The Ten Principles of Teikei

LocalTable is a fresh food delivery service that supplies residents of the Eurobodalla. We differ from other fresh food delivery services, because we source only locally grown produce directly from the farmers themselves.

We also differ from other services, because we are providing this service based on a model of food production and distribution known as “community supported agriculture“.

Emerging from Japan in the 1970s and further developed in the United States during the 1980s, community supported agriculture creates a direct relationship between grower and eater.

Community supported agriculture is founded on the ten Principles of Teikei, which foster a relationship of mutuality and sharing that goes far beyond the exchange of food and money. “Teikei” is translated as “partnership” or “cooperation”.

LocalTable is not a CSA in the purest sense, as we are acting as a third party between the grower and the eater and are retaining a small portion of the exchange for providing the service. This contradicts at least one of the ten principles, yet in many other ways, we are closely aligned.

LocalTable’s primary aim is to support local growers by connecting them to more customers while taking care of the time-consuming administrative work that coordinating a delivery service creates.

Our terms and conditions reflect these ten Principles of Teikei and LocalTable shareholders should understand these principles before committing to a LocalTable share.

The following description of the principles as they apply to LocalTable heavily references the Japan Organic Agriculture Association website, where you can find more detailed explanations. LocalTable has intentionally used the principles to shape the LocalTable model.

Click the dots below to read more about the ten Principles of Teikei.

1. Principle of mutual assistance

“The essence of this partnership lies, not in trading itself, but in the friendly relationship between people.”

Joining LocalTable as a subscriber is much more than receiving a box of fruit and vegetables every week. Being a subscriber makes you a participant in our local food system, not a passive consumer. Growers rely on understanding their consumers to produce efficiently and profitably. Consumers benefit by understanding the complexities of growing food locally that their growers face every day.

The 2017-2018 LocalTable season was a foundational year for all of us. We all learned and adapted as we developed these relationships and this is something that will continue every year. LocalTable provides the instant feedback loop between grower and eater that facilitates this process.

2. Principle of intended production

“Producers should, through consultation with consumers, intend to produce the maximum amount and maximum variety of produce within the capacity of the farms.”

LocalTable, as intermediary, will advocate to the growers on behalf of subscribers to ensure that a good balance of variety and quantity is provided each week. As LocalTable is based on a multi-farm CSA model, we are able to seek out variety from a number of growers, easing the pressure on growers to provide a full range of products and allowing them to focus on a smaller range.

Growers warrant to supply the best value possible in the produce they contribute to the boxes each week. It is important to remember that value is influenced by the success or failure of any crop at any time of year.

3. Principle of accepting the produce

“Consumers should accept all the produce that has been grown according to previous consultation between both groups, and their diet should depend as much as possible on this produce.”

In this model, the contents of the boxes are determined by LocalTable in consultation with the growers. We negotiate with the growers to ensure, as much as possible, that subscribers receive a variety of produce each week. There is no option provided to substitute or swap out any products.

To help subscribers, LocalTable will provide information and suggestions on how to use all of the contents of each box and minimise waste.

As LocalTable relationships develop, there will be more opportunity for greater consultation between the subscribers and the growers.

4. Principle of mutual concession in the price decision

“In deciding the price of the produce, producers should take full account of savings in labor and cost, due to grading and packaging processes being curtailed, as well as of all their produce being accepted; and consumers should take into full account the benefit of getting fresh, safe, and tasty foods.”

LocalTable negotiates wholesale prices with the growers and fills the boxes based on their retail prices. The price paid to the growers is generous and the operating margin for LocalTable is slim. This ensures the growers receive a fair price for their food, something the mass food production system fails to do.

In monetary terms, the growers are effectively paying LocalTable for marketing and administration, while the subscribers are paying for the delivery service provided.

In terms of benefit, the prices and fees reflect a fair exchange for all parties. The growers’ work is honoured and the subscribers’ health is ensured, with the third party’s effort compensated.

5. Principle of deepening friendly relationships

“The continuous development of this partnership requires the deepening of friendly relationships between producers and consumers. This will be achieved only through maximizing contact between the partners.”

