Ever since I first heard about Food Connect, I wanted to try it. Not just for the enormous convenience of having my fruit and veg delivered, but because this is no ordinary box-scheme… This is community supported agriculture.
Allow me to explain: Food Connect sources products from farmers within a five hour radius of Brisbane (also available in Sydney). It goes to the Food Connect Homestead in Salisbury to be packed into boxes for us in the cities and conurbations (I have wanted to use that word for so long!). The boxes are delivered to a “city cousin” and we pick it up from there. It’s a direct line from the person who planted the seed to the person eating the apple or zucchini or potato.
The first thing you’ll want to know is how it compares cost-wise. We settled on the medium vegetable box, which is $48.50. The picture above is what we received this week. I tried the basic box first, but found it to be a bit lacking for us. We don’t really need fruit at the moment as our orange tree and next-door’s banana tree are more than we can handle. I find the box to be more than what I would normally spend at our local market, but about the same, if not cheaper than what you’d spend at the supermarket.
The extra cost is worthwhile to me because it’s a cheap way to eat clean food. Not all the fruit and veg is organic, but the farms involved don’t use chemical sprays on the products they “share”, and that rocks my world. Ethically, I know the farmers aren’t being screwed to the ground to provide the lowest prices.
Another reason I’m loving my weekly box is because it’s always a bit of a surprise package. I love the challenge of working kale and beetroot into the weekly meal plan (of which there is none) and trying new recipes. Some people might not like that.
Every week we get a little Food Connect newsletter telling us about the farmers and the produce that’s in the box, and I love reading about how the tomatoes need a bit more sun to ripen and that we can expect broccoli in the next few weeks.
There are a couple of challenges or negatives: as well as the slightly increased cost, we simply cannot live without our staples – not with a toddler. I still visit the market or hit the supermarket for carrots, onions and potatoes. We go through a lot of these and the box doesn’t provide what we need.
My other criticism would be that the usability is a bit lacking. The website is a bit confusing, especially if the idea of CSA is new – you’re not actually a purchaser or shopper, but a subscriber – and, while there is always someone on hand to answer your questions, this could be frustrating. I find it charming, but from a commercial point of view it’s something Food Connect could – and, I’m sure, will – improve on.
Food Connect was founded by a dairy farmer who lost his farm in 1998 and then devoted his time to setting up CSA schemes around the country. Food Connect is an attempt to take this community approach and ramp it up to a grand scale. So there are likely to be a few wrinkles to iron out.
My verdict: it’s a worthwhile and important scheme and, for the time being, it’s sustainable for my family so we’re sticking with it. The produce itself ranges from good to great and I love that it’s healthier for us, and supports local farmers. There’s heaps of info on the website, including more on community supported agriculture, check it out.
Service: Food Connect
Description: Weekly delivery of fruit’n’veg
Cost: $48.50/week (paid for)
Available from: www.foodconnect.com.au