Before the quarantine, online food shopping seemed a remote possibility for someone like me who likes to look at a product, feel it and if it warrants, smell it. Now, it’s just a picture provided, and one can certainly not feel or smell the product.
When I finally thought it was time to do online, the virtual grocery cart was filled and the delivery date was set. But a message came soon after that the delivery date had to be moved to two days after. That merited a cancelation and a request to the younger ones in the family to shop or go hungry.
My adopted nephew, Tonyo Silva, who until recently was working at ABS-CBN, started with two other friends, Celina Borromeo and TJ Malvar, a vegetable and fruit delivery business, each order packaged in a box. They called their venture Gising Gising (email firstname.lastname@example.org, gisinggising.ph).
While some, myself included, might think that it is a clever name taken from the spicy winged bean (sigarilyas) dish cooked in coconut milk, it really is about the social service aspect of their project. It involves matching a box for every order that will be given to families in need at no extra cost to the buyer. It is their way of making their customers aware that there are families suffering from hunger during this pandemic.
There are five kinds of boxes, two sizes (big or small), and each box contains specific vegetables and fruits which they claim will “give your recommended daily allowance for the week.” Or, that’s 6-8 kg of produce good for two to three people. How can they keep their prices competitive and still have that additional box to give away to the needy? By dealing directly with farmers. Their suppliers as of today are farmers from Benguet and Quezon. Cut-off day for orders is Saturday and delivery is on Sunday.
Changing the small farms business model in America
If the food shopping experience has changed throughout the world, what needs to change as well is the business model of the small, sustainable farming business in America. This is according to Chris Newman, an American independent farmer, whose observation was featured in the blog of food columnist Mark Bitmann.
The independent farmer, according to Newman, is “the sacred cow of American cultural identity dating back at least to Thomas Jefferson’s dream of a nation of yeoman farmers.” But that supposed freedom enjoyed does not translate to profitability.
He proposes that farmers like him adapt what the oldest American farmers, the indigenous people, have long been doing: they “regarded the soil as a commons and worked it cooperatively.”
Independent farmers have been unwilling, since the practice of collectivism sounds too much like a communist idea. That’s my take on it.
But Newman proposes that small farmers like him should combine “their acreage, expertise, supply chains and financial resources into a co-op committed to producing food regeneratively, responsibly and ethically.”
They will all continue to use the farmers’ markets as their outlet because it “will still be one of the best ways to connect to the actual people growing your food and gain an understanding of what it takes to responsibly feed a hungry planet.”
Perhaps, our local farmers should learn from this.
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