Farm-to-Shelf at Goodness Me: the Power of Supporting Local, the Power of the Consumer

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

You can’t have local food without local farmers, so if you want to sell farm fresh, collaborative relationships along the value chain are crucial – as crucial as the consumer, you could say.

We know the impact of supporting local, and the power of the consumer to help elicit change by sending a ripple through important food value chains, and our chat with Patrick Barclay from Goodness Me is local evidence.

Consumers’ choice to shop sustainably and support local nutrients can, indeed, send a strong message; it’s the old supply-demand cycle we’ve all heard of, and Goodness Me, an organic grocer with stores throughout Ontario, has demonstrated this power through a targeted focus on local organic agriculture, with their own farm located near Campbellville. It’s farm-to-shelf.

In addition to their own organic farm, Goodness Me also works with a team of organic produce wholesalers to offer a variety of fresh options. The Goodness Me Farm is about 20 minutes from their Guelph store, with local availability varying by the season.

During the peak of the summer, they source over 100+ items from local producers.

Barclay explains that the idea behind the Goodness Me farm was to partner with passionate farmers with years of global experience to help propagate the local selection during the local growing season, while also gaining control over the supply line on key items (e.g. kale and chard).

“We work really closely with our farmers to identify and develop our growing number of listings from our farm to meet the demand of customers in our stores,” Barclay explains. “We also provide our staff with tours of our farm to better educate them about the daily operation of the farm and the upcoming bounty that is expected in our stores – experiences that we hope they share with our customers to highlight the hard work and care that our farm is putting into producing these items.”

Demand for local is visibly growing; people are hungry for the freshness found in local products. Furthermore, the consumer has become more eco-conscious of their carbon footprint, and there is also a noticeable desire to support local communities.

The power of the consumer is demonstrated as Barclay discusses the value chain.

As Goodness Me works to build their local listings, the increased demand from their stores signals to wholesalers and independents that these are priority items to a retailer like Goodness Me, and this leads them to source more local producers to satiate that demand – thus, leading to an increase in local organic producers looking to supply the demand.

Eventually, this increase in production leads to better retail pricing for the consumers (with an increase in producers comes more competitive pricing and lower overall cost for a retailer, who can then set a lower price on the item in store). The savings are passed on directly to the consumer, whose choices spurred the cycle in the first place.

Of course, you need players that will help set this pattern in motion. Goodness Me says they choose local for this very reason: to help grow and propagate the local organic produce sector, and to build healthy, sustained relationships with local producers that help provide customers with a plethora of local options throughout the year. Barclay says they work closely with the farmers to identify and develop the listings from their farm.

“It is important to nurture this relationship between retailer and producer, to help the rate of producers grow fast enough to coordinate with the demands placed by the consumer,” Barclay further explains.

By targeting local items we help define the need in this sector of the organics market, leading to more producers deciding to make the move to organic production to capitalize on this growing market. This helps to flood the market for a retailer like Goodness Me, giving us more supply to draw from at a more competitive cost than previously available.”

And it’s a win-win all around.

“Choosing local is definitely a move towards a healthier lifestyle overall,” Barclay shares. “The decreased transit time on items produced locally allows them to mature longer before transport, gaining greater nutrient content and leading to a healthier overall product. This is especially true with crops such as kale, tomatoes and green beans, which are highly perishable crops that must be picked before full ripeness in order to transport from abroad.”

We couldn’t end things off without asking Patrick Barclay for some advice for others interested in sourcing locally. Here’s what he had to say:

    • Talk to your produce manager or team member about the types of food you are looking to source locally. A lot of the time there will be supply available on different items, even if they are not currently being stocked in your location, and by highlighting your interest in sourcing these local products you can help influence the purchasing decision the manager makes for his or her department.
    • Other great starting points are your local farmers’ markets, CSA’s and even restaurants in your area that cater to a more localized menu. These sources are sometimes even more connected to a smaller producer in the area than a retailer working with a wholesaler might be.
    • Many times a trip to the local farmers’ market will show what crops should be coming available to our stores in the upcoming weeks, as farmers selling directly to the public in these environments typically will rush the first pick of the season to these consumers, in order to get the first items out to the public and the market.