Interview with Board member Carol Fraser

by Donald Jackson

Tell us about your experience with co-ops.
In 2013, I started working for a worker cooperative - a farm near Montreal called Ferme Tourne-sol. Though I didn’t join the cooperative (I was hired as a temporary, seasonal worker), I got a first hand look at how they run their day-to-day operations and their business as a whole. I was impressed not only by their farming techniques - top-notch - but by their efficiency, and how much fun they had. They inspired me to open my own market garden a few years later, but more than that, they reminded me that owning and operating a business with your friends can be just as rewarding as it is challenging, and the best part is no boss!

Why do you think co-ops are important?
I think co-ops are important because they respond to community needs. When it comes down to it, “normal” for-profit corporations are responding to the needs of a small amount of people (the Board, the CEO, the shareholders), whose primary goal is to make more profit for themselves, at any expense. The primary goal of a co-op is to provide a service for a community of people, usually in a small place (a neighborhood, a city, or a region). This can be the simple goal of providing decent work, affordable housing, or good food, for example. This is somehow a pretty radical idea in our society, but it seems to me that businesses like co-ops are only going to become more necessary in the future. We need to start looking out for each other more, and thinking less selfishly, in everything we do. That definitely includes economically.

How are co-ops related to your studies and work?
Co-ops are very much related to my work as an urban planner and sustainable design scholar. I see co-ops as great models for sharing resources and generating economic activity in a way that’s more fair to the underserved and more conscious of environmental impact. This is because of what I said earlier; since co-ops are concerned with what they produce and for whom, not just the profits that are generated, the whole outlook of co-ops is just different and has different long-term implications for society. Through my work, which right now is focused on the relationship between co-ops and sustainability, I hope I can raise awareness about co-ops and the potential they represent for our society.

What are a few things the readers probably wouldn't expect about you? 
One of my favorite activities is baking my own sourdough bread. I also make a really mean apple pie. Really, I love to bake, and share with family and friends.

I’m an extrovert and I love being with people, but one of my favorite ways to re-charge is to go on solo, week long bike tours in the countryside. There is truly nothing better to clear your mind.

In college in Montreal, I majored in German and East Asian Studies, so I speak German, Japanese, and French. Ja!

What's your favorite baby animal?
My favorite baby animal is probably a baby owl. They are the cutest!

If you imagined a newspaper headline about the Texas co-op movement 20 years from now, what would it be?

In 20  years, the headline will be: “From housing, to food, to manufacturing: co-ops drive the Texas economy, earning the Lone-Star state a new nickname, ‘Basque region of the Americas’”