1. Farmer’s Markets
2. Green Sheds
3. Roadside Stalls
4. Vegetable Box Schemes
6. Food Swaps
Once the food has been grown, it has to be distributed. If it’s grown in your own garden, it’s only a stones throw to the kitchen. If you have like-minded neighbours, then share food with each other, when one of you has a surplus of a particular food, or spare seedling etc.
If it’s grown in your local community garden, then you only have a short way to bring it home. And this is the point – grow local, eat local, cut down the distance that food has to travel, support local producers, making relationships with local producers and being able to ask them questions about their produce and maybe even visiting their farm or garden. If possible miss out the middleman/woman. This way the grower can get a higher premium and at the same time the purchaser hopefully pays less.
The most obvious approach is to start as local as possible, sourcing as much of your food from your local area, which will probably be vegetables and eggs. Next is dairy and meat produce, which will most likely come from several kilometres away. Sourcing most of ones food from within a 160km radius would be ideal. However, there will always be some food that comes from further afield. Each region of a country should try to be as self sufficient as possible, whilst trading those produce that are best suited to growing in the area and grows in excess, and importing food that it is difficult or impossible to grow locally. The same should be true of countries. Be as self-sufficient as possible and trade only where necessary.
By following these simple maxims, the distance and subsequent energy involved in transporting food will be hugely reduced. The distances that most food travels at the moment are unascertainable. An example from the UK showed the use of energy used in both the handling and transport of food is estimated to account for 16-21% of the UK’s total energy bill. Or to put it another way, it has been estimated that the average content of a supermarket trolley has travelled around 5,000 kilometres (3,000 miles) to get to the checkout!
We have already discussed Community Supported Agriculture in the ‘Land Access’ section, but it could equally apply to a section on Food Distribution.
1. FARMER’S MARKETS
One of the best ways of sourcing local food, other than home grown, is through farmer’s markets, which are becoming increasingly popular around the world. In New Zealand alone there are over 40 markets operating – and new markets are being added to the list each year in towns and cities throughout the country, as in many other countries around the world. Here in Nelson we have a farmer’s market on Wednesday in town as well as similar stalls in the mixed Saturday market.
There are many benefits to this form of food distribution:
- Reduced kilometres that the food travels
- Local food is fresher
- Local foods are seasonal
- Local foods promote variety
- It encourages personal relationships with food producers
- You know where your food comes from and who grows it
- Missing out the many middle-men/women in the food chain
- Better financial returns for the producer
- Local foods support your local economy
- Local food distribution enriches local communities
Find out whether there is a farmer’s market in your area and support it.
2. GREEN SHEDS
The original concept was born in Queensland Australia by Bev and Geoff Buckley who had a large green shed, http://microorganisms.greenshed.com.au/
Bev and Geoff first tried taking produce to the Brisbane markets but it soon became apparent that they were not producing enough for this to be worthwhile. They realised that others in their area had the same problem of what to do with excess produce. They sell their excess produce along with the excess produce from local gardeners and small producers. This is another way of distributing local food, similar to the farmer’s market.
Organised as a non-profit venture, through the Tamborine Mountain Local Producers Association Inc. (LPA), the market is provided as a service to local small farmers and growers of horticultural produce. Its aim is to maximise profit for producers and provide visitors and residents with the opportunity to purchase direct from growers.
People producing superb horticultural products on Tamborine Mountain were ignoring the possibilities that came from having hundreds of tourists here every week. There was a ready-made market, which no one was tapping into. These same growers were bemoaning the problems associated with taking small quantities of produce to the Brisbane market and the tiny financial returns they were receiving for their efforts.
The Green Shed market was set up with a float of $100au. They knew it could survive financially, as long as $300au worth of produce was sold each week and this didn’t seem an insurmountable goal. Everyone worked as a volunteer. From the very first day, having enough customers was not a problem. The problem has always been having enough supply of organically grown produce.
