Are you intrigued????
Southern Harvest Association (SHA) is a local food association working to support and promote local and regional food production and consumption in South East NSW and ACT. We are a not-for-profit organisation, led by volunteer community members, representing farmers, producers and eaters. Our mission is to grow local and regional food communities.
Strong and healthy food systems are built by supporting regional food production and facilitating stronger links between farmers and eaters. We do this through a variety of marketing and educational activities, one of which is the Southern Harvest Produce Box scheme.
The impetus for the Produce Box Scheme came originally from a Local Food Initiative research project, started in 2014 (and still running) supported by SHA, Canberra City Farm (CCF), South East Producer’s Association (SCPA), Urban Agriculture Australia, and Slow Food amongst others. Results showed that consumers were having trouble identifying and accessing local food, and that producers were having trouble finding ways to market their produce in the local area. The top three solutions identified by both producers and consumers were: (i) easily identifiable local food stocks in existing local retail outlets, (ii) farmer to eater food box schemes, and (iii) local farmers markets.
Whilst locally sourced produce was available at some existing retail outlets and farmers markets, with more markets being established, at the time there weren’t any food box programs in the region that provided exclusively local/regional food and enabled multiple farms to contribute their produce. One of the main problems identified by farmers had been the difficulty of growing enough variety to run their own box schemes and the added workload of administration and distribution.
So in the Autumn of 2017, after direct discussion with contributing producers and approximately 20 consumers, SHA partnered with CCF to embark upon a food box trial, followed by further research. This identified that weekly boxes (both for farmers and eaters) and fresh, seasonal, ideally organic produce was preferred. After the trial in 2017, SHA took over management of the produce box scheme, launching for Summer 2017-2018 and has continued, providing fresh local produce for up to 50 subscribers, every week since.
Our produce box scheme follows the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, and aims to, as directly as possible, connect farmers and consumers. Consumers are asked to commit to the thirteen week season and purchase in advance, a share of the farmers’ produce. They then receive fruit, vegetables, herbs and nuts as they are harvested, often the day they are harvested, each week for the full season. Consumers commit to supporting farmers through the full season and share the ups and downs of food production. Subscribers accept the seasonal nature, and variety, that they receive in their box each week and farmers are provided with certainty that their crops will make it direct to a willing market, at a fair price. Both farmer and subscriber share the risk; in a poor season variety may be reduced but they always receive the full value of their contribution. The challenge is to learn to eat seasonally, the benefit is the discovery of a vast array of nutrient-dense, fresh local food and the opportunity of a new culinary adventure is available every week.
This model is at the core of what SHA does – finding new and exciting yet sustainable ways to connect local eaters with local growers. SHA is committed to facilitating this link between farmer and consumer by aggregating local produce, to provide greater variety to consumers than one small farm can sustain, while expanding market opportunities for small farmers and ensuring they receive fair retail prices for their food. Consumers pay for produce at the price set by the grower. SHA then asks consumers to pay a levy each week that covers administration and produce for volunteers.
About to head into our 6th produce box season, our volunteer-led scheme sees approximately 40 subscribers picking up weekly boxes (plus optional extra items also sourced from local producers), at two locations (Canberra City Farm, Fyshwick (CCF) and Downer), with waiting lists for several other locations: all evidence of growing numbers of eaters eager to be part of a healthy regional food system. Our scheme currently contributes approximately $5500/month to local farmers and producers. However, there is still more produce available to feed our community than is currently being utilised.
To support further expansion of our Produce Box scheme and ensure its future sustainability, SHA plans to build a coolroom and packing facility. The Regionally Incubated Community Enterprise Cool Room, Integrating Storage and Packing facility (The RICE CRISP facility) will be built at CCF and will function as a permanent drop-off, collection and coordination point for the scheme. This level of infrastructure is necessary to ensure that farmers are easily able to join the scheme and ensures local produce is delivered and stored fresh before it reaches the consumer.
SHA is planning a low energy build, utilising locally-sourced recycled material and a large dose of enthusiasm from our amazing team of volunteers. Our vision is that our facility at CCF will become a central coordination hub, enabling more distribution points to pop up over the ACT/Southern NSW region as the scheme expands. It is also our hope that this can be a demonstrating/incubating unit to support and facilitate the building of more of these hubs by other groups.
Your pledge will help us grow our vibrant food community, and enable the further connection of local eaters with local producers within the SE NSW and ACT region through delicious, nutritious, clean, sustainable, seasonal, local food.
Our target is to cover the bulid costs. However, if we come in under the maximum predicted costs, any excess funds will be used for the running of the produce box scheme and to supporting producers and volunteers. The last few months of super hot summer have taken their toll on all of the aforementioned parties and we would love for them to feel recognised and supported. Many people have given up their own time and money to keep this scheme going and excess funds would be used to pay this back.
- 2x Second-hand ex-refrigerated 20ft shipping containers = maximum $5,500 each
- Delivery of containers – Depending on tilt or craned = $175 – $350 each
- 2x Domestic air conditioners = $1,000 – $2,000 each
- 2x CoolBots = $499 each
- Fans/heaters (necessary in winter sub zero temps) = $100 – $200
- Power metering devices = $20 – $200 each
- Keypad lock and coded padlocks = $100 – $300
- Amazing volunteer electrician = $0
- Preparation of the site by CCF volunteers = $0
TOTAL COSTS: (at most) $17598
If you would like to pledge to support this project please do so through our Pozible campaign here. There are many great local, sustainable food rewards to choose from or you can simply pledge to support local food systems.