Greg T. Spielberg

A problematic resource in community economics: Relationships

In Community Economics, community-supported fisheries on May 17, 2010 at 3:57 pm

I wrote the first part of a series on Walking Fish, a community-supported fishery run by Duke’s Nicholas School of Environment. Walking Fish has two delivery seasons — 12 weeks in the Fall and 10 weeks in the Spring. When talking with Josh Stoll, a conservation fellow at Duke, a few things stuck out.

1) A fishery only deals with one fish. I had always thought a fishery was a company, that like a company, could do business in a handful of products. Nope — fishery = 1 fish.

2) Josh stressed how important relationships are in the Walking Fish model. We didn’t get too specific in how they worked, but he did say that one of the problems Walking Fish faces is the high turnover caused by graduating students (he’s one). While Walking Fish will always be staff for free, or cheap, by students, the relationship bonds between the CSF and the community will continually be broken.

My guess is that this CSF and models like it will have to do one of two things: Hire a permanent community manager so that the local community keeps its consistent tie with the Duke community; or, pull in a few members of the local community. Walking could have a community manager at the Core Sound end (where the fish come from) to work with the fishermen and the transport drivers. A second manager to run the drop-off point and weekly purchasing table. A third community manager to stay in touch with clients in the area as well as restaurants who purchase from Walking Fish. Watt’s Grocery, a nice-looking restaurant in Durham already does this.

For the Walking Fish story and to read why its business model is like a mullet, go next door to Bundle.

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