5 Tips for Local Food Delivery

Image courtesy of The Ecologist

We realised that as of late we’ve been chatting with a lot of local food delivery enterprises from all over the world, which puts us in a privileged place to spot some of what’s working for different organisations, wherever they may be.  We thought in the spirit of open source, we’d share our musings;

 

Get Social!

The landscape of finding & engaging with customers has changed with the emergence of social media. With social media has come an unprecedented opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation with your customers & stakeholders, and tell your own story like never before.  One of the best things? With over 835 million people worldwide using Facebook & Twitter, many of your customers are likely to already be there and 100’s more potential customers in your area too.

Whilst most social media sites (such as Facebook & Twitter) are free to use, you should factor your time into the equation – like any conversation, listening as well as talking takes time.  Consider super-targeted adverts on Facebook/Twitter/Google Ad Words.  We also heartily suggest telling your story through a blog (like ours!) on Tumblr or WordPress, and for the more aesthetically inclined – share your story, your passion & your vision through sites like Pinterest or Vimeo.

Remember; make your dialogue about Quality not Quantity.

 

Call on existing resources & support

In several countries around the world, there’s now NGO’s & Government programs which are set up to help local food distributors get started, or iron out any problems.  They vary from downloadable action packs to full immersive social enterprise courses!

 

So our suggestion? Research, and make use of anything out there which could help you – you’ll be surprised what’s available!

Just some of our favourite resource hubs include; Soil Association (UK), Making Local Food Work (UK), Wallace Centre (US), Sustain (UK), Eaterprises (Australia), Transition Network (Worldwide).

 

Get creative with Funding

There are plenty of ways to fund a local food enterprise beyond mortgaging your house with the bank.  Our run down from the National Good Food Network webinar on funding local food tells you how!

Teaser for the NGFN blog: Co-operative model, LION networks, Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Micro/e-Lending platforms like Kiva, Slow Munis, Local Community Pre-Sales, Local Stock Exchanges, Investment Clubs like Slow Money.

See more here: Cutting-edge ways to Fund your Local Food business

 

Leverage free & low cost tools

Let the explosion of innovation & applications that resulted from mobile technology play into your hands!  The great news about the Mac App Store, Google Play & Chrome Store is that there are more applications than ever which can help you run your business more efficiently, and many of them are free.

 

Whether you need to manage your to-do list [Wunderlist], collaborative project management [Trello], communicate with your customers for nix [Skype], manage your social media marketing [Hootsuite], or simply use collaborative document sharing & calendars [Google Apps] – there’s a host of free apps out there.

 

We also would heartily suggest you check out some of the emerging technology, specifically around local food distribution.  This is where we get to play.  There’s several options out there now, which can manage customer accounts, help you manage packing & delivery logistics, and deal with the burden of payment reconciliation. Taking away the admin burden of local food distribution is one of the main barriers to growth we can see & are doing something about!

 

Be Authentic, Tell Your Story & be about More Than Profit

We keep coming back to this as a really important part of local food distribution.  We all loathe greenwashing don’t we? So don’t do it – be authentic with the story of where you came from, where your food is produced, and how you play nice with others.  We see local food distribution as being about values, and we constantly ask people to think about business in terms of ‘more than profit’.

 

Importantly, don’t ruin it for everyone. Local delivery, organics, farm-to-fork… it’s a tiny fraction of food distribution around the world. Don’t go stomping on it by picking fights with other people trying to do something similar in your area!  Try thinking about converting other people away from mainstream supermarket shopping, and growing the local food economy?

 

Use your blog and social media to tell the story of your business. Make it about more than just ‘units’ and ‘weights of food’, and aim for something more aspirational – your Values.  Use photography, words, infographics, videos & the great testimonials from your customers to show that you’re about supporting local farmers, delivering affordable organics, or whatever else it is that got you interested in local food delivery in the first place.  But be authentic!

Here’s some of our favourite use of Creativity in Local Food to get you started.

 

Do you have any more top tips to share?

 

You can now see the expanded version of this blog here:

Disasters, Reflections & Resilience

Reflecting back on 2011, you don’t get very far without thinking of the various disasters that seem to have been hitting us in waves this year.

Image courtesy of CPL Janine Fabre (http://bit.ly/rKXKnf)

Whether it was the devastation wrought by the ‘biblical’ floods in Australia, the horrific earthquakes in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Turkey & Japan, the nuclear disaster that resulted, the ferocious storms which rolled into the US, volcano ash disrupting world travel, famines threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands, epic floods in Asia, or the man made disasters like the Rena Oil Spill.  It’s been a year with a lot of hurt around the world.

