I’ll admit this is a test at the very bounds of my technical skills, so if it all falls in a heap then my many apologies.
One of the aims of writing this blog was to let people know what we were doing but also to share information so that eating and shopping locally becomes just as easy as not doing so. My experience so far is that if you can shop for products that have a context behind them, then it’s loads more fun and also you are more likely to value what you buy even if it’s a bit more expensive.
Case in point (and this is a little tangential but we will get back to food afterwards, promise!) I need to work, apparently the bank doesn’t see the social and economic value of my garden so the whole need for money is a bit unavoidable. With this goes a need to dress appropriately. So about a year and a half ago I tootled down to the local shoe ‘factory outlet store’ which is actually on the site of a shoe factory. When I say a factory I should point out that I mean this in the architectural term only and all the shoes sold at this store are made in China. I paid (lets say because I can’t remember) $130 dollars for these shoes and have bought shoes from this store before which have lasted okay. Less than 4 months later they had both worn out and fallen apart to the point where even when I took them to a shoe repair place to see if I could get them re-heeled they just laughed at me.
In my disgruntled, cross and shoeless state I was fortunate to have Nikki come to my rescue and recommend a local shop that sold locally made shoes. Now I will admit that I went to the shop at least twice before deciding to buy the shoes as I had to fight with myself to spend the $350 that the shoes cost but it was the conversation with the woman at the counter on the final visit that tipped it. She told me that the shoes I was consider were made by a women called Claire Best (clairebest.com.au) who did a lot of made to order women’s shoes and thought that she would try her hand at simple men’s shoes. Now I don’t want to make these shoes out to be something they’re not, they’re just black shoes. But the quality of the construction was evident, and the old school full leather construction and non rubber sole with nailed heel did, and still does appeal greatly to me. The fact that she works incredibly locally and also makes an effort to source local materials makes it all the better. The moral of the story, because I knew the backstory and because I bought something of high quality from someone who (and I haven’t yet) would probably be quite open to having a chat about the shoes she made means I look after and really value these shoes.
Okay so with that concept in mind how do we make it easy to buy quality (particularly food) that you know the backstory to and is locally produced. Well our aim was to buy things from within 100 miles of Melbourne so we started a map of where things that we bought come from. What quickly becomes apparent is that a) you don’t know what you don’t know and sometimes the only way you find things is by stumbling on them, which is really inefficient and b) a map is only useful to the person who has it. So my thought is, wouldn’t it be cool if we could have a map where people could add items made locally that they had stumbled upon and then build up a map that makes quality shopping easy. If we go back to the power of our dollars this also encourages local production, resilient systems and in turn local employment.
So lets start with food. All things going according to plan there should be a map below. It’s a bit sparse I’ll admit but below that there is a link to the map that enables you to open it in google maps and add things yourself.
The rules (if that’s appropriate language for something that by definition has none!) are quite simple. If you find something that is produced within 100 miles of where you live then add it. By produced though we mean more than the “made in Australia from local and imported ingredients” which basically means that anything repacked here is “made in Australia”. We mean it’s actually made here, that you could go down to the place and watch it and, ideally, is made with component ingredients that are equally within the 100miles. This can include local distributors that have only some produce from within the region, just specify what produce it is.
Now I know that not everyone reading this lives in Melbourne, so ignore the line around Melbourne and just add things within your own radius. I don’t know how it will go, but the concept of it being able to know where to get great locally made produce as easy as knowing where your nearest mega-supermarket is really appeals.