On Friday night, over 300 people packed into the Food Connect Shed in Salisbury to finally celebrate our successful equity crowdfunding campaign to buy the warehouse we've been renting for over 12 years. The night was MC'd by fellow shareholder (or careholder as we've coined the term) Costa Georgiadis who wowed all the kids (big and small) with his inspiring words and dance moves. Brilliant tunes by DJ Busty Beatz, a beautiful Seed Drawing Workshop by artist, Sophie Munns, and the largest and most delicious pot luck dinner we've ever seen!
Now that the party is over, it's time to get back to rebuilding our local food system. We've had a few people expressing some confusion about the relationship between Food Connect Shed and the social enterprise, Food Connect. So we thought that it would be a good idea to share our current structure and explain how it all works.
The idea is that in order to transform our food system we need to engage our Head, Heart and Hands. This is how we do it:
HEAD - FOOD CONNECT FOUNDATION LTD(EST. 2009)
NOT FOR PROFIT - FOOD SYSTEMS EDUCATION/ EVENTS/ ADVOCACY
Directors - Gaala Watson, EK Rose, Robert Pekin
STRATEGIC FOCUS - Regenerating regional food systems nationally; Decoupling food from fossil fuels; Divorcing food from market forces and developing true cost accounting systems.
HEART - FOOD CONNECT SHED LTD (EST.2018)
PUBLIC UNLISTED COMPANY - PROPERTY OWNER
Directors - Jennifer Le Savéant, EK Rose, Robert Pekin
STRATEGIC FOCUS - Providing net-positive infrastructure & equipment for community use and food system social enterprises.
HANDS - FOOD CONNECT PTY LTD (EST.2004)
Director & Owner - Robert Pekin
STRATEGIC FOCUS - Regional aggregation, distribution & logistics service to support local, regenerative farmers and makers.
For the past 14 years, Food Connect Pty Ltd and (later) the Food Connect Foundation have created positive social and environmental impacts, such as generating over $27 million in trade in the local food economy; internalised food waste costs and food system carbon emissions costs; & engaged 80 regenerative farmers, 40 makers and hundreds of volunteers wanting to create a fairer food system along with us.
The purchase of the Shed will take these impacts to the next level because 513 values aligned and engaged members of the community now own the infrastructure. With climate impacts and energy disruption, we believe regional food hubs could be needed all over Australia in the near future to create a fairer, re-localised food system for growers, makers, and buyers.
We want the Food Connect Shed to demonstrate how a place-based, community owned asset could create local employment, business growth for ethical food entrepreneurs and a place for the local community to belong.
Food Connect uses a social enterprise model to source local produce and sell it to local buyers through retail and wholesale channels. The model has specific rules in its Constitution that requires firstly, that all food system externalities - carbon emissions, social isolation, human health, soil health to be internalised. This makes doing business ethical and impactful but very costly - all while competing with market forces.
Any profit we do make must be redirected into furthering the vision. Most often we'll use profits to run farm tours, cooking classes and other advocacy activities through the Food Connect Foundation. We have a 2:1 wage ratio at Food Connect, meaning the highest paid person (including the General Manager) is not to earn more than double the lowest paid person. This is to demonstrate to our farmers that we are not another corporation existing to only benefit the few at the top.
With the Shed now in our community's hands, the costs of doing business will be much fairer for us too. We can rent the exact amount of space needed for a much more realistic rate because we are now sharing the infrastructure with an increasing number of new and existing tenants in the Shed. Our on-costs will also be reduced because we will be able to share the costs of power bills, delivery vans, refrigeration and cold room facilities. This will hopefully ensure that we can pay our debts off quicker and ensure our long term viability.
Last year's equity crowd funding campaign only raised just enough money to purchase the building, plus the legal costs. The kitchen asset that is currently owned by Food Connect will be purchased by the Shed, and the proceeds will be invested back into Food Connect.
There are currently nine businesses leasing the Community Kitchen, and another 11 leasing various areas of the warehouse, taking our head count up to 80 people. Here's a list of them:
|COMMUNITY KITCHEN||FOOD CONNECT SHED|
We plan to leverage our collaborations with co-tenants to increase sales and take advantage of cross promotion which will help with our retail and wholesale sales.
We are also working on a strategy for collective purchasing to secure Social Procurement contracts to government and corporations looking to spend more ethically.
Now that the community own the Shed, it will be purpose built around Food Connect and the needs of the other tenants, without the need for up front capital from Food Connect. The community owned solar project is one great example, and there'll be many more future projects (like the retail shopfronts and event spaces) that will amplify exposure to the fair food movement.
This sounds really basic, but we want you to spend more of your food dollars with us AND spread the word with your neighbours. We have a very modest budget for marketing and rely heavily on word of mouth and social media. If you have some ideas or would like some resources to help you spread the word, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's work together to create a food future that is safe, robust, ethical and delicious for all!
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