Even look just here in NZ, things seem to have been somewhat topsy turvy – the fall out from the Christchurch Earthquake is still ongoing (including a total rebuild of the central business district which is the heart of the city), there are still volunteers on the beaches cleaning up the oil spill, and we’re still wondering how there was snow falling in central Wellington.

One thing we’ve learned is that all of these events seem to affect our food system.  When the snow fell, we found the shelves were bare.  When the earthquake hit, we found supermarkets took weeks to get back up & running.  When the floods hit QLD, we heard stories of people isolated with no food.

Image courtesy of hugovk http://bit.ly/uULdCa

What we learnt, is that our current food system is remarkably fragile.  We learnt that in an emergency, we can’t rely on supermarkets for our food as they have complicated supply chains. What we learnt is that people looked inward to their communities for help and support.

Disasters and times of extreme stress show us the true state of our resilience, and all over the world, we were found lacking.

The strongest calls we’ve had for our software, here in NZ, are from those who have seen and experienced these events first hand.  The calls have come from community groups have formed as the dust settles in Christchurch, they’ve come from entrepreneurs who managed to get food direct from farms to customers when the snow blocked roads, and they’ve come from people involved in the transition movement who see our food system is built on a fuel source which will soon run out.

So, would you like some specifics?

Queensland Floods, Australia – food chains were trucking food around the country to aggregate supply and demand, but massively failed the population whilst leaving people hungry, pushing up food costs and polluting the atmosphere.  Part of this was due to agreements with big farms who are willing to engage in monocropping & mass production, whilst the smaller farms in the region are forced to sell direct to customers.  Thankfully, the awesome Food Connect were on hand, to source food from the local farmers, pay them a fair rate, package the food up, and get it out to their customers. Despite the ‘biblical’ floods. Hear Rob Pekin from Food Connect talking about their flood experience here.

Photo courtesy of Cliff Hanger http://bit.ly/ve5wx0

In New Zealand, when we had our intense snowfalls, farmers had smaller harvests which supermarkets & wholesalers wouldn’t take as they didn’t meet the ‘bulk purchase’ orders.  So whilst we were starved of greens in Wellington’s bigger supermarkets, one crafty team at Organic Boxes were able to take those smaller yields, and deliver them to the population through their vege box scheme.  I even heard of one of their ‘delivery drivers’ paddling boxes to people’s doors… report unconfirmed, but awesome if it’s true!  Needless to say their customers were delighted & thankful…

Photo courtesy of geoftheref http://bit.ly/syzqdb

When the earthquake hit Christchurch, people knew things weren’t going to be normal for quite some time, however frustration grew as the food distributors struggled to maintain regular service from their disparate supply chains from around the country.  In fact there were reports of food rotting in fields as food was being trucked in from around the country. Some of NZ’s largest food distributors did come to the rescue, and we credit them for that, but it highlighted just how disconnected we have become from where our food comes from, and how local food systems should work.  Several community groups have sprung up in the aftermath to tackle food resiliency in their areas as they now see that it is their own communities that will provide the answers in the aftermath of any future shocks.

So what do we see as the problems here?

  • We are not connected closely to local growers
  • As a farm, if you’re not big, you’re not wanted (by large supermarkets)
  • The food system is currently reliant on oil
  • When economics is all that drives your business, you wont necessarily go the extra yard if it doesn’t make you short term gains

Interestingly OpenIDEO recently ran a challenge with the Queensland Government around the need for local food resiliency, and there were plenty of ideas that flowed out of it.  So many in fact, that the Queensland Government were overwhelmed by the volume & complexity of the solutions.  They’re still working on a couple of the solutions, but there is plenty of inspiration there for people around the world to keep working on these issues.  I would also suggest you take a look at Food+Tech Connect which has a special interest in the intersection of Food and Technology, and how it can fuel a better food system.

Some solutions:

  • We all need a regional food economy with a variety of local food distribution enterprises which support local growers, and link them to local consumers, without the need for massive profits & power imbalances in between..
  • Be a concious consumer – think about what you buy, and where it comes from. Food is not a commodity so much as a deeply personal resource which we buy with alarming regularity. Make a choice which supports other people in the community around you.
  • Decouple ourselves from oil-based food systems, and return to mainstream organic farming. And yes, Organic Farming can feed the world, despite what the oil companies tell us.
  • Grow at home! Start with herbs, perhaps branch out to tomatoes in pots, or even a raised bed. Here’s some great tips on growing at home & sustainable living.

Do you want to know more about local food? Here’s our jargon buster if you’re keen to learn more!

Awesome pic courtesy of gregw http://bit.ly/vpjUEn

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!