A new trend that is starting to emerge in some areas is the use of ‘home-grown’ produce in cafes and other eateries. This is a new community trade food model that has started to appear in cities like Melbourne and Adelaide – that I know of anyway – I dare say there are many more.
Enthusiasts call it kitchen crowd-sourcing, whereby eco-minded cafes appeal to local residents and regulars to participate in a food swap that might see that extra box of home-grown tomatoes or bucket of lemons grown in your own backyard exchanged for a free lunch or a couple of loaves of bread.
The pay-off is twofold, allowing cafes access to produce minus the food miles at the same time as rewarding home growers for their gardening efforts – and it doesn’t go to waste! That could mean enjoying feijoa chutney in your cafe-bought sandwich made from the fruit donated from your own tree.
One particular cafe in Melbourne eatery accepts all produce, though a rotating notice in the front window expresses the kitchen’s specific fruit or vegetable needs on any given day.
Like all cafes following what is a strengthening trend, the receipt of goods can be somewhat ad hoc, necessitating that the home-grown offerings supplement rather than determine the menu. So clearly it is not going to cut out traditional farmers and suppliers altogether – but rather add to the colour and flavour of a café’s offerings.
That also makes it difficult to place a figure on the value of the home grown produce as well. Produce like figs and quinces, once very popular but out of fashion for quite a long time – and now back in again are favourites for this type of activity – mainly because there are relatively few local growers of those fruits on any scale – but plenty of home produce in some areas.
So why are we seeing this type of activity occurring now? Good question.
It has a lot to do reconnecting with community and local produce – for all the social media we have out there – this is definitely a word of mouth activity. There is a growing portion of the population who like growing some of their own food, understanding their own food and cooking with it – these are the people for whom supermarkets cannot satisfy because there is such a large disconnect between the customer and the producer.
I would also suggest that it is about a new generation of café owners and chefs who like these sorts of challenges as well.