The long overdue update - what I've been working on

Every site redesign / rebuild starts off with the best intentions. In my case, having a shiny new home for my portfolio and blog would of course mean I'd miraculously start blogging daily, but alas that hasn't been the case. Real life happened and as a result, updating my site fell by the way-side.

That doesn't mean I haven't been busy though.

In all the madness of the past 2+ years, my priorities have shifted from working online to preparing offline. Things like taking the farm from a hobby to a reliable source of food, establishing systems that either feed, heat or heal, all the while thinking of the farms place in our wider community, my role in all of it and ways I can help foster more collaboration and resilience within our community.

My train of thought made the natural progression from evaluating the farm and it's potential resources, which then branched out to my neighbours. It went some like this:

"Hmmm, I wonder if my neighbours would be up for getting a shared milking cow. We could rotate it between our various plots, share the responsibilities and more importantly the bounty. Hmm, Andrea has chickens. What would it take to extend her production that there is enough to go around? Oh and then the other neighbour further down has rabbits, same question applies. Hmmmm...."

The more I thought about it, the more I realised this applied to the greater Garden Route, where we have an abundance of local producers, but nothing connecting them. Each of us trying to cover all of our basic needs, ultimately spreading ourselves too thinly.

Wouldn't it make more sense to evaluate each individual farm / homestead and focus on growing or producing what is best suited to our unique environments, microclimate, wildlife, interest, etc. By taking this approach we can each work towards becoming masters of our selected crafts, while having an abundance to sell, share and trade. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

Then one day while at our local seed-swap, I got to talking with an old friend Rebecca, who has been organising the seed-swaps for the past two years and we found a lot of overlap with our thinking. More thinking led to more chats and it wasn't long after that we decided to team up to formulate an action plan to mobilise the community.

Our brain-storming efforts resulted in the following list of potential projects / focus areas:

  • Establish a co-operative of local producers and provide support through planning, tooling, analytics and certification.
  • Support existing producers expansion through community based micro-finance.
  • Provide multiple outlets for producers to get their products to market.
  • Setup our own alternative platforms to use over big-tech and their over-zealous censorship.

It's been just shy of a year since first started working on the project and we have made progress on all of the above goals. There is much to cover, but I'll do my best to summarise as best I can.

  • Launched a hobby side-project called SavvyGarden, which I built as a way of getting the veggie beds more organised using companion planting. It's built as a web-app using Gridsome with Airtable as the backend. It is purposefully utilitarian in design, as performance and low-data, working offline were all high on my priority list, including no ads or tracking. I plan on extending the plants database over time and am working on adding front-end submission and the ability to provide more information about specific plants, or suggest a change. I'm also working on a built in shop (selling gardening posters, merch, ebooks and adult colouring-in designs by local artists), which I'll use as a non-intrusive way of monetising the apps development.
  • Started working on the EdenHub online marketplace, which for the purpose of getting an MVP setup, I opted to go with WordPress, WooCommerce and  Dokan.
  • Connected with KindaCommunity in Mossel Bay, who graciously kept food on the table while working on the project through a generous donation and who purchased a dedicated server to host the hub and our communication tools.
  • Connected with Janet Gracie who has extensive experience establishing co-operatives and tracking every step of the supply chain. We're working with her to establish the co-operative and relying heavily on her experience to build the producer tooling.
  • Setup our own Cloudron instance to manage our various open-source communication tools such as the community discussion forum, secure chat server, resource library, project management, etc.
  • Launched the site, outlining the various projects we're tackling, capturing emails for our newsletter and a blog to share updates about the project.
  • Went on a discovery tour with Stefan (the animal husbandry ninja who was helping out on the farm) to Suurbrak and Swellendam, where we visited the Kinda Community's new fruit-farm that they recently purchased, which will be feeding organic produce back into the community (spoiler alert, it's frikken awesome). We also met-up with Shantal Starck from The Earth Center in Swellendam, who was excited to signup as a vendor and collection point.
  • I was invited to a round-table discussion on zoom by Hugh, which had  representatives from Kinda Community, Project 222, PGS SA, Magic and the local Rastafarian community in Knysna. It was inspiring to see hear about all the exciting ways the different organisations are taking to forge a better future for South Africa and I walked away with many actionable insights and lots of potential for collaboration.
  • Connected with LiveFr8 (a local logistics company who's mission is to ensure no truck ever drives partially empty) about doing a weekly pickup / dropoff run from Swellendam to Natures Valley and back.
  • Launched v1 of the marketplace, where vendors choose which delivery options they want to offer (ie, meet-up in person, collect from market, pudo, aramex, etc). For the initial launch we have around 40 or so active vendors (with another 50 or so still being on-boarded) and around 500+ products.

What's next?

Our focus now will be on-boarding existing vendors who haven't added products, while recruiting more. I'll also use this time to continue to refine the sites overall mobile experience and performance, while starting the early development on v2, which will be take full advantage of the jamstack, finally decoupling from WordPress - and that my friends is when the real fun begins.

Until next time, keep it smokey ;)