Summary of ‘Food Co-ops, CSAs, and distribution models’ from the Deep Winter Agrarian Gathering July 2017
For those of you weren’t able to get to the Deep Winter Agrarians Gathering, here are some brief notes based on the summary of the session ‘Food Co-ops, CSAs and Distribution Models’ led by Emma-Kate Rose from Food Connect @EKR. This is also a place to continue the discussion.
The session revolved around how farmers, particularly small scale, could most easily access markets and distribution channels. Many farmers in room had different experiences with, and approaches to managing this. Mainly, this included managing distribution on your own, and sometimes collaborating with other local farmers in the region.
@SallyRuljancich talked about the CSA (community supported agriculture) model, which is growing in popularity across the country among farmers marketing directly. Sally successfully moved to CSA model having already established a string customer following. There are potentially different understandings/interpretations of "CSA" as a model and there is room for more discussion / shared learning between people experimenting/implementing this model.
A challenge that was brought up was the issue of hosting markets with other farmers who are producing the same things. The Prom Country Food Collective was presented as a new collaboration model that involved a diversity of farmers (collaboration of farmers who sell complementary produce); pre-orders via OFN and a monthly pick-up at one location (where all participating farmers and consumers come to). But other examples such as the Granite Belt PGS / collaboration were between farmers selling similar products. In this situation a deep trust and understanding about how pricing would work/mechanisms to take turns/other ways to ensure fairness were essential to be nutted out.
The session encouraged farmers to begin with a small start-up style of collaboration and develop relationships as you go, rather than worrying immediately about having a large structure with formal relationships. The Prom Country Food Collective model was put forward as a good example of this "lean start up" collaboration model.
The benefits of buyers’ clubs were discussed, particularly in terms of their attractiveness to consumers. Buyers’ clubs are often a cheaper alternative to veggie boxes, and can provide consumers with an entry into the fair food world, which can sometimes be intimidating. Food Connect in Brisbane sells wholesale to a network of about 40 buyers groups in Brisbane (list on their website).
Open Food Network was mentioned a few times, particularly in terms of its use in a variety of different models. Farmers in the discussion had found that OFN had allowed them to tap into the market at a very low cost.