Because of the contacts made through the market, it was possible, in 2005, to take advantage of the opportunity to supply a newly created food distribution business called “Food Connect”. In May 2005 they started supplying Food Connect on a weekly basis, with produce from some of the larger growers: kiwi fruit, Tamarillos, mulberries, custard apples, avocados, limes, lemons, oranges, mandarins and rhubarb. At first, Food Connect was sceptical that so many different growers could be co-ordinated, but now their fruit and vegetable collection and delivery service is being used as a model for other areas that want to run a Green Shed.
The Greed Shed market operates on very different principles from most businesses. It is a model based on trust. No one knows, from one week to the next, how much will arrive on Sunday morning or what it will be. Growers keep their own records. Accounting and book keeping are kept to a minimal level. Growers receive 85% of the sales price. The rest goes towards insurance, rent and marketing. Geoff Buckley has become the familiar face at the Green Shed most Sunday mornings. Geoff enjoys it hugely and finds it a bit of a change from his previous role as CEO of a large company with hundreds of staff.
3. ROADSIDE STALLS
In many countries it is common for people who grow fruit and vegetables on a home scale, or on a small and medium commercial scale, to have a roadside stall with prices and an honesty box to put your money in.
Here in New Zealand, an enterprising young couple, Ana Aceves and Danny Sugar, have set up a website for both customers and stallholders. The pair, who run a design company, have now launched a web-based community resource to share their love for fresh produce.
The website sprung out of the abundance of roadside stalls in New Zealand, and in particular, the Nelson region. It already lists about 60 fresh produce stalls, pick-your-own farms, farm shops and foraging spots in the area, and almost 40 others around the country.
Visitors can either search for the type of produce they want or search within a perimeter of an address and stallholders can add their information and locality for free, with a $10 fee if they want to add additional information about their produce and stall.
For more information, see: micro-organisms.stallspot.co.nz – and if you like the idea, set up a website in your area, if you don’t already have one.
4. VEGETABLE BOX SCHEMES
Box schemes have sprung up in many different countries. A grower or small co-operative (usually organic) delivers a variety of fresh seasonable vegetables available in a box to his local customers, although we have a local grower who uses a blog site to inform his customers what is available that week and they send in personal orders on line. In some versions the customers pick up their boxes from a collection point.
Many schemes are run on a local or regional basis, delivering food direct from the producer to the consumer. Other schemes offer a nationwide delivery, with produce supplied by a network of growers, co-operatives and wholesalers.
Some schemes offer the option of purchasing extra goods to be delivered along with the vegetable box, such as dairy produce and meat.
Here are some contacts for box schemes in your country:
- New Zealand: see: http://micro-organisms.naturallyorganic.co.nz/box/ or: http://micro-organisms.vegebox.co.nz/
- Australia: Melbourne – http://micro-organisms.organicangels.com/#&panel2-2&panel1-2 This website is not exclusively organic but does have an organic section: https://micro-organisms.aussiefarmers.com.au/page/fresh-to-your-door-slash-fruit-and-veg-boxes-slash-organic-fruit-and-veg-boxes
- USA: https://micro-organisms.farmboxdirect.com/
- UK: https://micro-organisms.soilassociation.org/organic-living/buy-organic/find-an-organic-box-scheme/
- Canada: http://micro-organisms.uraaw.ca/blog/list-canadian-organic-local-food-delivery-businesses/
‘Out Of Our Own Back Yards’ (OOOOBY) is a brilliant new box scheme, started in Australia, to connect customers with local suppliers via the Internet. Ooooby’s mission is to make local food convenient, affordable and fair everywhere. Ooooby is a collaborative commons enterprise. They ensure that all participants in the supply chain are rewarded fairly for their contribution. This includes paying the participating farmers 50% of the total retail value for the supply and delivery of the produce to the Ooooby hub.
How it works:
- You do your shopping at ooooby.org
- Ooooby collects the locally produced food.
- Your order is carefully packed at the Ooooby Hub.
