The Garden Route boasts a strong community of small-scale farmers that have been growing organic for many years. From seasoned lemon growers to veggie specialists, our wonderful hills host farmers of all scales and backgrounds, providing towns and villages with fresh, naturally grown produce. Aside from a few weekly markets and drop-off points, many have sold in bulk to retailers in Sedgefield, Knysna, George, and Plett, losing out on more sustainable sales to households.
Over the years, many delivery services, co-ops and small grocers have popped up to help close this gap between farms and kitchens. Having been one of these farmers who have sold vegetables, fruits and other produce through many different channels, the journey of food through Scarabhill as a service is worth exploring. Many believe that the process simply sees us get in the truck and pick-up crates at different farms, but the process is a lot more than carting veg across the province. Knowing of our farmer's growing plans, understanding seasonal varieties, purchasing at different frequencies, ensuring consistent supply, and careful timing when picking and delivering are all part of the food delivery process when working on the ground with local growers. The below steps hope to shed more light on Scarabhill Farm's growing, sourcing, packing, and delivery processes, to give our customers and community greater insight into our little organic grocery setup.
Growing plans on farms
A growing plan is a written, typed, or mapped plan of what produce is to be grown over a designated period of time. Organic farmers use growing plans to organize their soil, water stocks, and natural inputs to grow vegetables and fruits in accordance with the needs of their community, and within the limitations of their land. Growing plans not only protect farmers from under or over producing food, but it also ensures that growing is optimized to the make-up of soils, the availability of water, and the capacity of the natural environment to meet the demand of local clients.
Before we put product lists on our site, we make sure our farm and those who supply our client-base have given us their growing plans for the season. Knowing what quantities are available help us gauge what to pack when, and what we can't offer come the change of seasons. Also, we can use growing plans to determine how weather and availability of water make affect the output of produce. If we know approximately what is in the fields, preparing for blistering, summer months and icy, winter weekends is a lot more achievable. Furthermore, these plans tell us what inputs go into growing the produce, what the strengths and weaknesses of production, and whether offering a product range is sustainable in both an economic and environmental sense. Currently, we are looking to load our growing plans that we have on-hand to our site, along with farm maps, warnings, yield quantities and more open-source data for clients and farmers to read and use.
Collecting orders and scheduling collections
After we know what is in the fields or in the kitchens, and your food orders have been placed online, we begin scheduling picking and collection times on the farm, and with our producers. These orders are based on both our online and call-in orders, the latter of which are placed through the website to sync our purchases. Once all food orders have been placed through our online store, we schedule the days in which we are looking to collect. Days and times may shift as we need to collect food deliveries at the exact moment produce is harvested, or sealed in a glass jar. Serving our products as fresh as possible is as important as how produce is grown, so our scheduling for picking and collecting fruits and vegetables has to be hands-on, each week. Even for fruits that need to be collected beyond the Garden Route, our trips are planned around the time fruit is prepared on farms and not fetched from cold storage.
Washing and packing
With our different product types, we need to prepare our products according to how our clients wish to receive their organic food. Furthermore, our packaging ranges from biodegradable solutions such as cellulose and paper, to no packaging at all where food is bunched together with string as bulk orders. We also need time to prepare natural fruit and veg washing solutions - which are a mixture of clean, mountain water, lemon and white vinegar. Additionally, all surfaces need to be sterilized to ensure that produce that is packed lasts as long as possible once deliveries have been made around the Garden Route.
The food deliveries
At the moment, our grocery delivery schedule allows us to deliver twice a week to Knysna, Sedgefield, Wilderness, and Plett. For orders made between Thursday and Sunday, we deliver on Wednesday, and for orders taken between Monday and Wednesday, we deliver on Friday. Depending on how many orders are made in each particular region of the Garden Route, our timing will shift to deliver to the town or hamlet that has the most orders. For example, if we have an influx of Wilderness orders, the lovely hills of Hoekwil should expect to get their veg in the morning, and folk in Knysna receiving their groceries in the afternoon. However, we do make special arrangements if people need their orders at a particular time, so do not feel pressured to make an order on a particular day expecting to be last. Additionally, we also can deliver on additional days when demand is consistent.
Getting your feedback
The last step, which is a recent addition to our food delivery process, is getting our client feedback; be it in person or through online forms. Currently, we directly contact our clients via phone call or WhatsApp/Telegram messages, but have also created an online form for more detailed responses. This form helps us to understand where we went wrong, or where we are making the right moves in our mission to farm, collect and delivery naturally grown food. If you are a client with Scarabhill Farm and want to give us your feedback, please do not hesitate to visit our 'customer feedback form' to let us know how you feel, and where we can improve.
Thank you for taking the time to read the above steps in our business, and we look forward to dropping a veggie basket off by you, in the near future.