Niagara region, ON - Residents can now easily purchase a large variety of local food items from the comfort of their homes.
“We’ve come a long way” explains Renee Delaney, owner of Small Scale Farms.
“We started the Virtual Farmers Market to ensure producers and vendors have access to online market sales. By providing full support of our platform and backing it with collaborative marketing campaigns, we’ve essentially solved the biggest obstacle we face at a regional level - local distribution”.
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Delaney continues: “Without collaboration we’re stuck. The corporate giants can out market us and the competition is fierce. Combining efforts at the local level is quite simply the only way forward. That, and we’d all be out there all over the place delivering just 1 or 2 items to the middle of nowhere, to justify a sale. We can’t have that, for many reasons”.
Delaney goes on to explain how the virtual market came about. “There’s always been a need for local businesses to unite under one sales channel. In the past, many have attempted and yet been unsuccessful. Over the years I have studied why and my conclusion is this: wholesale/retail partnerships are the best way forward. Why? Because they are simple. The business/vendor/farmer gets to focus on the product or service they sell, and we, the retailer, focus on sales. But we help each other. We each decide on the product pricing but at the end of the day it’s their job to create the product. And it’s our job to help them develop their brand, provide the sales channel, and distribute for them. Then, it’s up to the customer to be the judge of who’s product they like best. It just simply has to be convenient, and what’s more convenient than local products delivered right to your door”?
As for the farmers themselves, they get a special nod, that Delaney suggests is long overdue.
“What holds this system together is a weekly produce box for just $40 (for a small) or $60 (for a medium) per week. What the customers need to understand is whatever produce that ends up in this weekly box, is entirely relevant to improving our food system. On a weekly basis you can see anything from local and organic to conventional “seconds”, (no GMOs). The point being, we have to create a stronger food system, because it doesn’t currently exist.
This flexibility we have regarding the box contents helps us to further create the purchasing power necessary to encourage farmers to grow sustainably”.
When asked whether or not there are enough farms in Niagara to feed all the residents Delaney replied with a convincing no. “Not a chance. I wish it weren’t so but as it stands right now in Niagara, we grow a lot of gmo corn and gmo soy for animal feed, alongside winter wheat that’s been sprayed with the “probable carcinogenic” glyphosate... and tons of non native, ornamental flowers... but there is not enough local food production to feed our own region. We need to do something about that. And this is how.”
Where it really gets interesting is not only does Delaney’s produce box put money in the farmers pockets, the distributors pockets, and the vendors pockets, according to numerous reviews, the customers themselves seem very happy with the fresh food and variety they are receiving, for market value pricing.
Ironically, we haven't yet discussed the best part. For every weekly produce subscription purchased, Delaney is herself, buying one bag of produce to give away to one to someone in the community. In fact, her "crew" of incredible helpers will deliver it right to their door. (Read more at https://smallscalefarms.ca/pages/food-fed-forward-sign-up.)
Delaney notes relationships are continually being developed with multiple vendors within the region and beyond, to further systemize the distribution of food to both customers looking to support local, AND those in need.
When asked how it's come together so quickly, Delaney credits her team. “I’ve created the foundation for us to stand on for the last 7 years, but it's the people of Niagara who are making it work. When we work together like we are at Small Scale Farms, the profits are obvious: Everybody eats.
To learn more about how to get involved or how to become a vendor for FREE, please visit smallscalefarms.ca.