Things I’d like to Exist #1: A New Food System That Gives Me an Easy Place to Sell My Extra Produce
You see, I like growing food. I have a bit of space in my yard. I have the extra hours to partake in what I view as an enjoyable hobby. I have the green thumb. I have a passion for the organic and ecological. I have a small amount of money to invest in seeds, starts, and trees.
What I don’t have is a family big enough to eat what I can grow. And I don’t have the ambition to try and hawk my wares at a farmer’s market or restaurants. I’m not sociable. I don’t have any friends to partner with. I don’t want to make the necessary connections or fill out the necessary paperwork. It’s not how I want to spend every weekend.
I don’t want to worry about if I’m growing enough food, or enough of the right types to make my “farm” viable. I don’t want to care if it fails or gets eaten by caterpillars.
I also don’t want to can my stuff or dry it or freeze it or whatever else is required to not let it go to waste. I’m lazy about cooking. And I have this wretched hip pain that kicks in when I do stuff in the kitchen.
Maybe I’m the gardening equivalent of a start-up entrepreneur. I like design. I don’t mind working excessively hard in the beginning to put the system in place, but then I lose interest. I just don’t really care anymore. Sure I’ll eat what I can/what I want. But it’s never everything I grow, and I’m not even yet using most of my available growing space. Other times I go on a wacky diet, and I can’t eat this or that I planted months before.
So what I want to exist is a farm store or buying station or co-op of sorts where I can bring boxes of produce and they will be examined, valued, and bought by someone who will then mark it up and re-sell to individuals, restaurants, cafeterias, and if it’s very large scale, maybe even major retailers or manufacturers.
Or maybe I could get more value if instead of cash, I trade for something I need and don’t have. It’d be just like the used book store or used clothing store of fresh produce: a collective of neighborhood microfamers.
Even better would be if this location had a commercial kitchen and a staff to turn excess and blemished produce into preserved goods or value-added goods. Cucumbers into pickles. Zucchini into zucchini bread, that sort of thing. Heck there could even be a small cafe or food truck right there on the premises.
In the wintertime it could stay open by selling these preserved products, microgreens, as well as local honeys, meats, wreaths, and that normal sort of winter farm store stuff.
Maybe there could be not just a co-op produce section but a co-op nursery section where people could sell their extra starts, or seeds, or divisions. The point would not be to make a living off it for most of us, just make a few extra bucks that would make the hobby of gardening pay for itself and give one the incentive to use their space for growing local food, knowing that they would not have to put much work into distributing it. You could sell/trade as little as 2 apples, or as many as thousands.
Maybe if you were willing to accept an even lesser price/lb on your excess food, you could call someone to come pick it up or even pick it. You’d just be like “Yo, I weighed ‘em on the bathroom scale and I’ve got about 15 lbs of cucumbers and 20 lbs of squash and 10 lbs of watermelon ripe over here at 665 Pine St.” And they’d be like “Well, that’s worth about $25 bucks if you bring it in, but you’re 6 miles from our nearest pickup so I’m gonna have to subtract $12. You cool with that?" And you’d be like, “Sure whatever. I just don’t want it to go to waste.”
I let a ton of food rot in my garden this last year. I could picked it and put it out on the curb for the neighbors, but you know, that would have involved, picking it…I just wonder how many other urban, suburban, and rural gardeners are also letting food go to waste because they love growing but don’t have the time to deal with the glut when the season really gets rolling. Maybe they are only a few blocks or a few miles from each other. Imagine driving a van around that route, picking up excess foods. In exchange the grower gets a small financial reward, or voucher for the farm store.
Or because they are making a buck they bring it in themselves. They aren’t going to drive over to the local food pantry and donate it, but that little something, the crisp fiver in the hand, keeps ’em coming. City street trees that bear fruit and nuts, and wild-crafted stuff would be fair game too for those who only dabble in foraging and aren’t interested in making their own full-time business out of it.
Imagine the diversity this could produce. The store might have 50 different types of tomatoes for sale but only 5 of each! There could be an honor system. Like each seller could fill out a notecard for their produce listing the growing method (chemical fertilizer, organic fertilizer, pesticides, non-GMO, biodynamic, etc.), and the variety they believe it to be, and any other special notes they feel proud to share: “This one came from seed my Ukrainian grandmother brought over in her apron pocket!”
I don’t know. I’m no business person. All I know is I have an unmet need for getting rid of excess food without actually having to interact with people very much or do a lot of work.
*This essay is part of a creative writing experiment to produce daily articles in under one hour. Please excuse any typos.*