The LocalTable Story
Over the last 10 or so years, more small scale farmers have been establishing themselves in the Eurobodalla to the point where our region is the envy of many others. Until fairly recently, only a few enterprising souls grew food and sold it at the Moruya Country Market on Saturday mornings.
When I moved to the Eurobodalla from Sydney in 2003, I naively assumed that it would be easy to buy food grown locally. As someone who worked on Saturdays, I was disappointed to discover how wrong I was.
In 2010, I discovered SAGE and became a member. Later, in 2013, I became the manager of the new SAGE Farmers Market. The market was a game changer for local food in the Eurobodalla. Growers now had two regular weekly fixtures to sell directly to the public (assuming they could access the market on Saturday). Being able to harvest and sell twice a week suddenly made growing food for local consumers a viable business.
Meanwhile, SAGE commenced its Market Gardener Internship and has launched a new vegetable grower into our food system each year since 2014. As these growers establish themselves and more local food enters the market, more distribution channels are needed.
While the SAGE Farmers Market is providing a vital link in the local food distribution chain (and doing it damn well, if I say so myself), even this award-winning market has its limits. Not everyone can get to the market on Tuesday afternoon.
A seed is planted... and germinates!
In 2016, one grower took me aside to tell me that he was now growing more food than he could sell locally, given the existing avenues. He had started sending food to Sydney. While exporting food isn’t a bad thing, it’s not something he wanted to do and it’s not something I wanted to see happen when I knew there are local people who would buy that food, if they could.
I started having conversations with other local growers, who I know through my involvement with SAGE and my role as manager of the farmers market. In early 2017, I undertook some market research through an online survey. People from all over the Eurobodalla Shire (and even some outside the shire) responded with a clear message: they want to eat locally grown food.
A few ideas were tossed around. An extension of the SAGE Farmers e-Market? A growers’ cooperative? A choose-your-own box delivery? The more we talked, the more I realised that the right solution for right now is to set up a for-profit business to act as a middleman between the growers and the consumers. And the best model for that business is community supported agriculture.
And so I started LocalTable.
The first LocalTable season in 2017-2018 was an exercise in experimentation and learning. It introduced consumers to a new way of thinking about and accessing locally grown fresh produce. It challenged us all — growers, connectors and consumers — to create a system that works for everyone. Some of those challenges are still being addressed and planning in advance is still difficult, but we will continue to keep building our local food system by connecting to each other as best we can.
There is no question in my mind that there are enough local farmers who want to feed local people and there are enough local people who want to eat their food. We just need to find a way to get that local food onto local tables.