Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

It wasn't a great day at the markets yesterday (they're monthly) but I'm proud of my snazzy market cart which is being renovated.
Looking gooood.
It used to be a bike cart and I'd carry my community artz workshop wares around from school to school with me peddling up front.
Since it has been used to ferry my canoe to the seashore.

Now it's a perfect produce market artefact. What style, eh?
And, of course, there's no show without Punch!

For those who pursue the market route I tell you the challenge of picking and preserving the stuff is a big one, even by day-before standards. I made a mistake yesterday and wrapped the greens in wet paper as an experiment. Thinking: I'd get horizontal display.

Did not work and wilting was a big problem, esp with the young greens

Best practice so far (from my limited experience) is to:

  1. Pick early in the day of harvest.
  2. Immediately place the cut stems in water -- just like flowers in a vase. &/or refrigerate/cool storage overnight.
  3. Always shade your produce. 
  4. Use an atomiser spray to water the plants when on display.

Rather than weigh out and such I sell in $2 lots -- so I have freedom to decide on what goes in the batch or bundle.

Since harvest is such a fickle schedule -- I'm trying to promote drop-by market days from home. Market one Saturday-open garden day a fortnight later....'pick while you wait'.

Views: 103

Comment by Susan on August 3, 2014 at 19:11

I'd love to know how this works out for you.  I've been thinking about selling herbs, eggs and some of my fruit when it's in season from the front of my house.  I've been playing around with the idea of placing a sign out the front and a book that people could write down what they wanted and then on Fridays I'd have all the stuff pre-packaged.  I live next to a school so would get a lot of school traffic.   I thought placing herbs in water would work.

Comment by Dave Riley on August 3, 2014 at 21:18

There are CSA formats worth considering but , of course, you have to promote your existence first (or so I think).

In fact you got me thinking...about the home based option.Sort of a 'market garden' garage sale.

After doing  the last market session, I thought maybe I could also take my cart along to the local primary school knock off and offer my wares?

You should also link up with the PCYC market garden in Deagon and learn some of their reach out and marketing approaches. As I said before you can also do the Deagon markets (at the Sandgate high school) --$10 I think for a stall. Sundays. My feeling is that you need that sort of interaction --frustrating as it may be sometimes -- to understand the business of distributing your home grown produce. I;m a markjet junkie so I love the context either as seller or buyer.

So to promote a CSA approach -- such as pre-order -- you need some locus to network from, I reckon, so that word-of-mouth can take off.And with CSA, I suspect, you need to understand harvest schedules, planting seasons and the like. Otherwise  you cannot commit.

But if you aren't available, that's a problem ..and then you have to ask yourself: to what end? How many customers can I service? How do I fulfil their  expectations? How far can I take this urban faming stuff?

Out there are many business plans for market gardening on small plots...so the route is engineered and plotted: bed by bed.

In my  mind I've tried to adapt them from a day to day and weekly stream to something that has a much slower turn over.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on August 3, 2014 at 21:28

Good on you Dave.  I'm keen (and watching hopefully) to see how you go with this.  I also think there is value in Gorilla Stalls.  Set up outside of a local shopping place, sell for an hour and bugger off to the next one. 

Comment by Elaine coolowl on August 3, 2014 at 23:00

Have your Gorilla collect money while you hand-turn your portable pipe organ ;-) Would any shopping strip tolerate a non-rent-paying geurrilla greens-seller for long?

Comment by Elaine coolowl on August 3, 2014 at 23:11

At times I see unofficial dealers in second-hand furniture and lawn mowers pop up in suburban streets. Most don't survive past the neighbours or competitors dobbing them into Council. In the suburbs there are limited opportunities for generating income and most of those are for indoor activities (like computer-related selling). Anything which is not noticeable to passers-by will survive where frequent selling of similar products might bring the Council down on your activities.

Recently there was a seller of local fruit and veges with a stall in a service station. I doubt there was enough business for him to make a living and he's since stopped that and gone to the North Lakes Market. That's only once a week so what he does for the rest of the week I don't know. But he was not a grower, just a middle-man.

What I have found with a 24 perch plot is that we are struggling to grow a continual supply of fruit and veges for ourselves. With frequent gluts and shortages, there is none to sell and precious little to bottle. It's not impossible but difficult to have a consistent surplus on just a standard suburban block.

Comment by Dave Riley on August 4, 2014 at 0:26

Surplus is relative to what you eat...and don't eat.

But then I don't really know what the leeway is.It remains to be experienced through the business of experimentation. My minds eye was originally ruled by a cooperative of backyard growers approach akin to the sort of (now locally defunct) Landshare model...

As for 'gorilla-ing' I used to do street theatre (on the street)and did Punch&Judy shows on Redcliffe Jetty for a time...so you learn what's possible and what's supposedly not allowed.The local market package is very useful as it gives you insured real estate for x number of hours for, what is, a very nominal fee. At the Caboolture markets folk sell their surplus as one offs  -- all the time.

To pursue a bona fide business route from the getgo is extremely expensive even relative to the local government rule book, but in a sense, a street fundraising stall or a garage sale are not kosher by the letter of their approach either. So, of course, they and everyone else bends it. Exceptions are frequent..as is the blind eye.

...and name the council who is deadset keen to be known for preventing the distribution of fresh produce? 

Our collective problem is that public space has been privatised and the free sale of goods has been held hostage to landlordism.Thats' how we lost our local shopping precincts to the Westfield malls, Woolworths and Coles. On top of that councils get obsessional about insurance...and to enter insurance negotiations with local government is very expensive. Their interest is buck passing, you see.

