Like a walk in the park

Like a walk in the park

Well maybe not a walk in the park, and while it’s not rocket science it is complicated. In the words of Paula Allen from Palmerston North:  Ooooby is being created by New Zealanders aiming to make it easier for consumers to eat healthy food that’s grown and produced close to where they live. It turns out that’s much harder to do than common-sense would suggest. Who would have thought? 31 May, 2016 – It was her tone, as she shared with another packer that the Lettuce had been frozen overnight, that tipped me off. Upstairs Jan and Nicky were frantically trying to source another 100 organic Lettuces. Not a chance! Hurriedly constructed letters for the boxes and out they went with the Beetroot, horror of horrors, in plastic bags. They had also been in the refrigerated container that had been accidentally turned to Freeze, so were pretty juicy – but still edible and tasty, as was confirmed later. The Ooooby crew were all present to the challenge. They quickly took measures to reduce the likelihood of that happening again, and dealt with the issue. I was proud to be part of it, and see them all pull together to make the best of a bad situation and take decisions that were measured and considered. Attempting to circumvent the ”status quo” industrial food system is not an easy thing, but an important one. One of the challenges is finding enough local growers and, with a ”just in time” direct supply chain, we can’t rely on all the buffers that a warehoused food system can fall back on. This week Jan, who organises what will go in the coming week’s...
Bananas! Local?

Bananas! Local?

While the most ardent locavores might choose to not have bananas in their Ooooby box, the reality is that Kiwi’s like ’em. Did you know we import more bananas per head of population than almost any other nation (maybe something they give us that’s missing in our soil – I don’t know). So in the early days, while operating from the first Ooooby hub, a converted shipping container on an empty section in Grey Lynn, we polled our Ooooby customers to see if they wanted bananas in their boxes, and got a resounding yes! At this point in the story, it’s important to understand why we are ‘doing’ Ooooby. The food system we have come to reply on since the advent of supermarkets some 60 years ago (in NZ), has had an unintended consequence of supporting large scale monoculture, and long-distance food. As we sit here in 2016, most people get their food from an industrial and globalised food system.   Ooooby’s mission is to make local food easy and fair, everywhere. One of the first steps is to build a base of customers, so as demand increases, we can go out to the local farmers, and want-to-be local farmers, and let them know we have a channel to market for their produce – thereby increasing local production. At the moment, there is a distinct lack of local and naturally (non-chemical) fruit and vegetable production, so we need to: Build a base of satisfied customers Seek out the most local and most natural produce we can find. Building a customer base means meeting their needs and wants while paying attention to the philosophy we...
Not your average bean-counter

Not your average bean-counter

OR “What to do with those greens in your Ooooby box” Our calendars had the “Ooooby in the Valley” gathering locked in for a few months. The last one was two years ago and we were overdue. So last week our geographically dispersed crew came together for some much needed face to face time, though our crew video calls must be working because Pete and Susan had to think hard whether they had actually met in the flesh (they hadn’t). As a lead in Thursday was a full day strategy session with Mark Barr, generously hosted by Deloitte’s who gave us a meeting room in their Auckland office. In the context of wanting to actively support rising stars in the enterprise space, Deloitte’s have been helping us better understand investment protocol and organisational structure options that could match our mission driven organisation. Ooooby in the Valley offers the core crew a chance to check-in and allow the space for the magic that comes from being together for a few days.   On Friday I met Susan, Davy and Nick off the ferry and we drove out to the village, and Pete’s home, which he kindly toured us. Rather artfully and without wasting time, Susan soon invited us to pair off and ask each other a few key questions, including: “What do you most appreciate about yourself?” What a fabulous way to get grounded and present, before launching into visions of a transformed food system and Ooooby’s part in it. Pete had listed some top level questions, with the last scraps of chalk in his house.  Ooooby is working to make...
Building a new food system

Building a new food system

The ‘super market’ came on the scene in New Zealand, around 60 years ago promising diversity and an abundance of cheap produce. At that time only 54% of New Zealand households had access to a refrigerator, so most Kiwis were shopping on an ‘as needed basis’. The local butcher, greengrocer and corner dairy were the most visited shops. Tom Ah Chee built the first Foodtown supermarket in 1958 with business partners Norm Kent and John Brown. The 1,400 square metre store was opened on a 1.1-hectare site at Otahuhu and boasted 118 car-parking spaces. It proved such a success that a second Foodtown was opened in nearby Takanini, three years later. The store offered convenience, by selling meat and produce as well as other grocery items. Tom Ah Chee, had observed retailing trends in the United States and also knew that an increasing number of Kiwis had cars. He figured that if his business offered free car parking, ‘then all those cars would belong to my customers’. The rest, as they say, is history. More and bigger In Christchurch the city’s first supermarket opened in 1963. The site of Riccarton Mall is shown here in the early 1960s, as the foundations were laid. By the 2000s the mall had expanded to fill the entire block. Throughout the country local authorities began to plan for new shopping centres as suburbs grew and car ownership increased. In 2007 the Foodstuffs group accounted for around 55% of the nation’s grocery turnover. It had about 850 stores operating under the PAK’nSAVE, New World, Write Price, On the Spot and Four Square brands. Progressive Enterprises, which operated Foodtown, Woolworths, Countdown, Fresh Choice and Super Value...
The Accidental Orchardist

The Accidental Orchardist

David Whyte describes himself as an accidental orchardist. It all started four years ago when he and Tiffany were on the hunt for a lifestyle block with the vision of establishing a food forest – a multi-species, multi-layered forest system of mostly perennial plants. Serendipity meant the property found them, and they became the new custodians of a 1/2 hectare citrus orchard. The orchard had been neglected for 15 years and required a massive pruning task, but now in year five they are down to 25% of the trees still needing heavy pruning. David has also, and importantly, put in a concerted effort to learn about the soil, the needs of the citrus trees and the needs of the humans who eat the fruit. This video from September last year, tells the whole story and helps explain why David and Tiffany’s citrus are so sweet and delicious! In addition to ensuring all the trace elements are present in the soil, David has learnt a lot about the colouring variations in citrus. Did you ever notice that oranges you buy in a supermarket, are a uniform orange colour? If you’re curious to know why, David explains it in detail in this video and gives yet another reason to buy from organic growers and those who are spray-free.  In the early days, when they started harvesting, they took the fruit to a Sunday Farmers Market in Clevedon. He said it almost killed them. The orchard wasn’t giving them enough income to live off, and by the time they did a Saturday pick, clean, sort and pack, then got up at the crack of dawn to get to the...