Project Description

Society’s biggest challenges won’t be solved by government, not-for-profits or communities alone. Successfully addressing these complex social, environmental and economic challenges requires an ecosystem approach that enables key stakeholders, whole communities, academics, entrepreneurs and innovators to come together and cocreate replicable and scalable solutions.

In 2016, Doing Something Good ran a 10 week accelerator program for ventures and community projects aimed at making Melbourne’s food system healthy, sustainable, secure, resilient and socially inclusive. Building on a program of events that started with the EcoCity Food Forum in 2013, the second Local Food Launchpad program in 2016 worked with 15 participants to develop 11 concepts that hold the potential to improve our food system and build a better food future for the people of Melbourne. This is one of them.

Learn more about the 2016 Local Food Launchpad here. Discover other Local Food Launchpad projects here.

How might we create a local food experience that strengthens relationships between producers and consumers?

Farmer to Table

Sharing stories of our local food system

The big issue

Producers and consumers are disconnected from each other, and as a result, small scale producers are not getting the support they need to continue farming. There is very little transparency in the current industrialised food systems and many people turn a blind eye to environmental impacts and animal welfare issues that arise. This lack of understanding is an important thing to remedy if we are to have a resilient, healthy and sustainable food system.

Every month in Australia around 350 farmers are leaving their land because they can’t afford to make a living selling to the big supermarket chains.

We believe we can help change this

When people have interactive experiences that are social and emotive, the ideas communicated in that experience are more likely to have a lasting impact on them. Following that theory, we believe that when a person meets a farmer and has an opportunity to not just speak with them, but to have an extended and interactive experience with them, they are likely to change their food purchasing habits. When people learn about the daily lives of farmers, we believe they will develop a deeper appreciation of what they do and become more respectful of their work.

Ultimately we want to create a space where people can develop empathy through experiential activities and/or events.

This is how we plan to do it

We offer interactive cooking workshops that bring together farmers and consumers. The workshop will include the farmer sharing their story with the group, a session of cooking together and then finally a sit down meal with a glass of wine.

This workshop will target socially conscious working professionals who enjoy cooking and sharing food together. Our workshops are for people who want to have an experience that is fun, educational and a bit different, all while contributing to a more sustainable food system.

When people connect with farmers through their stories, we have found that they are more likely to purchase food from them in the future. Alongside the workshops we are also looking to create a video series that shares the stories of our farmers with a much larger audience.

Where we started

We started with the idea of addressing decision fatigue – helping people to overcome the shear amount of information and misinformation there is around eating well. Although this is still a component of our project, we expanded it to be more focused on how we can build relationships and develop empathy between people that produce food and people that eat food.

We have found that 2 weeks after the workshop participants are in fact more willing to purchase from that producer, however it needs to be easy and convenient.

What we learned

We have now run two prototype workshops and found them to be very successful! As we assumed, people love the interactive and social nature of the workshops. Our hypothesis was that when people have a genuine experience with a farmer they are more likely to purchase from that producer in the future. We have found that 2 weeks after the workshop participants are in fact more willing to purchase from that producer, however it needs to be easy and convenient.  

We are different from other cooking classes in the sense that people can walk away with the knowledge and the skills to help create a more sustainable food system, all while having a fun experience!

What’s next

We are now working on how we can encourage more people to attend the workshops and get the word out there more. We are also really passionate about telling the stories of our primary producers, and understand that not everyone can come to a cooking workshop, so we are looking to develop a video series that shares these stories online.  

These short 10-12 minute videos will follow the same format of the workshops – telling the farmers story, cooking a dish or two based on their product and finally sitting down together and asking the sorts of questions people not normally get to ask. We think this will video series will be attractive to people who want to learn about where their food comes from, hear directly from primary producers and to get a few extra recipe ideas in their repertoire.

What we need

We are looking for people that are willing to help us promote the cooking workshops and to partner with us. The nature of the workshops is that they are really flexible, so if an organisation wanted to highlight a product or an idea, we would love to partner with them!

We are also looking for funding to create the online video series and get the stories of our primary producers out to the Australian public and the world!

A little about us

Ben Mac is a Chef, Environmentalist
and Social Entrepreneur
with a desire to catalyse social change through food.

Ian Parish is a
content creator interested
in helping people tell
stories that educate
and inform about food.

Like to know more or want to work with us? Please get in touch.

Our website socialfoodproject.com

Email Ben McMenamin at benmac@socialfoodproject.com

Phone Ben on 0412 342 504

CONNECT WITH THE SOCIAL PROJECT ONLINE