But surplus produce can be hypothetically  sold or distributed (to name a few options):

  • to your neighbours
  • via methods like CSA
  • at community markets
  • via the various web based distribution networks
  • directly to cafes, restaurants, hotels, whole foods shops, etc
  • directly from home
  • from the back of a touring vehicle
  • under sponsoring umbrella orgs, etc.

As for income...well, the US and Canadian experience of urban agriculture is very interesting in that regard. Indeed most 'urban farmers' there do OK so long as they pursue a careful business model and master their market. Size does matter, but some begin life on a quarter of an acre.

It's an industry.

Jean-Martin Fortier market garden model in snow challenged Quebec survives on 1.5 acres of land.

But look at it this partial way: a mate of mine was supplying the cafes here in town with home grown cucumbers last season and he was growing them in pots in his rented premises.He does seedling now and sells out doing two market days per weekend.

I'm not going down a professional route. I'm a hobbyist. But I'm saying that you can (a) grow surplus and (b) distribute it -- if you put in the hard yards. And distributing food is a great community networking tool.

Comment by Dave Riley on August 4, 2014 at 0:29

I should add that this site may indeed be brisbanelocalfood but how do we expect that 'local food' is gonna happen? Not every other household is gonna grow it...

Comment by Rob Walter on August 4, 2014 at 18:54

I think you make a big mistake if you don't acknowledge what it is that business does. Essentially, business is about coordination, and although small-scale coordination can seem simple, as soon as you get beyond your back yard the complexity very quickly increases. I'm not suggesting that alternative models are not viable, but just that whatever you propose has to be able to send some sort of signal from the consumer to the producer about what's required and vice versa about what's possible.

For that reason, simplifying your business model will really help. I think that video about growing katuk and dragonfruit that Andrew shared shows a great model. They specialise in one product that appears at the same time every year and all the neighbours know to expect it. The product is reasonably physically robust and sufficiently specialised that they can do much better than the supermarkets and so on. In Tasmania, which has a great local produce culture, most of what you can buy at roadside stalls/farm gates is high value treats, such as raspberries, or durable produce such as potatoes.

Anyway, my garden is too small to justify any action on that. My goal is to never have a surplus of anything, but to precisely manage my planting (and my possums) so that I pick continuously and never have to buy veg. Then I'll forage the surplus of the neighbourhood in addition to all that.

I guess I believe that I'm helping the notion of local food by embodying what's possible, by spending less at the supermarket and by participating in communities such as this one.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on August 4, 2014 at 19:39

and there is a lot to be said for that Rob.  

Comment by Dave Riley on August 4, 2014 at 22:50

My edge is that I've been chronically ill  for 30 years and my 'work' has always been staccato, and limited...despite a wide range of very different activities I've taken on.  Being housebound so often with easy lie down requirements has always been the core restraint.

Nonetheless I do garden and I do run two dance workshops each week about town...but in terms of 9-5 wage slavery, I'm unemployable.

Veg gardening is a great 'working-from-home' option.That's a major shift for me that I'm keen to embrace and explore. Thats' why the market gardening aspect tweaked with me: at least now that I have enough of a 'soil' (that took me most of 3 years to make)  and a irrigation method to actually be able to  grow, and schedule plant, stuff.

I also have a  monthly local market where I can flag my presence and explore demand.

So in a sense I want a return for my investment of time and energy(and maybe pay my water bill?)...and working -- even the semblance of working -- with its pressures of routine and product -- is many times preferable to not having that focus. Gardening I've always done --growing veg in a succession of locales -- but this is different. It has a sharper rationale.

I agree that it's all about product  ruled by marketability and demand so it has to be an initial challenge of finding the fit. But it is also about 'community' in the sense  that without that relationship -- that local relationship -- there is no 'market', no to and fro of menu preferences.

And since doing this market thing -- and I'm still just beginning -- the networking consequences have been salutary. Without market going I would not have those local links.

I've researched  the US urban  market garden movement and we are so far behind them here in engineering a powerful locally grown dynamic. I also recommend Jean-Martin Fortier' The Market Gardener' as offering an extensive and very frank review of the DIY if you were considering this route.  Of course there are franchised  'models' too like Spin Farming with its marketing grab; 'grow food/make money!' ..and in the US there are even regular  market gardening/urban farming magazine periodicals.

But as I suggested above, the incremental investment in market gardening does work in the United States and Canada. I'm not in it for the business making-- I'm in it for the satisfaction of employment and mixing it with people. Nonetheless, the business models and business plans I've looked at do stack up and if I was younger and not so handicapped I'd consider that route  as a career option...

The PCYC  community and market garden in Deagon is now supplying a range of food outlets in the district while running weekly stalls in shopping centres. It's very instructive to assist with the harvest and distribution.And their turnover is rising in sync with their production....And of course there are places like the Sunday Northey Street Markets in the shadow of the RBH. 

Growers 'out-of-town' -- and I'm talking serious market gardeners earning a living from their fruit and veg-- use various means to sell their produce direct to consumers at markets.When you  talk to them it's all hard work but in many instances they are doing the growing and the selling.Maybe pull in family members or others to help out with the sales side.Some have to travel to Brisbane for the whole of each weekend in order to shift their produce at prices above what they get, or could get, wholesale.

I think that's a niche worth fostering. Indeed some will tell you that they wish they had their farm closer in -- closer to their market. Many of these are polycultural enterprises..but they'll concentrate on a specialty range -- limited by season.

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