Local trading cooperative featured in mini-documentary

By Almeera Anwar
Correction: The cooperative started three years ago, not twelve as previously stated.
Earlier: When Kathy Pelish and Fulvio Casali started the Salish Sea Trading Cooperative twelve years ago, they had no idea they would sail into this much success. Both had been involved with Sustainable Ballard and were inspired by the idea that they could utilize their local community to find alternative ways of transporting goods in this energy crisis. The organization transports locally produced goods around the Puget Sound by sailboat.

“It’s about presenting a positive model for folks,” said Pelish. “We still in many ways are in the recession and this is a great way for us to re-imagine what our future might look like. It gives people hope.” This inspiration was recently produced in a 30-minute documentary, made by Peak Moment TV, that highlights this community movement around sail transport in Seattle.

Salish Sea is run like a non-profit, but everyone involved holds down full-time jobs as well. Pelish works as a technical documents editor at Microsoft while Casali has a consulting firm that focuses on website development. Currently they have about 20 people involved, both crew and skippers, and six boats.

“We’ll be sitting across from each other at a 7 a.m. breakfast meeting and sometimes look at each other thinking, ‘why are we doing this?’” says Pelish laughing. “And the answer is because we’re just so passionate about it.”

The volunteers at Salish Sea aren’t surprised to see the people of Ballard opening up their boats to this group. Pelish referenced how Ballard has always had a maritime society. She said, “It is part of what we were built on. There’s a fuzzy feeling around this but there’s also a very economical factor.” Pelish knows that not everyone can make a difference by sailing, but she hopes that people will see what Salish Sea is doing and start making small changes in their own lives as well.

“Even people who aren’t sailors will see this and think, ‘what can I do to reduce my energy usage’ and then band together as a community and to start looking at what we can within a 10-mile radius.” And it’s already happening. Becky Selengut was working on a story about Salish Sea for Edible Seattle and found that even she could make a difference in her life by having her family downsize from two cars to one.

“A lot of what we are doing is small scale, it’s symbolic,” said Pelish, “But that’s the inspiring part and that is what we need for people to focus on right now.” Their team has a lot they want to do in their five-year business plan, but they want to stay small and develop really great relationships. One of their most recent steps in that plan was to work with the Coast Guard to develop new regulations for skippers so that they can grow their connection and so the Coast Guard knows they’re complying with the law.

The cooperative will start their third season in June.

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