RecentlyI was talking to the rep of a grocery maker about her experience selling products to Coles (I won't name her for obvious reasons). Anyway she was telling me that if Coles decided they'd stop selling one of her products she'd be charged about $15,000 to delete the line. "You get charged to stop selling an item?" I asked, gobsmacked. "Yep," she said matter of factly, like this was as normal as getting dressed in the morning. Still taken aback by the concept of it allI went home that night and found an article in the Australian Business Review with excerpt of a Coles email outlining the policy and more mind boggling charges and conditions Coles imposes on its suppliers.
If you've been watching the news lately there has been lots of similar examples about Coles and Woolworths - none more insidious than "Perfect Profits Day," where it's been alleged Coles asks its suppliers for payments to make up gaps in its profit forecasts. Imagine getting a bill from a business you sell products to because they haven't made as much money on them as they thought they would? I marvel at the sheer creativity Coles executives display when it comes to getting money out of its suppliers and the more I read the more it sounds like something out of Terry Gilliam's "Brazil".
When people know these things I wonder why they aren't leaving the big two supermarkets in droves. Instead the opposite seems to be true. But why? When you do find yourself in their fluoro lit aisles it's obvious, the big two supermarkets are convenient, cheap, have a big range and are everywhere. I know there are many people who do want an alternative place to shop - currently we see 300 of them try us out each month and then drift away because shopping our way is too hard. And this is why we are crowdfunding for new webshop software. We need tol remove the hard parts of buying ethically at Fair Food and we need to lower our prices with better logistics systems. So when somebody can't stomach the way the big supermarkets do business, leaving or staying is the only consideration to make.
Thanks to everybody who has donated so far, we're at $4000 - when we get to our first mini goal of $5000 the Clifton Hill / North Fitzroy Community Branch of the Bendigo Bank will double it! And if we can reach our tipping point of $25,000 this project goes ahead. So help us by sharing the campaign via these methods - actual talking about it with others as well the usual social channels like Facebook, Twitter and email.
The man who honey coated Melbourne
Lyndon Fenlon from the Urban Honey Co wrote an email the other day and it just blew me away (that's Lyndon in the middle delivering hives to the Rialto on his beekeeper's bike) . He announced that he was closing the Urban Honey Co he'd founded and was heading out to start anew in East Gippsland. The amazing thing wasn't that he was leaving but what he was leaving behind. The email laid out what he'd done over the past 12 years and I suddenly saw the scope of his vision and the persistence and patience it took to make it happen.
I first met Lyndon about 7 years ago when he came to CERES Farm as a hobbyist beekeeper looking for somewhere to put his hives. He was desperate, he'd literally run out of room at his house and had so many hives he was worried the Dept of Primary Industry were going to shut him down. For years he been asking everywhere - local councils, green groups, churches and schools but nobody wanted his hives everybody was afraid of swarms & stings and anaphylaxis & potential lawsuits.
CERES had had hives in the past but they'd belonged to the previous farm manager and he'd taken them when he left. I couldn't believe my luck, here was somebody who wanted to keep bees in the city and we had no bees. I jumped at the chance and one night not long after we brought the hives back to CERES on our market truck. In exchange for a site for his hives we made a deal that Lyndon would sell some of his honey to our Market and he'd set up a free bee group to teach local people how to work with bees.
The bee group started up on the 3rd Sunday of the month and Lyndon opened his business, the Urban Honey Co. Lyndon was a purist, he did everything manually and transported his equipment by bike. I respected his choices but thought a van would have made things a lot easier. As I read Lyndon's email however it all became clear, I knew he had environmental motives for being so low tech but the "aha" moment came when he explained, that working this way capped how big he could grow which meant if he wanted beekeepers across Melbourne he would have to find them and teach them .
Lyndon's legacy has literally honey-coated Melbourne. In the last 10 years everything about urban beekeeping has changed and Lyndon's fingerprints are all over that change. He built a business that let him quit his office job and taught others to do the same, he started free-to-learn bee groups around Melbourne where he taught over 1000 student beekeepers, he introduced bees into primary schools and developed gentle beekeeping techniques that have inspired urban honey businesses in America, India and the UK. On his retirement Lyndon rode his 3 wheeler bee-bike 21 hours straight out to his new place in East Gippsland. And am I ever looking forward to seeing what he does next.
Have a great week
CERES Fair Food's weekly update with stories from our farmers and producers, Food Hosts, the Fair Food warehouse and theworld at large.