A local northeast Victorian initiative that gives direct access for consumers to local producers believes there is enormous potential in new subscription-based schemes initially started during the COVID pandemic
Strathbogie Local is a not-for-profit initiative founded by local Euroa residents Shirley Saywell and Renata Cumming, responding to the closure of local markets at the beginning of the pandemic.
The enterprise runs a weekly collection of boxes, which customers order online and then pick up from their base in Euroa or three other local hubs in Ruffy, Violet Town or Strathbogie.
The initiative's success was realised after the group won the Regional Development Victoria Leadership and Innovation Award at their Community Achievement Awards in February.
Ms Saywell said while Strathbogie Local was set up to "help out in a COVID climate", the initiative has continued because of there a genuine desire from people to eat locally.
"We have introduced an option here that is really convenient, and we continue the hub because there's a demand for it."
"There's a convenience to it all, where people can pre-order their local produce and then drive through on our weekly hub day."
Ms Saywell said she saw a push to eat locally through social media discussion for several years, but the pandemic flipped many from "talking the talk about local produce to walking the walk".
"This enables them to support something important to our the community and has made it easier for consumers to do so."
"And while the convenience is a big factor, there is a willingness for people to do the right thing in supporting local farmers."
The initiative's success continues to slowly grow, with someone being engaged one day a week to help build links between local producers throughout the community.
But Ms Saywell said there at its core, Strathbogie local has a good communal system that recognises the importance of neighbourly kindness.
"For example, at the moment, the woman who delivers the pork across here drives past the bloke who grows the olive oil we offer," she said.
"So for a bottle of olive oil, she will help him out by delivering his product as well, so there is a lovely system of helping each other that we developed in that aspect," she said.
"It helps build a story about what is possible when we collaborate by doing things like sharing transport, and in a way it also shares possibilities."
She said relationship building between customers and farmers was an essential tool for local food initiatives that want to be effective.
She also acknowledges that physical farmer's markets like her locals in Euroa and Violet Town still play an influential role in building that direct customer-to-farmer connection.
This is despite some farmers having stopped running stalls there as they find the weekly delivery service more beneficial.
"The Euroa Rotary Club run the local Euroa Farmers Market, and they have been very generous in letting us have their coolroom here at our base, and then they can have it for the week their market is on," she said.
"We are actually soon expanding our cool room to help us in our growing needs, but we want to return the favour and help the Rotary guys too by building extra shelving for their cool room."
She says that while there is a generous reciprocal arrangement and not much ill-feeling between Strathbogie Local and the Euroa Farmers market, she accepts that "there was a delicate line of conversation."
"We were scared that the farmers market may lose some of their suppliers, but I think they understand that suppliers also need to re-invent themselves, and that is part of the new way of staying afloat."
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