Mapping Local Food Webs : Guide to Getting Started

Local Food Webs are often complex and dynamic, but there’s great value in seeing how they’re connected.

 

How can we visualise the interconnection of our local food economies, gain greater support from local government, and catalyse more community resilience & trade?

 

Bucky Box brings you CPRE's guide to mapping food webs

 

If you want to learn more about the value of local food webs, you can download the full report from Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) which details their 5 year study into 19 projects in the UK.

 

 

The key findings cover economic, social, environmental & cultural aspects of local food webs and include:

  • Local Food is a key driver for local economies, which is at threat from industrial supermarket growth.
  • Local Food webs contribute to the strength of smaller outlets, maintaining the attraction of town centres through local food and contributing towards their diversity, character and the community
  • Providing channels to market for new and micro, small and medium- sized businesses, supporting producer businesses and enabling farming to remain diverse and varied in production and outputs including values supported by consumers such as freshness, provenance and seasonality
  • Encouraging engagement of consumers with food and, through the human scale and connection within local food networks, enabling shoppers to understand the realities, challenges and impacts of food production and to choose to make a difference individually and collectively.
  • Enabling sustainable & regenerative agricultural practices, and encouraging diversity in our food system.
  • Building community and a rich culture around a central premise – food.

We particularly appreciate the aspect that Local Food is a concept – not a certification or label.

“The concept goes beyond that of a supply chain to look at the retail system, and food’s wider impact on the quality of places, the environment and community life in both urban and rural areas.”

 

Whilst the research being heavily UK-focused, we believe that many people from different nations will benefit from reading this research, and using the associated Mapping guide. It has resonance here in New Zealand, and from all the people we’ve been speaking to around North America, Europe, Australia, The Pacific & Asia – we believe it will strike a chord there too.

 

This research was done by CPRE, but they’ve also released a Toolkit to help with local food web mapping in your area. You can take a look and download it for free.

As we mentioned earlier, there is also another element to any of these sorts of projects – networks are dynamic. Whilst the initial mapping project gives insights into the current state of play, it’s key to keep track of the evolutionary nature of a network/web, to continue to gain from these insights.

We’re very excited by a project by some friends in the UK called Sustaination, which aims to do just that – map the dynamic nature of food webs – kind of like a Linkedin for Local Food.  You can check out the project here – Sustaination : Local Food Everywhere – sign up for a profile today, and encourage other friends in your local food web to do the same, and start benefitting from the power of visualising your connections.

It’s a great example of how Technology can continue to support the fantastic work at the grassroots of the local food movement.

So, what are you waiting for? Get mapping today!

The Guardian features Bucky Box : Kiwi Social Enterprise working for a better food system

What a lovely surprise to wake up and find yourselves featured in The Guardian’s Social Enterprise section!

Social Enterprise, Bucky Box is featured in The Guardian's SocEnt member listings

We’re proud to have created our social enterprise legal model, despite there being no NZ framework for what we wanted to achieve.  You can read a little about what we’re hoping to do outside of our work with local food distributors and our software here – More than Profit Global Partnerships.

 

In the meantime, if you’re working for more than profit on a social/environmental mission, you can get a Guardian Social Enterprise Membership listing here.

Website & Social Media kicks off

 

Here at Bucky Box, we’re really excited about what’s brewing.

 

Whilst Bucky Box is a process of evolution – you can read about the beginnings here – it’s starting to gather momentum.

 

If you’re new to the blog, here’s what we’re about:

Bucky Box is creating the tools for a better food system.

A better food system is one which is centred on benefiting people & planet, rather than simply economics.  Our vision is a system which is resilient, nourishing, and one where we’re able to rejoice in the pleasures of food once more.

Bucky Box is building beautifully designed, intuitive, easy to use, yet powerful web-based software to reconnect local food systems.

This web-based software is operating as a service, and it supports vege box schemes through automating subscriptions, billing & delivery logistics to make it easy to run, enjoyable, and make caring for your customers fun again.

 

Why vege box schemes? Well you can read our blog about them here, but we believe they have the potential to reconnect farmers to growers, and reduce the power of the middleman which often forces the environmental & social costs to growers and consumers, and controls the farming process.

 

We see our role as the enablers & facilitators of social good outcomes – we’re a product of the Enspiral collective and proud of it.  Enspiral understands the need for Business 2.0 (business which recognises social & environmental impacts – positive & negative) so we’re running Bucky Box as a social enterprise, and our main way of gauging success is the level of social & environmental impact we’re having.

 

So we’re searching for the best Local Food Champions to partner with and give back to, so if you have any ideas – let us know!

Bucky Box Website Screenshot
Last week we launched our new website, where you can see more about the app & the team behind it.

 

We’re also hooked into Twitter & Facebook if you want to follow our progress or find out more. That’s where the conversation happens, so we’d love to hear from you – we’re here to help.

 

If you’re interested in using the service – get in touch at beta@buckybox.com or sign up to the newsletter here.

Why Local Food?

Software for the local food movement, as if the earth matteredHere at Bucky Box, we’re really excited about the movement of local food which is sweeping the world, and we’re committed to furthering their aims for a better connected, more resilient, healthy, vibrant food system.

