The following comes from a May 13 Catholic San Francisco article by Valerie Schmalz:
The grounds of St. Patrick’s Seminary & University boast row upon row of broccoli, Swiss chard, kale and strawberries this spring, products of a new parish Catholic workers cooperative created in a venture among the seminary, Guadalupe Associates and the parish of St. Francis of Assisi, East Palo Alto.
“I was actually surprised we yielded so much the first year,” said Sulpician Father Gladstone Stevens, rector of the seminary.
NanoFarms is a Catholic faith-based workers’ cooperative along the lines of a very successful Spanish workers’ cooperative Mondragon, now the 10-largest corporation in Spain, which was founded in 1941 by Basque priest Father José María Arizmendiarrieta Madariaga, Ford said. “It is working through the capitalist system for people to own what they do,” said Jesuit Father George Schultze, a seminary professor.
The idea of selling the installation of organically tilled produce gardens for households was a middle-of the-night brainwave by Father Fessio last April. He said he woke up with the thought: “All of these people on the Peninsula are interested in sustainable agriculture. What if we trained some of the people who don’t have professional skills to install little organic gardens? What do we call it? NanoFarms. A billionth.”
“The largest farm in the world is thousands of acres, one billionth of that is several hundred feet. A NanoFarm,” Father Fessio said.
The NanoFarms USA project at the archdiocesan seminary and St. Francis of Assisi Parish in East Palo Alto is implementing the Catholic social justice theory of distributism envisioned by thinkers G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc in the early-20th century, St. Patrick’s Seminary & University professor Jesuit Father George Schultze said.
Distributism places the family at the center, extolls family homeownership, and includes the idea of co-ops where workers own the means of production and share in the profits within the framework of a capitalist economic system. It comes out of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical “Rerum Novarum” (“On Capital and Labour”) released in 1891 in response to the inhumanity of unregulated 19th-century capitalism, the advent of socialism and atheistic Marxism, and the rise of trade unions. The encyclical is the foundation of modern Catholic social justice thought.