Online platform supports farmers

Not-for-profit service Open Food Network has allowed farmers to continue to run their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic despite the shut down of restaurants, cafes and farmers markets thanks to a new open-source online platform.

Numerous producers in the Mitchell Shire have jumped on board, including Clonbinane’s Warialda Belted Galloways, Tooborac’s McIvor Farm Foods and Seymour’s Somerset Heritage Produce to work together or individually and sell their produce directly to consumers.

Producers can manage their own online stores, combine with nearby producers to provide a one-stop shop or take part in a virtual farmers market.

Open Food Network was founded by Warrenbayne lamb farmers Kirsten Larsen and Serenity Hill in 2012 after they saw farmers weren’t getting rewarded for practices and talked to them about getting more of the retail dollar into farmers’ pockets.

Open Food Network director Jen Sheridan said each farmer managed their own brand, stock levels and prices so they maintained control and ensured a fair deal.

“We’re really happy with it. It’s been really exciting to see so many people use it and be able to jump on immediately and set up their farm or transition their farmers market online,” she said.

“We’ve had people, within 48 hours, have their whole farmers market online and ready to seel after they got shut down.”

Since many farmers markets shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Open Food Network has seen a 10-fold increase in producers signing up for new shops, while existing shops have tripled their business.

“There are so many supportive shoppers out there that want to connect with their farmers and want to buy this amazing local produce and this support through direct sales is such a relief for farmers on Open Food Network who have come through drought, flood and fire in the last six months,” Ms Sheridan said.

Producers looking to sell or shoppers looking to support farmers can visit www.openfoodnetwork.org.au or send an email to hello@openfoodnetwork.com.au.