State of the Salad Bowl - 2021-22

December 20, 2021

State of the Salad Bowl - 2021-22

State of the Salad Bowl 2021-22
- from Robert Pekin


With all the uncertainty that surrounds us at the moment one thing is for certain, disruption is here to stay - and we’re excited! Obviously I’m not talking about Covid, even though it certainly prised open some big fault lines.

So dear eater, before we all fall over the line and take a well deserved break, there are some momentous things that we are keen to double down on with your participation over the next little while. Most regular Food Connectors know that we’re a “systems” focused social enterprise with a lot of things going on behind the box. We look as far down at the root cause as we can possibly go and design solutions that go right past any perceived problem. We all exist in nested systems, and the need to understand our context in all of this is crucial:

  • Market Forces? Yeah, nah!
  • Food from anywhere at any time? Boring…
  • Ownership? Only if you’re owning your own shit.
  • Individual rights over what's best for the community? Wake up!

But before I get into the disruptions I just want to touch on some of the things that needed to be done when our post-COVID reality emerged:

  • We've nearly halved our annual average food miles from farm to shed (now at 90km compared to 170km).
  • We've challenged our farmers to become much more aligned with principles of diversity, participation and true cost pricing.
  • We’ve engaged many more urban and peri-urban market gardeners, drastically reducing the average age of our farmers.
  • We’re now 100% powered by renewable energy, with just under 50% coming from our own rooftop solar and the rest with Enova. That’s equivalent to around 45 tonnes of CO2 not emitted.

Thanks to a State government social enterprise grant we were able to engage the team at Griffith Uni’s Yunus Centre for Social Business to review business operations. There were cracks in the model that were exposed through the pressure of the pandemic. After 16 years it feels as if we are just warming up :) 

So, what are these big momentous things, mentioned at the top, that we need to think about in the next few years?

  • COP26, while nowhere near adequate to meet the climate challenge in a socially just way, has moved the needle on carbon border tax with big ramifications for businesses and governments.
  • Indigenous voices, holding the most profound knowledges for these times, are reaching mainstream audiences who are asking more questions.
  • Geo-political instability, with supply chain shortages and trade embargoes, gives us plenty of reasons to build regional food resilience.
  • Food prices are up 30% globally, and (going by the ASX) the supermarkets are feeling the impacts. It’s clear the emperor has no clothes. The BS about scale hides their externalities and if they don’t fully understand this, they’ll soon become stranded assets.
  • Voices of independent politics, with their potential for holding the balance of power in federal politics. Let’s hope they give politics-as-usual a bit of this action.

So what does this all have to do with us?

Everything.

All of these disruptions point to the need for us to create connected communities where we can re-imagine what our own region can provide for our needs.

Next year we’re going to be more ambitious than ever in building a food culture that befits our neck of the woods, such as:

  • Hosting workshops with farmers to redesign all our boxes, prices and product offerings.
  • Doubling our Buyers Clubs, Co-Ops and City Cousin members.
  • Developing a new integrated online sales platform.
  • ‘Sheducation’ workshops and ‘Around the Traps’ podcasts with movers, shakers and makers in our creative food system.

After all, our longstanding unofficial slogan has always been ‘putting the culture back into agriculture’. We hope you can join us!

Finally, thank you to all of you for being part of our community, journey and change. Particularly Food Connect staff, past and present - it's been a big few years full of lots challenges, wins, hard work and change, and you've risen to every occasion. I know everyone appreciates all that you do.

See you in 2022!