This time of year always makes us so grateful for family, friends and the privilege of doing the work we do, alongside our community of eaters, buyers clubs, city cousins, farmers and food makers.
But this year is different.
The gratitude has stepped up a notch because our experience of bushfires in August and September really shook us to the core. Right now, our very good friends, Kirsten and Nick from Milkwood Permaculture are being evacuated by the Navy at Mallacoota Bay in Victoria. The fires are predicted to get worse tomorrow, so they’re taking no chances. On their facebook page they explain the situation and, after shedding many tears about what this means for our continued existence on this planet, Kirsten said this:
“I’m hoping a small light in this gloom is that thousands of people who weren’t really thinking this way before may now make new plans and decisions - about what their own communities needs to be resilient, and how they can help be a part of that. Maybe, in a terrible way, what is happening to eastern Australia is the push many of us need to reconsider what truly regenerative community resilience looks like. And to start building it, spurred on by this terrible time. I hope.”
While we all try to deal with the heartache of the bushfire crisis, drought, and the despair of our political chaos, we promise to do our best this year - to keep reminding the Brisbane community that there is a place to put your food dollars where we can increase our climate resilience for future generations in our region. Now, more than ever, we need your help to spread the word, to bring more people into our community.
So, what’s the State of the Salad Bowl? Reflecting on 2019, it was a year of extreme highs (winning awards) and some low lows (drought, mainly) - here’s a summary of where we’re at:
Over 80 local farmers and food makers continued to amaze us with their produce and products this year, despite devastating drought and fires. 39 City Cousins have opened their homes as pick up spots all over Brisbane, hosting over 12,500 orders for the year. We reduced their number in recent years, but we’re building them up again this year, so let us know if you’re interested in becoming a City Cousin. There was not a lot of time for farm tours this year, with just the one held at Frolicking Goat, where we got to taste their delicious goat cheeses.
34 Buyers Clubs have purchased over $500,000 of delicious food this year. This is our largest wholesale segment with a significant reach and impact. We estimate over 1200 individuals and families purchased through Co-ops throughout 2019, and Ipswich Good Food Group has gone from strength to strength, expanding their opening hours this year after moving into a new home.
Buying through Food Connect Wholesale has allowed groups and businesses enjoy the benefits of sourcing our fresh local produce while supporting local farmers and being part of a Fair Food Community. We've fed a lot of individuals and families in 2019 not to mention lucky local pets! In addition to Buyers Clubs, we’ve supplied Farmers Markets and other box delivery schemes, over 30 of Brisbane’s favourite (and awarded) cafes and restaurants source from us.
We’ve worked with three different Pet Food companies, and supplied a growing number of small, independent retail outlets, with special mention to Organics at Marcia’s and Hope Street Cafe Boundary Street - both at West End. We’ve also held three Food Education Workshops in partnership with Biome and Peppermint Magazine.
We have consistently kept our food miles low, with total weekly distances for our fresh produce averaging at approximately 170km per week. This is an incredible achievement in saved carbon emissions compared to the average shopping basket which is approximately 23,000km.
Our farmers continue to sequester carbon through their regenerative agriculture methods, and we applaud their care for their soils and worms and stewardship or their waterways and wildlife.
We doubled our solar production with 34.5 MegaWatt hours of solar energy generated from our rooftop, which is the equivalent of saving 78 tonnes of CO2 emissions, and has reduced our power bills by 60%.
We turned over $2 million in revenue again in 2019 - this equates to around $3-4 million when considering the economic multiplier effect on our local economy. We moved into a much more efficient space on the other side of the Food Connect Shed, but we’re still feeling the pinch of increased competition and the ‘stupidmarkets’.
For us, we always have one foot in the capitalist world, and the other in our vision of a steady state economy, so we’re continually working to streamline our operations, while maximising the talent and opportunities we have in-house.
This year we will focus on our community of farmers, eaters and supporters, to deepen our relationships and continue to host conversations to address the climate crisis seriously. To help us in this endeavour, we’ve engaged an interim General Manager, Alan Slater, who (with years of experience in small and medium enterprise) will help steer the ship.
As always, your support for a local food system can’t be better expressed than by putting your hard earned dollars where it really counts. The food system is an incredibly complex beast, and we hope that we can continue to make it easier and simpler for you to put your ethics where your mouth is - literally!
All the best for a year (and decade) of BIG CHANGE (and some 2020 vision) ahead!
EK, Rob and the Food Connect Team.
PS Don’t forget, there’s a special appeal for farmers affected by bushfires, please consider donating if you can.