CrowdFarming and the joy of sustainable seasonality
By Ann Owen November 23, 2021
When I was a small kid, living with my parents in Belgium, the winter held a highlight that featured even more prominently in my life than did Christmas: the celebration of St. Nicholas day. Every year sometime in November, St. Nicholas* would arrive by steamboat in the port of Antwerp, all the way from Spain. Along with St Nicholas came toys and sweets, which, if you had been “good”, you would receive on the morning of the 6th of December. I still remember the excitement that made it so hard to get to sleep the night before, it was a heady mix of anticipation, joy and worry, the latter because there would have been more than a few times during the preceding year that my parents had warned me that they were going to write to St. Nicholas to tell him I wasn’t being “good”!
The other thing that came with St. Nicolas were oranges and more specifically: mandarin oranges. They preceded the now ubiquitous easy peeler satsumas, that watery, flavourless cousin of the aromatic mandarin. The oranges balanced out the sweet speculoos, marzipan and chocolate gifts that came on that December morning and they were a real treat! I looked forward to them as much, if not more, as to the sweets. I think the reason why they were so special was that you would only get them for a short time of year and once the season was past, you had to wait another whole year before you could get them again.
"When in season"
Seasonal produce is no longer something that people are aware of these days. With most fruit now being available all-year-round, who would know that less than 50 years ago, you had oranges in the winter, strawberries and peaches in summer, followed by grapes in autumn and the only fruit that was about most of the time were apples and bananas. Yet, what we have gained in availability, we seem to have surrendered in taste. It is rare these days to find fruit that packs such a sweet, juicy punch it knocks your socks off.
This autumn, however, I discovered the mangoes from the CrowdFarming project. I love mangoes but have become disillusioned with the version that is commonly available; the hard, dry fruits that rot before they get anywhere near ripe are nothing like the succulent sweet, melt in the mouth flesh of the of my memory. Then I heard about the Crowd Farmer mangoes. As a special treat, I ordered a box which arrived 12 days later. Inside were 11 mangoes of different sizes, with one monster being twice the size of the smaller ones. All were green with a light blush of red and hard to the touch. I picked out two to ripen in the fruit bowl with some apples and put the rest in the box somewhere cool and dark. About 8-9 days later, colour, scent and a slight “give” when pressed told me that they were ready to eat. I’m tempted to go overboard here with my description of how good this mango was, but I haven’t got whole day, so suffice to say that this was a proper lush mango, messy juicy sweet, just like they are supposed to be. I put the second one in the fridge for the next day and refilled the fruit bowl with another two to ripen, feeling incredibly pleased that, at last, I had found a source of mangoes worth eating. Once again, my year will be marked by the anticipatory joy of knowing that my favourite seasonal fruit is nearly there.
Cutting out the middlemen
CrowdFarming is an internet platform that allows producers to sell direct to consumers. There are no middlemen and farmers can decide what price they want to sell their produce at, empowering them to vary their prices as needed. There is no supermarket locking them into contracts where they end up having to sell their produce below the cost of production when harvests are poor. Do go and have a look at the website and read all about it. To me, it’s what the farmer-to-eater food system of the future looks like. It heralds an end to the exploitative conditions that farmers who are tied into contracts with big foodco must suffer.
But what if 5kgs of avocados or lemons are just a bit too much of a good thing
for you? That's why at Mach Vegbox we decided to trial facilitating the purchasing of CrowdFarming produce. Via our website, you can order just the one mango or three avocados. We are offering those two fruits from organic CrowdFarmers to start with and we’ll see how it goes from here. Note that the produce on offer is strictly seasonal and will therefore not be available all year round.
The revolution is edible!
You might have thought that Mach Vegbox were only about local, fresh food? While that is still our primary reason for existence, our endgame is bigger than that; we want no less than a farmer revolution, where farmers get a fair price for their harvests and consumers get the best and most sustainable food available. No more profiteering middlemen, no more externalities, no more poor quality produce grown by unsustainable methods. No more food waste due to unrealistic esthetic and size standards. And with this aim we stand shoulder to shoulder with our CrowdFarming compadres.
Mach Vegbox does not make a profit from CrowdFarming produce. We only add a small charge to cover admin costs. This is a service to our customers because we want to share with you the sustainable and ethical deliciousness that the Crowd farmers offer along with the joy of seasonal fruit.
We hope that you will also join with a few friends and share orders of other CrowdFarming produce, check out their virtual farmer’s market. Please note that not all the farmers on this platform produce to organic standards, but there are plenty of those that do.
*The tradition of St.Nicholas has become controversial lately, both for the notion that only “good” kids get rewarded and for the depiction of black people. My mentioning of my childhood experience is not to be considered a tacit approval of this cultural tradition.