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Farmers find local market for ethical and sustainable produce

Over 60 producers and foodie entrepreneurs in the Northern Valleys region have found a permanent market for their locally grown produce or value-added products at the Northern Valleys Locavore store in Bindoon – which means locals can enjoy locally produced food every day.

Co-founder Tamieka Preston says the store was set up with an intent to support growers rather than see them price-takers in a competitive market – and to make sure the region is serviced with it’s own produce.

“Our unique business model means that producers set their own prices and control their own inventory as well as the way their product is presented on our website. We’ve had a lot of new producers come on board in the past few months and we’re thrilled to be able to offer them a better way to sell their products as well as offer shoppers fantastic quality locally grown food,” said Tamieka.

It can be very hard to ascertain where food comes from in a supermarket environment, where fruit and vegetables imported from overseas sit side-by-side with Australian, and Western Australian produce.

“It’s a minefield for shoppers  — particularly if they are in a rush, and don’t take the time to carefully read labels or think about what is in season locally.  It’s too easy grab a bunch of asparagus and not even realise its been imported from Mexico!” Tamieka continued.

“We want to ease the ethical burden for shoppers by offering a store where everything is ethically and sustainably produced. At the Locavore store all our fresh food is grown within a 100 km radius of the store, and other products are the closest possible – none from further than 250 km.”

Choosing food with low food miles means the carbon footprint of that food is already extremely low — regardless if it has been grown in a greenhouse or if the meat has been grain or grass fed. So much of the environmental stress is caused simply by travel and burning fossil fuels.

Supporting local producers plays an important role in establishing our local food security too  — and with the recent COVID  crisis, people are beginning to change their thinking around how important this is.

“Before COVID talking about food security sounded a bit extremist,”says Tamieka. “People laughed it off! Now they can see how convoluted our supply chain is, and how easily we can be affected by changed in consumer demand. While I think there are many imported things we can simply do without, if we were to be become ‘cut off’ we would want to have supported our local producers to the extent that they can rise to meet increased demand.”

Another interesting change that COVID has influenced in the renewed interest in growing vegetables, particularly heirloom varieties.

“We are seeing more and more demand for heirloom varieties in the store now  — consumers are fascinated by purple cauliflowers and carrots and keen to try new products like black barley and sandalwood nuts.”

Products new in the Northern Valleys Locavore Store include gluten free lupin flour and cake mixes from My Provincial Kitchen as well as black barley grown in New Norcia by foodie Rodger Duggan, local citrus grower Mayvaden Farm (recently featured on Landline) have also started doing cold pressed juices which they are trialling in the shop.

“I love seeing producers come in with new ideas and use the store to test them out – its a low risk way for them to experiment and it cultivates innovation in the region. We love taste testing too!” says Tamieka.

Producers and food entrepreneurs interested in selling their produce in the store can simply register online and follow the instructions to upload their products.

“We expect our producers to adhere to our ethical and sustainable ethos, and of course they must grow their fresh food within 100 km. Apart from that, anyone is welcome to register and start selling!

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