a personal story about food, people and change

Posted by  admin —July 16, 2009
Filed in How Stuff Spreads & Changes, Just observations

For our family it appears that the monthly food budget is the biggest slice of the household expenses pie. With myself, Ingrid and 3 growing boys that’s probably no surprise to anyone! Now here’s the bit that surprised us …

It appears that a humble little Nursery-come-Organic Grocer tops our list and the story of how we have shifted our vote (aka the $$ we spend) over the past 18 months is interesting … interesting enough to make us feel great and for me to decide to write about it here.

Spend more, shop local & feel great

Once upon a time (and not that long ago), we were like most people and we sourced the majority of our fresh fruit and veges from mainstream supermarkets like Coles and Safeway. We liked the convenience of everything being in the 1 place, but, we both had a nagging voice inside our head which lead to feelings of frustration … we just weren’t satisfied with the quality, price and the fact that we were supporting the dominant supermarket chains (and in Australia the Coles and Safeway dominance is a whole story in itself).

Unlike most people, we do grow a steady stream of high quaity vegetable, herbs and fruit at home. Organic gardening at home is one of my passions so the gap between what we produced and what were were buying from the supermarket was really beginning to grate.Unfortunately, the reality is you can never produce enough with 5 mouths to feed (not counting the 2 dogs and 8 chooks!).

A small harvest last summer

So then, along some some other dis-satisfied locals, we tried out various home delivery services. People who source fresh, organic produce from the markets and deliver to the door. We persisted for a while but we often ended up with way too many potatoes and produce that we didn’t cook with often.

Then, one day … a local Nursery (McGains link here) made a bold business decision. Noticing the large number of locals who sourced vegetable seedlings and seeds from their nursery, (my guess is) Peter McGain and his fantastic staff took a punt and set up a small organic fruit and veg shop at the entrance to their nursery. Then something started to happen and people began to talk about it. Soon, this little shop front became a focal point for people like us. A small tribe of locals kept coming back and, like us, shared their excitement with others about having our own, local grocer that stocked quality organic and un/in/not-organic produce. Added to the produce is a set of great staff – mostly women who have worked at the nursery for a long time and all of them passionate about what they do and the goods and services the business provides … well that’s the way we read them anyway 🙂

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As more and more people voted with their wallets at McGains, the range of food on the shelves has expanded. We now buy a good proportion of our fruit, vegetables, organic milk and organic meat from this quaint, almost out-of-the-way nursery/grocer.

In the past 18 months we have lapsed back into old shopping habits, but, it doesn’t take long for that little voice to start up again … and then we are drawn back into the McGains-way.

So what’s the Moral of this story?

Satisfied customers?  It’s more than that.

A good business decision by a Nursery owner? That’s an assumption but they do continue to invest in this part of their business. And in the face of climate change Nurseries will have to diversify to survive.

A positive environmental impact? Getting close because in the climate change emergency we face  we are going to need more services like McGains?

A social movement? This one gets my vote! From where I sit, McGains has built an inviting space and filled it with ‘stuff’ that people were looking for anyway (high quality including organic food). When customers arrive they are made to feel welcome and chances are they’ll bump into someone they know anyway. So this little shop has become an attractive and vibrant meeting place (and I’m hoping a thriving, successful business). Being seen at McGains sends a signal to others and around all of this a loyal following has emerged.



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