Why are we excited about the movement? Well, that’s a question well worth asking, so here’s what we see regarding the benefits of running, or benefiting from a vegetable box scheme;

1. Social Impact

We all know there is a link between health and diet, but so often we’re still not consuming the most basic elements of a balanced diet – especially when it comes to eating enough fruit & veges.  We generally see that when people opt in the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), growing in community gardens, at home, or get box schemes to deliver them a big tasty box of fruit & vegetables, consumption of these basics goes up. That’s got to be a good thing, right?

Recently, with the growth of powerful elements within the food system, agricultural farmers are getting a rougher deal as their prices are forced down.  A vibrant growth in CSA’s, farmers markets and box schemes have sprung up to counter this trend and support local farmers.  We believe in a food system which gives fairer deals to farmers and recognition of the amazing job they do to feed us every day.  Box schemes can bring consumers closer to the farmers, and provide the high quality produce from the farm to the door in a matter of a day or two, rather than spending a week or more in cold storage first.

Reconnect with food – often, we get things in these boxes that we don’t even recognise. We see this as a great thing – it’s an opportunity for us to learn about them, try new things, and sometimes even discover hidden gems! Indeed, variety is the spice of life!  We also tend to eat more seasonally with box schemes – reducing food miles & environmental impacts of shipping food from the other side of the world.

Social Capital – getting to know your neighbours, local farmers, building resilient communities. Many vege box schemes will run newsletters, recipe cards, and profiles on farmers and local people who are working on the food movement too – this is a great way to relate to learn about something we do every day, but often pay so little attention to.

Community hug: Social Capital

2. Enviro Impact

One delivery, many boxes – doesn’t that make a lot more sense than 1000’s of us making specific journeys to the supermarket?

Reduce unnecessary packaging – do you really need your mushrooms wrapped in petro-chemical based plastics? We don’t think so either…

Local food = less food miles. During our shift to a low-carbon economy this has to be a focus, and it’s backed up with health benefits too.  As a response, there’s already been a massive rise in CSA’s, community gardens, ‘8 mile menus’ and increased transparency over location of products in supermarkets now too.

Many boxes are specifically set up to support Organic farming methods (farmer door type operations) which means no chemicals, less damaging effects to our biodiversity, and most likey – less health issues in the long run. A recent UK Government study found organic farms use 26% less energy than non-organic farms to produce the same amount of food.

The UK Soil Association website has some great info on this too:

Animal welfare – some vege box schemes will also stock other products, such as organic meats.  Again – you can support local, fresh, ethically-raised & planet-friendly farming techniques simply by voting with your wallets.

Box of Organic Vegetables

3. Economic Impact

Fair deals for farmers – as mentioned earlier – we believe the people who feed us, should be rewarded appropriately.

Do you wonder why vegetables are getting so expensive in the supermarkets? Yep – us too! Well, largely it’s due to oil prices – both for making chemical fertilisers used in the mono-cropping food system, and for transport costs to bring your fruit & vegetables from far & wide.  Organic vege box schemes & farmers markets have the power to change both of these factors very quickly by sourcing locally & using no petro-chemical based fertilisers in their production.

Tipping points are wonderful things – if we increase the support for these kinds of schemes, we’re able to move the market dynamics simply by being concious consumers; more producers will shift to planet & people friendly farming techniques if there is more demand.

Providing an economic income without the hassle – Bucky Box aims to make box schemes more viable against the larger supermarket supply systems by automating pretty much all of the admin headache that used to come with a box scheme; subscriptions, billing & delivery logistics.  All you have to do is pack, send, and be wonderful to your customers! Perhaps you might even have some time to write a newsletter, look after the kids a little more, or even take that surfboard out like you keep promising yourself!organic stampHere’s some ideas then, how you could use Bucky Box to change your life…

Lifestyle – wanna work a 9-5 in an office job you hate? Nah, us neither! Gain your income from running a successful box scheme, where all the admin is done for you – it’s just up to you what extra ingredients you add to the customer satisfaction!

Run it as a community scheme – If you have a group of people who all want in, you can convince a local farmer or two to go organic & support a community – benefits are that normally this means even fresher veg, much greater connection with where your food is grown and the practices used, and sometimes it’s even cheaper!  Research CSA’s for more info – there’s a growing movement in America & Australia for these types of schemes.

Support a community trust – gain an income for your local charity or trust by donating any profits back to projects which will benefit your community.

Food education – use your vege box scheme as an excuse to organise events to involve your local community at local farms, educate them about seasonal produce, or simply find out more about what they might like to learn about the food system.

Heirloomers Unite! Got a passion for heirloom fruit & vegetables? Use your food growing prowess to create a network of growers who protect, conserve & thrive these beautiful species and find an income to support growing your seedbank.  What a great way to further the heirloom education too – imagine people finding those purple carrots, heirloom tomatoes & weird and wonderful corn in their boxes each week!

Colourful carrots

If you need any more inspiration – check out this lovely video from the UK Transition Network:

And here’s a link to Michael Pollan (author of ‘In Defense of Food’) talking about the importance of Eating Local from Nourish Life network: 

So there we have it; one small way you can have a positive impact on the very essence of our every day routine is to start up a box scheme and get to know the people in your community through sharing awesome, healthy food!