The six-year-old initiative connects consumers and farmers through buying clubs and pickup sites. Customers place and pay for the orders online and later pickup their order at a site set up by the buying club in that area. Last year, there were four sites in Winnipeg and one in Starbuck. But organizers are now adding pickup sites in Brandon, Glenboro, Cypress River and St. Boniface.
“There’s tonnes of opportunities for expansion,” said Colin Anderson of the Harvest Moon Society. “We’re really just at the start. It took us awhile to adapt and determine what the best system was for us, and now that we are where we are, we’re finding more people are coming to us.”
The society found inspiration in the Oklahoma Food Co-op, which now has 100 farmers and more than 2,000 customers, said Anderson.
Currently, 12 producers are participating in the Harvest Moon initiative, offering products such as pork, lamb, honey, vegetables, wool socks, grain, flour, bedding plants, soap, and pet food.
Roughly 800 people are on the society’s mailing list, with about 100 orders being placed each month.
Add to that list David Barnes, an organizer of the Brandon buying club and avid gardener. He’s already been distributing food informally through Harvest Moon for the last three years and is pleased the system is coming to Manitoba’s second-largest city.
The retired school teacher said his interest in local, sustainable, healthy food comes from, “a lifetime of consciousness about the growing malaise on planet Earth.”
“It’s just everywhere,” said Barnes. “I think our current food system reflects everything that’s wrong with the planet.”
But interest in where food comes from and how it’s produced is growing across the board, he said.
More customers means more food, and so Harvest Moon is also looking for farmers with high-quality food produced in a sustainable manner.
“We’re looking to bring in new producers right now who can fill in some of the product gaps, and that’s largely around vegetables,” said Anderson.
The system greatly reduces the workload that normally goes along with direct marketing, and that’s one of the goals of the initiative, he said.
Troy Stozek would agree.
He operates Fresh Roots Farm near Cartwright with his partner Michelle Schram.
“A big part of our business is local marketing,” he said. “We get a lot of support through Harvest Moon, and it builds a lot of interest too.”
It also cuts down on driving.
Rather than driving to a drop-off circuit each month, spending long periods of time on the road, Stozek rotates responsibilities with other producers and only drives the circuit once a year.
“It’s a pretty great community,” he said.
Anderson points out that a healthy food system, needs to be healthy for the interests of everyone involved.
“Largely I see it as an opportunity to develop food systems that provide for strong farm livelihoods and healthy rural communities, but also ensure that people in the cities are aware and thinking about food and the implications of their food choices for rural communities and their own health,” Anderson said.
For more information, visit www.harvestmoonfood.ca.