By Kirra Grimes
WITH a birthday cake made of stacked wheels of mouth-watering local cheese, and surrounded by fresh local figs and honeycomb taken from beehives just metres away, the Prom Coast Food Collective celebrated its first birthday in manner truly befitting its philosophy of championing local produce and sharing the benefits between farmers and consumers.
The Sunday gathering at Dumbalk’s Blue Tree Honey Farm was, like every PCFC convergence, all about the food and a relaxed, community vibe, with just a touch of ceremony to mark a successful first year of collaboration between small family farms, ethical producers and makers, and conscientious consumers.
Co-founders Sally Ruljancich and Amelia Bright said a few words, thanking the Collective’s suppliers and customers for their support, and their families for understanding their dedication to the project.
“I’m just overwhelmed by the success, really. And so thankful for the generosity of everyone involved,” Amelia said.
The multi-producer hub, which offers everything from poultry, lamb, beef, cheese, olive oil, condiments, vegetables, honey, fruit, bread, flour, crackers, baked treats, pork and smallgoods, butter, milk and eggs, has grown and evolved since starting a year ago, with more producers coming on board (around 20 now with some seasonal), more products available (around 500), and more options for people to pick up their prepaid orders.
“We’re having a great time,” said Sally. “We’ve cemented what we’ve always known, which is that collaboration is the key.
“We can all be doing the best local food gig ever but there needs to be collaboration if we’re going to meet that convenience market where people pick up their shopping from one place. Otherwise they’re driving around.
“We also wanted to create more security for farmers and this is a low to no risk model.
“Not a single carrot is pulled up by our vegetable producers unless they’ve already sold it.”
With a customer base of 60 to 75 people, the Collective is averaging $10,000 a month, and in total, over one year, has taken in over $127,000.
“That’s all gone straight back to farmers and producers because we don’t take any commission and it doesn’t cost anything for a producer or farmer to be involved,” Sally said.
Not too much is going to change in the near future, but Sally says they’re “always kicking around ideas,” especially to give farmers even more consistency and security of cash flow.
One idea in the works is to turn the Collective into a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group, which, alongside the existing model of monthly online ordering, would give consumers the option to subscribe to the harvest of a certain group of farms.
Sally says the Collective has attracted lots of interest from other communities wanting to start a similar thing, and that although none have started yet, they’re expecting something to happen in north east Victoria soon.
“I speak to five farmers or community groups over the phone every week asking how they can do something similar. We’re trying to figure out why it hasn’t happened yet. You do need to have a lot of energy and you do need to be hyper-collaborative. Rallying people is a particular skill.”