Tips for Local Food #2 : Call on Existing Resources & Support – Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

As part of our series on Top Tips for Local Food Distribution, we’re diving a little deeper into each of the 5 tips we gave. This week is ‘Call on Existing Resources & Support’ – Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. You can also check out ‘#1 : Get Social – a guide to new media for local food‘.

 

Bucky Box helps connect you to existing resources & support for local food enterprise

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton

 

Have you created your dream job, only to find that despite offering quality local produce from farmers who care – customers are slow to jump aboard? Or are you a startup veg box scheme which needs a pointer in the right direction to get the wheels rolling?

 

Whatever your challenge, someone, somewhere is likely to have already faced it.  Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you have access to a remarkable amount of knowledge from around the world, when it comes to local food systems.  Hard to find the right bit? Well Bucky Box is here to help.

 

Resources & Courses

 

There’s some great online and downloadable resources which can help you step through the early stages of set up – call them cheat sheets;

Networks & Communities of Practice

 

Connecting with people & projects of interest is vital to continuing to keep your finger on the pulse of what works, as well as what new opportunities may be around the corner. Check out some of these online & offline networks:

 

Support from Government & Charity

 

There’s some admirable work being done around the world by several governments in an effort to rejuvenate local food systems, here’s some of the programs which we’ve seen which might be able to offer you some help:

We will also take the opportunity for a specific focus on funding in the next Top Tips blog, but you can check out the National Good Food Network webinar in the meantime.

 

Technology

 

Mapping, Consumer Apps, Back End Systems, Traceability, and much much more is coming.  Here’s a run down of a couple which might be useful to local food schemes looking to make their job easier;

There’s many more examples of technology which would enable your local food business springing up all the time, so keep tuned on the above channels (and here!) for more examples.  You can also check out our blog about ‘Getting Social’ – tips for local food businesses using social media.

 

By no means is this an exhaustive list, so we’d love your feedback for other resources, networks, support & technology we should be adding too! Drop us a note below in the comments.

 

Thanks to Jenny Huston for support in the Resources section & Kirsten Larsen for tips on Australian Government Support!

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:

Sustainable Food Summit – Vision of a Future Food System

*This blog was republished in part on Food+Tech Connect as ‘How Technology will decentralise the global food system’, Fair Food Network and Sustaination’s “3rd Industrial Revolution”.

 

How do we create a food system which is sustainable in the face of growing population pressures, changing weather patterns, declining natural resources, and a sharp decline in soil health?

A summit to co-create the future of the food system in Australia, and indeed around the world

This is one of the questions we held, when we recently headed to the shores of Australia to attend the National Sustainable Food Summit in Sydney, to hang out with some of the visionaries who are engaged in the dialogue of how the future of Australia’s food system will play out.

 

The summit was re-convened after last year’s successful meeting which brought people from around the country to listen to key note speakers, and engage in workshop sessions to talk about & co-create the future.

 

Several of the attendees were live tweeting the event on the hashtag #FoodSummit & #SFS12, and a Storify was being built as the event progressed: you can check it out here.

 

Asides from the fascinating conversations, great connections & pretty tasty conference food, there was a fair few insights into where the food system would be moving over the course of the next 20 years or so, and it’s our recollection of these insights we want to try and capture for you:

  • The food system, much like other industries around the world, is one of the next major industries that will become decentralised thanks to the web, peer-to-peer trading, and as a response to 30 years of legacy which has served financial interest more than the people & planet it relies upon.
  • A flexible, resilient & sustainable food system is already emerging, and with software & other food tech as a catalyst, is going to emerge even more rapidly. It will form a meshed web reaching around the world, of localised food systems within a bigger global food system.
  • The food system of the future will be complex – made up of traditional agriculture, urban agriculture, small-scale farms, bio-domes, vertical growing spaces, hydroponics, backyard gardening, community gardening, and more.
  • Organic Farming can feed 10 billion people, and small-scale sustainable agriculture is the way it will happen. Several recent reports, including one from the UN Special Rapporteur have identified this, and there is a growing focus on ecological / biological farming methods.
  • We will have to shift from the 99% industrialized food system we currently have globally, as resource pressures (peak oil & the likes) will mean current techniques will continue to push the cost of food up.  The transition may not be easy for all concerned, those with vested interests in keeping the status quo are likely to resist, but they will be swept away if they do not change (see changes in Music Industry!).
  • Huge advancements can be made as we shift to a decentralized food system, especially in the area of food & resource waste, which accounts for the main reason for current artificially high prices.  In 2010 we produced enough food to feed c.12 billion people, we just wasted a large portion of it.
  • Remove the ‘squeeze’ caused by the Food Distribution ‘profit centre’, and we will ease the financial, environmental & social strain currently put on food production & consumption.
  • Local & Regional food economies will be rejuvenated with a new set of values based on more than profit, beginning with the foundations that People & Planet should be at the centre of the food system, with Money/Profit playing the role of social exchange lubricant rather than sole economic measurement.
  • The emergence of vege box schemes, CSA’s, co-ops, buying groups & food hubs are all proving the future path of the food system right now. Software is a major lever of change to catalyse these forms of enterprise.
  • More farmers will be needed and more small-scale distributors.
  • The future food system will have a much greater transparency & traceability from Farm to Fork, enabled by food tech.

