visit Together We’re Bitter at 300 Mill Street, Unit #1, Kitchener, Ontario or join the festivities at one of the many events where they are pouring.


Together We’re Bitter Brewing

Together We're Bitter Brewing is a craft microbrewery located in Kitchener. They sell beer but that's not all they do - they also also try to be a place for community groups to gather, and artists and musicians to showcase their craft. This co-op is built on and for the people. They truly believe that through bringing more people into the group, it builds more value as each person brings something to the table. 

Sumac Workers Co-op and Planet Bean

SUMAC is a worker co-operative located in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. SUMAC worker co-operative was founded in 2005 and currently has 7 active members.The co-operative owns and operates two divisions, Planet Bean Coffee and Wear Fair ~ Fair Trade Clothing. Through Planet Bean Coffee, SUMAC provides meaningful employment for over 20 people in southern Ontario.  SUMAC is dedicated to providing products from Fair Trade and Organic organisations throughout the world.

Green Campus Co-operative, York University

Green Campus Co-operative strives to bring sustainable, fair trade, organic goods and services to our campus. We offer a range of learning opportunities for students from curriculum to hands-on-entrepreneurship experience to events and activities. We collaborate with stakeholders which include students, faculty, staff, community organizations, and local businesses to achieve our vision of a sustainable campus.