The following article is an excerpt from my new book titled Rethink, Your world, Your future, which has just been released.
Buying Local Can be Difficult
Buying local these days can be difficult, as most of the food in supermarkets travels thousands of miles. An example of the lunacy of the current food system is highlighted by a 2007 study conducted by Melbourne’s Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies, or CERES. The study found that the average Australian basket of food has travelled over 70,000 kilometres from producer to consumer. The study analyzed 29 different food items purchased at a typical supermarket. These items included fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, and non-core food items such as chocolate. Typical across the globalized food system, the food in the basket of goods had been transported by road within Australia and by ship from other countries. Apart from the high transport miles, the energy which goes into the production of the products can also be far more significant in terms of global carbon emissions.
Current Globalized Food System
Our current globalized industrial food system is playing a major role in destroying planetary ecosystems and delivering highly processed chemical ridden food to consumers. There is, however, a growing grassroots revolution in local food production and distribution which is set to change the world. Pete Russell used to be part of the globalized “just in time” food system, importing foods from across the globe to distribute throughout Australasia. After being involved with the unsustainable, highly energy intensive and polluting nature of the global food system, Russell had an awakening. He changed his paradigm and has developed a model which can help small local farmers and growers to deliver fresh, locally grown food to people.
What is Ooooby?
Russell went on to develop Ooooby. Ooooby is an acronym for “Out of Our Own Backyards.” Ooooby’s mission is to make local food convenient, affordable, and fair everywhere. The Ooooby model is simple: Use software to connect local growers and customers. The model stemmed out of overwhelming evidence our modern industrial food systems are failing us and the planet.
Ooooby is a collaborative commons enterprise and aims to help small holding farmers and growers to receive a fair return for their produce. It provides the framework for connecting growers and consumers by using a technology based platform to bring about this integration. In a recent Huffington Post article, Russell outlines it is more than just connecting local producers with customers:
“The good news is that there is already a global resurgence for a renewed food system, which is building momentum largely due to the prolific sharing on social media of opinions and research findings in favor of food we can relate to and trust. Pair this rise in demand with unprecedented adoption of online shopping and we have the makings of an industry disruption to dwarf that of music and print media, this is a call to arms to all who agree that it’s time to rebuild our food system from the ground up as the dawn breaks on this exciting new era of connected and conscious consumerism.”(1)
Under the industrial agricultural model which supplies to large supermarket chains, farmers are either forced to reduce prices or increase productivity on scale. This creates a model where the only way a farmer can make a reasonable living is to expand operations, hence providing supermarkets with the margin they demand. Under the Ooooby model, participants in the supply chain are rewarded fairly for their contribution. This includes paying farmers 50% of the total retail value for the supply and delivery of the produce to the Ooooby hub. Under an Industrial model farmers may receive as little as 20% for produce and in some cases far less.
The Ooooby model helps facilitate connecting local growers and producers by offering an interface which then connects growers with customers. The Ooooby model is a derivative of the CSA and veggie box schemes which have been in operation for a number of years. However, the key aim of Ooooby is to facilitate the set up and ongoing running of the scheme. The proven software makes this happen. Ooooby creates employment opportunities for local people which helps foster and engage the local community. Ooooby crew facilitate the ongoing coordination and fulfilment of the scheme.
And it is not only available to farmers, as those who grow fresh produce from their backyards can also become involved. The aim is to connect locally grown, organic produce sourced directly from professional growers and amateur gardeners. Russell suggests, “Our aim is to rebuild connections between society and their growers so that small-scale growers and artisan producers can reclaim market share.” (2)
The above diagram illustrates the core principles and simplicity of the model. The green segment is where Ooooby focuses its attention. Locally grown and as natural as possible is the goal. This means organic wherever possible and when available. The Ooooby model started out in New Zealand and has spread to Australia, Europe, and now North America. The most recent addition was in Fresno California where the mayor launched the latest addition of Ooooby. There are plans to bring Ooooby to Seattle.
The ultimate goal of Ooooby is to be able to offer customers an alternative to supermarkets. The key difference is Ooooby customers know where their produce is from and where the funds generated by the service are going. Ooooby is always expanding its product base, which originally started with fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, and bread. As more local suppliers become aware of the Ooooby model new suppliers come on board, enabling Ooooby to provide greater variety and service to customers. (3)
Benefits of vegetable box schemes include:
- Greater direct contact with farmers.
- Participants become less reliant on the centralized industrial food system.
- Increased access to locally grown and supplied foods.
- Significantly less associated food miles.
- Consumers generally receive better quality produce at competitive prices.
- As the supply chain is significantly reduced, growers receive greater financial returns.
- More funds are kept within local communities.
- Great for the elderly or busy people that find it difficult to get to farmers markets.
- With careful planning and logistical networks growers can deliver produce more efficiently with an integrated flow of distribution and delivery.
- Local food systems and veggie box schemes empower people to make informed choices, providing consumers with the confidence in knowing where their food comes from.
Want to set up an Ooooby near you? Then contact https://www.ooooby.org/ for more information and expressions of interest.
Excerpts from Rethink…Your world, Your future.
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