There were of course many many more, but these are some of the strongest trends that we heard at the conference.

 

The early keynote by Jeremy Rifkin was one of the talks which set a lot of the context for the conference, and whilst it’s fairly lengthy – there’s some great insights into economic trends which are worth a watch.

Take a look at more of the notes, podcasts, videos & other Food Summit resources collated by the 3 Pillars Network.

 

The summit felt like a positive reinforcement for a project we’ve already committed to, a great learning experience to push the boundaries of our knowledge, and a great opportunity to share space with so many other who had a similar vision of a decentralised food system.  We’re really excited by some of the projects which are happening around Australia, and indeed around the world as we speak – one of the blogs which we follow regularly is Food+Tech Connect which showcases some of the most exciting Food Tech projects in the States (and a few like us, outside). Make sure you read the ‘Hacking The Food System’ articles.

 

We recently spoke at the Changemakers Convention in Christchurch, New Zealand, where people from around the country outlined their passions, visions & actions in their chosen area of interest.  We spoke about “Food Security & Resilience in an Uncertain Future”, which led us to deliver a ‘state of the nation’ of how our food system currently teeters, some examples of food system fragility (largely taken from our blog about disasters & resilience), and the bright future that is emerging with technology enabling new ways for our food system to thrive.

 

For now, it’s back to work on supporting our fantastic beta customers, and spreading the word to more local food distributors who might make use of our system – please feel free to share with your networks if you might know someone who would like to change the food system for the better!

Mapping a peer-to-peer food system of the future

Twitter Hashtags for Local Food!

Twitter bird hovers holding #LocalFood signHashtags are a great way to follow specific areas of interest on Twitter, so here’s our run down of hashtags we follow to keep up on the amazing work going on around the world in the local & organic food movement.  Set up a couple of feeds in tweetdeck / hootsuite, and watch the good news roll in!

 

We’ve also been curating a list of people who talk & work on creating a people & planet friendly food system for you to follow.

 

General Farming & Agriculture:

#agriculture / #farming – very general catch all for Agriculture / Farming tweets

#food – general catch all for all things food

#agchat#foodchat – hosted by AgChat.org (“The AgChat Foundation is designed to help those who produce food, fuel, fiber and feed tell agriculture’s story from their point of view.”) – disclaimer: AgChat is sponsored by several corporate & Government interests, but there’s some interesting discussions on both sides of the fence.

#AgChatOz – spurned off the back of the success of the above – this is the space for Australian Farmers & Ag professionals to connect around their home country’s specific challenges and opportunities.

#AgriChatUK – likewise the need for connection and chatter in the UK farming community brought about this hashtag, you can read the full story here.

#AgGen – young farmers and the future of farming is discussed in this growing community. Started in the UK.

#AgChatNZ – Kiwi’s don’t like to miss out, so they spun out this hashtag to talk New Zealand farming. Largely facilitated by the Federated Farmers organisation, which is fairly conservative in their tastes, so tends to be fairly ‘conventional agriculture’ based. That said, there’s interesting work with Biological Farming in NZ, and we’re pushing hard for more Sustainable Ag content in the community too.

#goodfood – often used by daily tweeters to simply chat about their tasty dinners, but there’s quite a bit of use in relation to people & planet friendly food.

#foodbloggers – find & chat with people who blog about Food, there’s even an International Food Blogger conference organised by Foodista!

#SustainableAg / #SustAg – keep in touch with the Sustainable Agriculture discussion on these hashtags.

#Agroecology – keep an eye on this hashtag, as whilst it’s not highly used at the moment, it’s an emerging trend toward Regenerative Agriculture, with a focus on renewing the health of our soils.  Agroecology was identified by the UN Special Rapporteur for Food Security, as a key component in sustainable development, and got a fair bit of press at Rio+20.

#FoodSystem – a hashtag we believe will slowly rise in use, as the local food movement grows, and we understand that we live in a dynamic global food system.

#profood – recently on the rise, focused on all things organic, local & ethical in the food system!

 

Local Food

#localfood – complete with RT bot, the local food hashtag is growing in its use and conversations are often found around it.

#eatlocal – another prolifically used local food hashtag, well worth following!

#locavore – for the ‘ultra local’ fans amongst us, locavore is a term used mostly in Australia & US.

#realfood – people seeking to differentiate from industrialised agriculture can often be found on this hashtag.

#SlowFood – keep up with the Slow Food movement.

#SlowMoney – a movement which grew out of Slow Food, which seeks to raise capital for innovative Food Enterprises which seek to create a better food system.

#Foodies – a term applied to people who follow ‘good food’ practices.

#UrbanAg – check out the discussions on urban agriculture

#TEDxMan – explodes in use during each TEDxManhattan, the 2012 event was themed “Changing The Way We Eat” – report here.

