Changing community mindset changes company culture & mindset
Consumer disgust with tomatoes that didn’t taste or look ‘real’ led to supply-side change years ago now. It seems today there is a demand for more flavour in lettuce, also coupled with a far greater concern for the environment. The question is how can we harness this growing consumer sentiment to ensure more suppliers of more goods pay attention to sustainability? Is a Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) an option for Australian Communities?
Keilor Valley Gardens started up in 1946 when George Damtsis migrated from North Greece to Keilor, on Melbourne’s north-western outskirts. He lived in a stable as he set up his business growing seasonal veg for the domestic market and running a stall three times a week at the Vic. Market.
Brothers Steve and Peter Skopilianos now run this third generation privately-owned family company. They supply around 80% of packaged specialty lettuce and some minimally processed products like coleslaw, sliced onion and shredded lettuce to the ‘foodservice market’ – meals eaten outside the home.
Hospitality Magazine reports that the business is moving to a totally organic system. Their new Ladybird Organics brand should receive certification next month from Biological Farmers Australia and will be able to label their farm produce “Organic in Conversion”.
Historically, small-scale lifestyle operators have grown organic vegetables but, increasingly, demand has made organic horticulture a very fast growing industry. The signals for change for Keilor Valley Gardens were:
Now the brothers say:
“Instead of throwing expensive and harmful agricultural chemicals at problems, we recognised the value of organics to break the cycle and satisfy our vision—to put people and the environment first…. We’re almost going full circle—back to the natural farming practices that our grandparents used when they set up market gardening in this same area in the mid 1940s…..
…….We’ve been able to approach organics atypically – with existing, high-volume systems in place and three generations of expertise and knowledge of the supply chain. Our challenge has been to deepen our understanding of organic principles and techniques and explore ways to incorporate them into our very successful commercial systems.”
A frightening possibility?
At a dinner party recently I heard of a trend – if not a well-established practice – of ‘foodservice businesses’ in the US not having ‘real’ kitchens where they prepare food, but where they have masses of drawers of pre-prepared food that they simply assemble. A fellow guest had asked for some poached eggs but as they were like rubber balls, he asked if the kitchen would re-do his order. He was told this was not possible as they were not prepared on site! Are we headed down this track? Is this where we want to go?