Here’s a blast from the past. Almost 10 years ago I used to be more involved with Sustainable Connections, the food co-op, the Bellingham Farmers Market, and all the rest of the so-called “sustainable” community. After suggesting a “loop transport system” for delivering fresh produce to Bellingham WHILE letting the farmers stay on the farm instead of delivering, I actually put up some numbers on a couple of websites. Of course I was roundly criticized for this, which immediately raises the questions, “Why are all these organizations so invested in making all the farmers drive their pickemup trucks to Bellingham when it increases the cost of transport so dramatically AND takes a significant amount of time that could be put to production?” I still don’t have an answer.
Anyways, here are some simple numbers.
1) Suppose you designated three transport loops in Whatcom County. They would be Ferndale/Blaine, Everson/Lynden and Acme/Deming.
2) Suppose a driver and truck/van goes to the farms to pick up 3 times a week and covers 100 miles per loop and takes 3 hours to do so.
3) Cost of driver at $15/hour = $45
4) Cost of truck/van at 60 cents/mile = $60
5) Cost of each loop = $105
6) If 300 pounds are delivered, the transport cost is 35 cents/lb. If 500 pounds delivered, the transport cost is 21 cents/lb.
Now here is the big question. Would a farmer pay 21-35 cents a pound to get his/her produce delivered to a dropoff point in Bellingham, so they could spend more time farming? You damn betcha!
So why aren’t all these so-called “sustainable” organizations on board with this idea which has been kicking around for nearly 10 years? Beats me.
[Sidebar: Cloud Mountain has plans for an aggregation program, but since they require the farmers to bring their produce to Cloud Mountain, it doesn’t provide a real alternative to the present system. Puget Sound Food Hub has an aggregation site, but again, they require the farmers to deliver to the central site so it is not a real alternative.]