Using local to feed the locals

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Robyn Guyton, of the South Coast Environment Centre in Riverton.

SUPPLYING local produce and revitalising rural communities were some of the aims of The
Longwood Loop.

Robyn Guyton, of the South Coast Environment Society in Riverton, said The Longwood Loop aimed to re-localise ‘‘our food and keep profit within Western Southland’’ by helping local food producers and consumers connect without having to travel more than 10km.

‘‘Through our loop, we will be able to re-establish community by supplying, buying [food and produce] and living locally.’’

Mrs Guyton said the vision was based on how communities used to live and interact 50 years ago when 80% of the food used in Southland, such as potatoes, rolled oats, flour, eggs, most vegetables, pears, plums, apples, honey and meat, had been grown in Southland.

‘‘Southland use to be self-sufficient in terms of food supply. Now farm use had been diversified…

‘‘The countryside use to feed cities, now the countryside feeds overseas.’’

The project was also about future-proofing food supplies, especially in times of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, severe snow events, floods and potential petrol shortages.

‘‘It is a way to prepare for a potential civil disaster,’’ she said.

The pilot project would focus on Western Southland first, with ten towns on the first loop —
Riverton/Aparima, Fairfax, Otautau, Wairio, Ohai, Orawia, Tuatapere, Orepuki, Pahia and Round Hill.

Being an online farmers’ market, food growers would ‘‘post’’ their produce, the amount and photo online, with most of the money generated to go back to the grower.

‘‘We want to make it viable for small and emerging producers.

‘‘This is a very innovative pilot project to bring economic and social rejuvenation of rural New Zealand.

‘‘If just 20% of rural New Zealand spent just 20% of their weekly budget locally, 1.5million will go back to rural New Zealand each week.

‘‘Food growers, producers and cottage industries will have access to 10,000 customers without having to leave their township.’’

For consumers who did not have access to a computer, they could visit a trading post, which could be in someone’s garage or a country hall in one of the towns, and a volunteer would be there to help them go online, Mrs Guyton said.

Their produce would be transported in an electric van to and from trading posts in each
township.

‘‘Two days later, they could pick up their order.’’

Mrs Guyton said there were benefits to supplying and buying locally.

‘‘When there is some form of natural disaster or transport disruption, there is only a three day supply of food in supermarkets. As this food comes from all over new Zealand and the world, only a fraction of it comes from the Southland region.

‘‘Now is the time, before disaster strikes, to relocalise some of our basic needs: things we can grow and produce locally.’’

Re-localising would bring rejuvenation and resilience to small country towns, she said, as well as reducing our carbon footprint and inspiring other rural communities to do the same.

The infrastructure was sorted, shelves, scales and laptops sourced — the electric distribution van was the last item, Mrs Guyton said.

Funding had been secured through Lottery Community Grants to start the first loop, as well as the Community Trust of Southland gifting $36,000 towards the electric van. With crowd funding, only $7500 was now needed, she said.

A Pledge Me Page (www.pledgeme.co.nz/projects/6879-the-longwood-loop) was running for the balance.

‘‘The South Coast Environment Society is a registered charity, so donations are tax deductable.’’

Mrs Guyton said once Western Southland was under way, the same van would service loops in Northern and Central Southland, and Fiordland.

A second van would service Eastern Southland, the Catlins and South Otago.

– For more information, phone Robyn Guyton on 03 234 8717 or go to www.sces.org.nz

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