As a part of both the counterculture “food conspiracy” movement and the later development of “The People’s Food System,” dozens of Briars started food related businesses and many of the original Bay Area food coop businesses were Briars.
Independent of these efforts briars also started catering companies, restaurants, food manufacturing and distribution businesses, and farms influenced by the permaculture and ecological agriculture movements.
Food Co-ops & Collectives
- Bolinas People’s Store
- Noe Valley Community Store
- Other Avenues Community Food Store
- Rainbow General Store
- Seeds of Life
- The Natural Food Store
- Uncommon Grounds Gourmet Coffee
- Market Place (Santa Fe, NM)
Food for Change: The Story of Cooperation in America
Steve Alves and his pal Rob Hagelsetin have created some valuable resources about coops in America (including food coops), their history, and their status today as part of their efforts to launch and complete this documentary.
- Study and discussion guide:
- Annotated script:
- List of cooperative organizations:
- Facebook page:
Steve and Rob demonstrated the Planet Briarpatch mindset and even joined our virtual community on Ning briefly a few years back.
Restaurant's & Cafés
- The Earth Foods and Deli (Oklahoma City)
- Kathleen’s Doyle Street Café (Emeryville)
- Mudd’s Restaurant and Crow Canyon Gardens
- Green’s Restaurant (Fort Mason, San Fransico)
Food Manufacturers & Distributors
- Alfalfa Omega Express
- Distributor of Corn Cheaps™ and other foods.
- Learning Tree’s Tofu Kit
- First at-home, DIY tofu making kit.
- Bean Machines, Inc.
- Early U.S. supplier of equipment needed for making tofu commercially.
- Wildwood Natural Foods
- Manufacturer and distributor of tofu, beansprouts, seitan, etc.
Crop Care & Soil Management
Farming, Permaculture, Ecological Agriculture
- Mudd’s Restaurant and Crow Canyon Gardens
Crow Canyon Gardens was a small market garden that grew produce mainly for use in Mudd’s Restaurant. They also had an educational program teaching organic gardening and garden market business principles.
- Our Farm
Dave Blume’s Our Farm was an early community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm in Woodside, California.
Blume also founded the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture an organization championing ecological farming, permaculture, and the replacement of petroleum-based fuels with alcohol-based fuels. (See Blume Distillation for more on alcohol fuels.)
Food Conspiracies and the People's Food System
“In a time before Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and organic produce in supermarkets, one had to shop rather widely in San Francisco to assemble a grocery list of whole foods and organic fruits and vegetables. In the early 1970s, for bulk dry goods there was Oh’s Fine Foods, a narrow storefront on Mission Street with a wooden floor and open burlap bags that felt as if it had been there for a century (and may have for all I know). For organic produce, there was the Alemany Farmer’s Market. For cheeses, there were various Italian delicatessens. You might travel to a store only because it carried a particular item, such as peanut butter without hydrogenated fats or cream cheese without additives.
“In that time of experimentation and alternative institutions, there arose groups that called themselves Food Conspiracies.
“In the 1970s, collaborative “food conspiracies” began to recede and food activists founded a network of worker-owned cooperative stores and businesses that became known as the People’s Food System. Offering employment to recently paroled prisoners and refugees from Central America, the system put its values into practice internally and externally. Campaigns to improve nutrition and to understand better the politics of international food industries, as well as the politics of various food choices, helped seed consumer demand for healthier and more organic alternatives, later widely adopted by mainstream grocery stores and restaurants.
“By the end of the 1970s, a distinct change could be discerned in the supermarkets and groceries of the Bay Area. Items formerly found only in co-ops or health food stores were appearing on the shelves. Large numbers of people sought out healthy alternatives to the “plastic” American food fare, as whole foods entered the mainstream. Cheez Whiz and Tang made way for rennet-less, low-fat cheddar and organic apple cider. Reaganism and a resurgent right-wing prompted many of the workers in the Food System to put their political energies elsewhere, such as in the growing anti-nuclear movement or in Central America solidarity work. Long hours for low pay also began to take its toll on Food System members. Most stores quietly disappeared, although a few hung on for quite a while. Today, the glowing exception to the demise of the People’s Food System is San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery.”
History of Natural and Organic Foods
Are you interested in the greater natural and organic foods movement in which Briarpatch played a small role?
Check out the “History of the Natural and Organic Foods Movement (1942-2020)” compiled by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi of the SoyInfo Center (co-authors of The Tofu Book and The Miso Book among others).
Here’s the link to a downloadable PDF: