An innovative not-for-profit network is connecting farmers directly with customers and local distribution hubs, making it easy to buy and sell affordable, fresh food straight from the farm.
The Open Food Network online system is user-friendly and simple. It’s designed for time-poor farmers and producers, with accounting and online payment systems built into the software. It also provides free online tools to help with day-to-day business including managing product listings and stock levels, managing orders from buyers, and organising payments online.
Open Network co-founder Serenity Hill said producers and farmers can sign up by creating a free profile on the Open Food Network directory.
"It’s about reimagining the way we connect with food. Customers can search and learn more about fresh produce or local farms and farmers can open a producer shop online and sell directly to customers. Food Hubs can sell and distribute food from multiple producers for a monthly subscription capped at $50," Ms Hill added.
The not-for-profit network, which was set up with funding from VicHealth’s Seed Challenge program, was developed to give shoppers a better understanding of where their food comes from and also give farmers more bargaining power.
Ms Hill said: “We want people to reconnect with their food, and when customers buy through a distribution partner – a Food Hub – they know which farm their product comes from and how much that farmer got paid.”
As part of a shift towards a transparent food system, Open Food Network customers were recently invited to get to know their local farmer at a variety of Open Farm Days across Victoria, where they had the chance to explore working farms – to actually see and visit the place where their food comes from, to meet the farmers, and to understand where their money goes when they buy fresh produce.
VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said the idea of using technology to open the doors to fresh and affordable food for all is the way of the future.
“Digital technology has connected our world in many new ways. We don’t have to rely on big corporations to source our food any longer. By linking shoppers with the growers, and supporting local businesses, it’s better for the environment, our community and our farmers.
“We would love to see this idea grow to reach all Australians and we know it will make a big difference,” Ms Rechter said.
As it expands, the Open Food Network hopes to continue to organise Open Farm Days across Australia.