- They deliver super fresh food to your door.
Watch this great ‘Ted Talk’ by one of the inventors of Ooooby, which will explain the concept – https://micro-organisms.ooooby.org/auckland/about
Australia, California USA & New Zealand: https://micro-organisms.ooooby.org/
6. FOOD SWAPS
Food swaps are a very old idea re-invented. A group of people get together in a local community to swap homemade, home grown, and foraged foods with each other. This is a very good way of swapping food that you might have a surplus of, or for products you don’t have, or are short of. These get-togethers also help to build stronger communities and provide a chance for people to share expertise and pick up tips about growing and processing food.
No money changes hands. Those that attend the event bring items that they wish to swap and then bid for each other’s produce, either verbally or on cards in the form of a silent auction, until suitable swaps are negotiated. People often bring extra items such as free samples, or as contributions to a potluck lunch or tea, so that there is more time to get to know each other, exchange gossip and pass on tips.
Anyone can create an event of course, but in some countries there are also networks that organise events in different places. The organisers provide premises, which may be a person’s home, or a community building, publicise the event, and may also provide swapping cards or in some other way specify a procedure to be followed. The organisers may also provide tables and seating and may lay on teas and coffees for the attendees, or at least provide hot water and utensils for them to make their own.
Attendees may be advised to package their produce both for good looks and for transportability. While attendees kitchens are unlikely to be certified nut-free or have Food Standards Agency guarantees of cleanliness, swappers may be asked to specify ingredients, whether an item can be considered vegetarian or vegan, storage instructions, and a suggested use-by date, all based on trust and judgement.
Items may be grouped into swappable units, for example six cup-cakes may be equivalent to one loaf of bread, or three small fresh-caught fish. Swappers cruise the room, noting their interest by filling in bid cards at the different stands before the big exchange starts. Teas and coffees, or a potluck lunch provide an opportunity for people to get to know each other, and to swap recipes and tips. Attendees are usually asked to bring free samples of their wares, or some other items to share with others during the lunch or tea. Afterwards, bid cards are finalised, and finally, people actually swap their goods with others and clear up the room.
If a food swap event last two hours, the timetable may be as follows: During the first 30 minutes people sign-in, set-up, and greetings go on. Swappers fill out name-tags and swap sheets and set up their wares on the tables. The next 30 minutes to 1 hour are for everyone to walk around, examine, and sample items from other swappers, writing swap bids on other swappers’ cards. Potluck tea or lunch may take place here too. The final 30 minutes are when all the swapping actually happens. Everyone goes back to their own bid cards, looks at the offers, finds interested offers via their nametags, and swaps.
- New Zealand: https://micro-organisms.facebook.com/Food-Swap-NZ-165630630195946/
- UK: ‘Apples for Eggs’ was set up by Vicky Swift and Sue Jewitt in 2011, initially as a Facebook page for people to post and swap their excess home produce. Inspired by Brooklyn’s BK Swappers and the LA Food Swap, they then decided to try face-to-face Food Swap events, and held the first ‘Apples for Eggs’ event in autumn 2011 in Altrincham near Manchester. Since then, the community has grown as people have decided to set up regular ‘Apples for Eggs’ events in their towns and cities. They currently have swaps in seven different locations. ‘Apples for Eggs’ is a social enterprise. Any income generated is used to cover costs where possible and enable our network to continue to grow across the UK. ‘Apples for Eggs’ has 159 registered swappers and organises events in York, Ormskirk, Henley, Stoke, and Brampton in Cumbria. http://applesforeggs.com/
- Australia: http://micro-organisms.sgaonline.org.au/local-food-and-food-swaps/
- USA: The Food Swap Network started in Brooklyn, New York in 2010, and 125 groups have been established across the US and Canada, also groups in Brazil, Denmark, France and the Netherlands. LA Foodswap: http://lafoodswap.com/ Brooklyn’s BK Swappers: http://foodswapnetwork.com/item/bk-swappers/