Fresh food co-op Onerahi hub

Story and photos by Jacqueline Low (thank you Jacqueline). Originally published in the September edition of the Onerahi Orbit.

Since the article was printed, the Onerahi hub has opened! And in late September, The Fresh Fruit Collective achieved 100% local supply for the first time. Here is their Facebook page.

David and Sylvia Moore of Tahuna Place, Onerahi set sail from their home in Wellington for Fiji and Vanuatu. On their return they tied up at Marsden Cove and decided they wouldn’t leave Whangarei.david-and-sylvia-moore

David and Sylvia Moore, above, aim to provide 100 percent locally-grown produce by this time next year.

They moored their boat Kiss at the Town Basin and lived on it while sorting out a place to call home on terra firma.

They are in the throes of settling
into their new house but that has not dampened their ardour for setting up a Fresh Food Collective Hub at Onerahi.

The Fresh Food Collective was the brainchild of Laura Cates of Whangarei and was started by her in January, 2015. It provides a means of buying fresh produce at a much reduced cost.

Customers place orders online and pay a week in advance. On picking up their produce they can pay for the next week’s supply. Produce is purchased by the Collective according to the number of orders, to avoid having a surplus.

On advice from a friend Sylvia and David started going to the Fresh Food Collective at the Whangarei Club central depot, every Tuesday, to collect and order their fruit and vegetables. There they met Laura. Sylvia offered to help her several times and one day in March Laura asked her if she would fill in as she had two staff absent. Sylvia tried it out and enjoyed it. Laura asked if she would be interested in taking over from her.

“I said, well, we’ve just bought a house. I can’t really afford to buy a business and she said, ‘I’m walking away from it’.” Laura chose to walk away because of family commitments and handed her share of the business over to David and Sylvia Moore.

George Lavich, whom the Moores
 had met earlier, when volunteering for the Fifa Under 20s Football event at Whangarei was asked to help Sylvia and David to run the Collective in the CBD.

The Moores had been giving George wood and they discussed the idea of the three of them forming a company.

“We said would he be interested perhaps in joining us. I’ve got a financial background and office management, David has been in marketing and production work and George had been in management and marketing as well,” Sylvia said.

“George knew a lot of people in Whangarei and he doesn’t mind going to talk to people, the market gardeners and people like that and I’m quite shy really when it comes to that. So, that’s how it evolved,” she said. It became the Fresh Food Collective 2016 Limited and was incorporated on March 24, this year. There are three directors, George Lavich, David and Sylvia Moore.

Laura had said to Sylvia that a hub at Onerahi was on the plans but they had not got that far yet.

David and Sylvia took up the cause and are aiming to find a facility available to them for one day a week to set up a Fresh Food Collective Hub at Onerahi in the second half of September. The venue will be in the vicinity
of the Onerahi Community Centre.

The thought behind the original hubs was to place them close
to schools so from 2:30pm to 3:30pm when caregivers pick up children they can also pick up their vegetables and fruit.

They are planning to do a mail drop in Onerahi which will have all the detailed information.

“Three of us are going to walk Onerahi, delivering flyers” Sylvia said.

The business relies on volunteers, “and we are meeting our costs because we want to do it as a community thing rather than making money,” she said. The Moores are retired and don’t need to have it as a business: “So long as we can get produce.”

People are saying, “You’re not even charging for delivery,” she said. If five people in a work place put in an order the Collective is happy to deliver those orders for free, within the CBD, Sylvia said.

They have two women who are regular volunteers, Joanna Davis and Kath Tipene and there are others but we have to build on that list,” Sylvia said. When Sylvia and David started they had only 36 customers to deal with now they’ve reached the 100 mark.

While people do save a lot of money through the scheme, at this time of year the savings are not as lucrative as at other times “but what we are selling is fresh.
“Our vegetables and fruit are fresh because it was picked the day before and some is picked on the day,” Sylvia said.

The collective prides itself on sourcing fresh fruit and vegetables and is aiming to have 100 percent locally grown produce by this time next year. They got a contact for garlic and purple kumara, shallots and ginger from Dargaville “and they will grow for us,” Sylvia said.

At the moment they gather all the local vegetables and fruit they can. George, Sylvia and David collect it fresh on the day from growers like Huanui Orchards and the gardens at Poroti. Fruit has always come from local orchards and also from some individuals. George arranges to go and pick their oranges, mandarins or other fruit crops the day before or on the morning of the collective.

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George Lavich (left) and David Moore weigh mandarins at the Fresh Food Collective Hub at the CBD.

Sylvia tries to get a different selection each week, such as a stir-fry pack one week and a roasting pack with kumara, pumpkin and potatoes the next. They have found a source at Dargaville for purple kumara and another at Waikaraka to supply tomatoes.

“We want to support the local growers. Local produce usually means the odd surprising slug but these days that is a stamp of approval,” Sylvia said.

Quite often people give them extras.

“Someone bought us lemons the other day so a lemon went in every bag. There is a minimum of nine different items that you get in a $23 bag and 6 in a $12 bag but we have had up to 15 items per order. If people give us produce we put it in because it is nice to share”.

“This is where we try to get in with the community gardens as well. It could be that we give them seeds or something for the next lot and they give us some produce for the bags.”

Sylvia said that they are not young anymore and she finds although she has a finance background all of a sudden she has to start going back into Excel and all it entails. “I’ve now streamlined it so it’s not taking as much time but was just a mound of paperwork. “It’s relentless because Tuesday comes, by Wednesday we’re frazzled so we have an easy day but there are all the emails and things to deal with.

There’s always a sigh of relief once the stuff is bagged and there’s a lot of work behind the scenes but Sylvia said: “We’re enjoying it. It’s keeping us out of the doctor’s surgery. We haven’t got time to think about what’s wrong with us. You have to get up and go.”

The Fresh Food Collective achieves 100% local food!

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The Fresh Food Collective reached a milestone last Tuesday. For the very first time they achieved 100% locally grown produce. They have often hit 80% and the goal of procuring all produce from local growers with in 12 months seemed at times very challenging.

George Lavich and the team are very excited about achieving this milestone and will continue to work with local growers  to support a sustainable Northland.

Our research has revealed that when locally sourced food replaces food sourced from outside the region, there is a two to four times beneficial economic multiplier of both money and jobs. Customers are getting healthy fresh food at great prices and supporting local growers – a win-win.

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George Lavich at the Fresh Food Collective’s hub at the Whangarei Club (image from the Northern Advocate)

George, along with David and Sylvia Moore acquired the Fresh Food Collective from Laura Cates in April. Customer numbers are building slowly, but it is clear that for George, David and Sylvia and the volunteers that support them, that they are driven by a strong sense of purpose rather than any financial motive. George is particularly passionate about supporting local growers and is busy seeking out potential suppliers.

The Fresh Food Collective is opening a new hub at the Onerahi Play Centre on Tuesday 20th of October.

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Their $12 and $23 packs offer impressive value and variety. For more information see their website.