In today’s episode, host Amy Pearl sits down with Narendra Varma of Our Table Cooperative. Narendra started Our Table Cooperative in 2011 with his wife Michelle, after they spent years in the investment and tech spaces. Narendra talks about how these experiences helped him realize a vision for a better food system and find a piece of land to achieve that vision. Our Table is a unique cooperative, because it brings together all three stakeholders: workers, consumers, and producers. What follows is an inspirational vision that we hope will spring up all over the globe.
Amy Pearl, Hatch Innovation
Narendra Varma, Director, Our Table Cooperative
Born and raised in India, Narendra came to the United States in 1986 to attend Brown University. After graduating with a degree in Educational Technology, he went to work at Microsoft Corporation where his greatest achievement was a kids’ movie creation product that was a commercial dud but spawned an avid fan group. While at Microsoft, Narendra was lucky enough to meet his wife, Machelle, and receive a stockoption-fueled financial windfall allowing him to quit his day job. After an obligatory globe-trotting walkabout, Machelle and Narendra spent the next ten years raising children, renovating houses, and coming to the realization that our system of agriculture is broken, our economic and financial systems are a pyramid scheme, and that, between peak resources and climate change, our children likely face a difficult future. Unfortunately, these subjects made poor dinner conversation so Machelle and Narendra decided to devote their time, money, and energy towards an effort to reimagine our food system around the principals of Permaculture Design and Biodynamic agriculture. They purchased a 58-acre farm just outside Portland, Oregon and founded a vertically integrated food and agriculture cooperative that is experimenting with new ways to grow, process and sell food.
In this episode, you’ll learn
- The co-operative model
- How small the percentage of the money you pay for a crop goes to the farmer
- How the land-use laws in Oregon helped Narendra start Our Table Cooperative
- The role permaculture played in his design and ideation process
- The vertical integration of food
- The reasons for his unique blend of polyculture and monoculture farming
- Multi-stakeholder member-owned cooperatives