It’s been a busy couple of months here at RethinkAg. In addition to defending my master’s thesis* and other personal milestones**, I have been busy hacking my food system. In short, “hacking my food system” means finding tools out there that can change the way we eat and impact our environment that are transparent and open source. I’m really excited to update everyone about my main project, goMarket, which I previously blogged about under the name “Durham Locally Grown.”
The good news is that project is finally taking off! We had our second market day yesterday and there are a few important ways we are “hacking the food system”
goMarket is a platform
goMarket is different from a lot of other innovative local food businesses out there. We don’t buy or sell anything. We make it easier for farmers and other vendors to sell their products and co-market themselves. At the same time, we make it easy for customers to tap into this bounty.
goMarket is peer-to-peer
I started goMarket to promote the “peer-to-peer” (p2p) economy because I believe that direct connections result in better outcomes for people and the planet.
Sustainable agriculture seems to cost a lot when we compare it to buying food at Wal-mart. That “cheap food” is built enormous subsidies (at federal, state an local levels) and also substantial costs to human and environmental health. Cutting out middle men gives us an opportunity to build a more resilient system where low-income producers are paid a living wage. When they are paid a living wage this gives them new freedom to make choices on how to steward the soil and other natural resources they depend on.
P2P makes local accessible
Wal-mart is built upon what ecological theory calls a “poverty traps,” gradual moves where a community can no longer afford anything healthy, sustainable or just. In return for these profits (remember they’re not producing anything), they provide 24/7 convenience and ho-hum products built to withstand a grueling distribution network. Peer-to-peer is a way to reverse this desertification of our economy (and natural resources too), helping communities that normally buy mostly at grocery stores tap into the local food economy. With some planning (eg. planning meals and remembering when the pickup is), we can build a diverse, local, healthy economy that is even more convenient than Wal-mart.
platforms promote diversity
If you look at a Wild Dog Farm in Snow Camp and “hyper-local” farmers inside the city limits, like Homegrown City Farms and Sweet Beet City Farm. We’ve got eggs, cheese (and vegan cheeze!) and coffee and meat and are looking for even more goodies that we can help bring into the food system. (I’d love to help market local wine and dry good staples like lentils, beans, oats, etc. So please reach out if you know someone!) We take care of payment processing and help make shopping a diverse food system convenient for customers (order by Tuesday evening and come pick up a bag of goodies on Thursday, it’s super convenient).
goMarket is on demand
“On demand” means farmers and other vendors don’t pick or produce things that haven’t been ordered. Customers order on Tuesday, so that the vendor knows how much to deliver on Thursday. This means your Beanpeace Coffee is roasted within a day of when you pick it up. It also means those veggies are as fresh as possible.
on demand means less food waste
“On demand” delivery, is that it gives farmers more flexibility. If they don’t sell everything online, they can find other places to sell, or in a worse case scenario: cut losses by calling in the IFFS gleaning crew.
Online marketing also helps backyard gardeners and homesteaders goMarket themselves! Backyard gardens can produce a lot of food and during peak season, sometimes this food is given away or goes to waste. With goMarket you can sell this excess produce, and possibly even use the wholesale market to get your restaurants sold at local food trucks and restaurants! (It’s important to remember though that goMarket is not a place to “dump” excess produce. We discourage undercutting our full-time farmers, though the separate wholesale price system can help prevent hobby farmers from putting full-time farmers out of business.)
goMarket is reproducible & adaptable
Scientific results don’t mean anything if you can’t reproduce them. I think the same thing is true for projects that change a food system. A project that only . Athens Locally Grown helps connect more than 100 farmers, homesteaders and food crafters connect with thousands of customers in Athens, Georgia. Open source food hub packages are under development and will be more flexible and adaptable and I’m really excited to see how they can change the way we eat.
goMarket is a “platform” that provides a virtual “commons” where people gather to buy, sell and sometimes barter foodstuffs. To learn more about the “commoning” movement, check out these awesome | radical | nerdy | resources.
*My master’s thesis in Ecology on the effects of grazing on soil organic matter. (Did you know that grazing ruminants (eg. cows, sheep, goats, bison and others) can be managed to help conserve environmental resources?)
**My partner and I bought a house the same week I defended my thesis and we’re expecting our first child around the fourth of July!