LocalTable endeavours to connect subscribers to their growers through social media and other online channels. As we grow and develop, we intend to provide opportunities for subscribers to visit growers, where possible. This personal connection to the people who grow our food is essential to developing a full and proper understanding of the complexities of our local food system and, therefore, fully appreciating the value of a LocalTable share.

6. Principle of self-distribution

“On this principle, the transportation of produce should be carried out by either the producer’s or consumer’s groups, up to the latter’s depots, without dependence on professional transporters.”

This is mainly why LocalTable cannot claim to be a genuine community supported agriculture model. However, in the absence of enough established growers able to offer their own fully self-managed CSA, LocalTable is filling a gap while doing our best to honour the CSA model.

7. Principle of democratic management

“Both groups should avoid over-reliance upon limited number of leaders in their activities, and try to practice democratic management with responsibility shared by all. The particular conditions of the members’ families should be taken into consideration on the principle of mutual assistance.”

LocalTable will act as the main communication channel between the subscribers and growers. On the face of it, this structure appears anti-democratic. However, the person behind LocalTable, Kate Raymond, has a reputation for fairness and ensuring equal representation within groups of multiple parties. She is respected by the growers contributing to LocalTable, who have placed their trust in her to operate fairly and ethically on behalf of all parties involved.

8. Principle of learning among each group

“Both groups of producers and consumers should attach much importance to studying among themselves, and should try to keep their activities from ending only in the distribution of safe foods.”

Being a LocalTable subscriber for 40 weeks is an educational experience. Through regular contact and communications, subscribers get to know their growers and understand how the food in their box got to them. As these stories connect subscribers to their local food system, they are presented with a means by which to interact and contribute to how that system takes shape.

In this way, growers and subscribers are able to learn from each other, creating stronger bonds and a respectful appreciation of each other’s needs. It all starts with understanding.

9. Principle of maintaining the appropriate group scale

“The full practice of the matters written in the above articles will be difficult if the membership or the territory of these groups becomes too large. That is the reason why both of them should be kept to an appropriate size. The development of this movement in terms of membership should be promoted through increasing the number of groups and the collaboration among them.”

LocalTable was launched with only 20 shares made available. From this modest beginning, more shares will be made available as the growers’ capacity increases and the LocalTable model proves itself as fair to all parties and as a stable, reliable method of distribution.

10. Principle of steady development

“In most cases, neither producers nor consumers will be able to enjoy such good conditions as mentioned above from the very beginning. Therefore, it is necessary for both of them to choose promising partners, even if their present situation is unsatisfactory, and to go ahead with the effort to advance in mutual cooperation.”

This final principle is speaking to the idea central to community supported agriculture; that of sharing — and managing — risk.

This idea can be challenging to consumers who are accustomed to the mass food production model, driven by the supermarket principles of “cheap”, “consistent” and “convenient”.

In community supported agriculture, subscribers pay growers in advance. There is a risk inherent in agriculture that a grower’s crops may not yield as expected. Weather, pests, disease… any or all of these factors and more might impact a grower and reduce the size or quantity of a crop.

In real terms, this might mean that a grower has pledged to produce 20 bunches of silverbeet at an agreed price. Under good conditions, that bunch of silverbeet will be generous. However, circumstances might mean that the harvested product is smaller than originally intended. In either case, the price paid to the grower is the same.

On the flip side, if a grower has been paid in advance to produce 20 bunches of carrots at an agreed price and those carrots turn out to be enormous and incredibly tasty, the price paid to the grower also remains the same and the subscriber comes out “in front”.

Rarely, an entire crop might fail. It is then up to the grower and the subscribers, with the assistance of LocalTable, to find a solution acceptable to all parties. This might mean an entirely new crop is grown and the subscribers receive their produce a few months later than expected. Or another product might be substituted.

Depending on circumstances, subscribers might choose to accept the loss, easing the pressure on the grower, providing vital support to ensure they can continue to grow according to their values of small scale and sustainable practices.

As LocalTable grows and develops, these risk scenarios will become easier to avoid. By working with skilled and capable growers, connecting them with knowledgeable and appreciative consumers, LocalTable aims to create a fair and mutally beneficial model of food distribution that will help build a local food system that is sustainable in every sense.