 

Local Food Initiatives & Enterprises – the shorthand

#VegeBox / #VegBox – tweets about Vegetable Box Delivery Schemes.

#CSA – discussion & broadcasts about Community Supported Agriculture.

#FoodHub – find out more about the emergence of Food Hubs around the world on the FoodHub hashtag

If you need a run down on Local Food jargon – check out our guide here.

 

Organic & Permaculture

#permaculture – a big community and movement behind the permaculture principles of agriculture, find out much more on this hashtag.

#organic – the organic movement is growing exponentially year on year, follow its progress here

#biodynamic – an organic method of farming which considers holistic symbiosis of the soil, plants and animals as a self-sustaining system. A little traffic from a defined community, much like permaculture.

 

Health & Education

#FoodRevolution / #FoodRev@JamieOliver created the Food Revolution movement in USA, and the thriving community which use this hashtag also have tools available to co-ordinate through the Food Revolution website.  2012 went down with 1000’s of tweets from around the world – check out our Food Revolution Day photos here.

#FoodDay – a 2011 day launched in USA to bring conversation about healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way, to the masses

#FoodSummit – Conferences around the world have been using this hashtag, but we joined all the forward-thinkers at the Sustainable Food Summit in Australia.

 

Focused on the 1 billion who go to bed hungry

#poverty – used by a diverse group of people, mainly those interested in sustainable food production, development, activists, social enterprises

#changedinner – seeking to address the food distribution problem, @30project launched ChangeDinner campaign in late 2011

 

Intersection of Food & Technology

#foodtech – a thriving community is also growing around the Food+Technology Connect crew who are specifically interested in how technology can change our food system for the better.  There are also great stories highlighted by the Seedstock team in regards to sustainable agriculture focusing on startups, entrepreneurship, technology, urban agriculture, news and research

#localfoodsoftware – popping up now & then as more software, like Bucky Box, becomes available.

 

Follow @buckybox!


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In addition to the above, we sometimes use #socent when we’re talking about the social enterprise foundation to our business – learn more about that here: Video – ‘Tools for a better food system‘.

 

Thanks for reading – please do let us know of any other hashtags we should include, or feel free to pop us on your own list, and we’d love to connect with you at @buckybox!

Twitter Bird sings Local Food Movement hastags

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

#OccupyFood

It’s been a while since @OccupyWallSt kicked off, and turned things upside down around the world.

Several things about Occupy have stuck with me as we learn more about the ideals, motivations and purpose of the movement, and what it is evolving into.

I never saw that Occupy was about anti-capitalism or radical views. I saw Occupy was about Conversation. I see the movements around the world modelling a society they want to live in, about showing that consensus is possible, and that ‘inequality anywhere is a threat to equality everywhere’.

When I look at Occupy through the lens of our Food systems, I see several of the same things happening, and indeed there has been a lot of involvement from various food system educators & advocates in the discussions.

We see a crumbling system which is failing us – industrialised food is causing harm and inequality around the world to people and planet.  We see the need for a platform of robust discussion about the status quo, and conversation about what is possible.  We see that technology has changed so much, that a localised, distributed food system is possible. We see that economics are controlling a system which is much more complex than money alone.

We’re looking to see how this brighter future can be realised, and we’re seeing the Local Food Movement has already started, and is growing every day.  We see that a widescale return to organic farming is already happening (at exponential growth of 20% per year!).

We see that now is the time to take back our food system.

Not only does Bucky Box stand for a Food System which is friendly to People & Planet, but we also consider Poverty & Hunger part of our mandate. We see farmers getting a fair deal as part of our mandate.  We see food distributor accountability as part of our mandate. We see transparency for Consumer decision making as part of our mandate.

Join us in a better food system, starting today.

Bucky Box catalyses local food from Bucky Box on Vimeo.

Here’s some further takes on Occupying Food:

What is your take on the growing food movement, and how it relates to what is going on with Occupy?

What kind of a food system would you like to see in the future?

What platforms already exist to discuss how big food is impacting our people & planet?

Local & Friendly Food Champion showcase: Food Connect Foundation

We’re extremely pleased to announce the second in a stream of partnerships with local & friendly food champions!

Our good friends at Food Connect in Australia are known around the world for the fantastic work they’ve done on creating a sustainable, fair, organic approach to local food distribution.

The two schemes already running in Australia work on a mix of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and Vege Box scheme to get the food from the rural producers to their ‘city cousins’ where towns people pick up their food.  We’re supporting the Foundation side of their work – “the Food Connect Foundation supports entrepreneurship that promotes soil fertility, appropriate scale organic farming and small food enterprises”.

If you haven’t already seen Rob Pekin, the founder of Food Connect, speaking at TEDxBrisbane – here’s his 18 minutes of heart & reason:

The back story: in the early stages here at Bucky Box we decided to forego any marketing budget, and instead work with the best of the local & friendly food champions around the world and give our customers the chance to nominate where these funds will go. We see that these are the individuals & organisations who are making significant headway in catalysing, educating & advocating for a fair, friendly, local food system. We support their work to the hilt.

A man and his local vegetables - Food Connect CSA ethical enterprise