This post looks at Bailey’s Local Foods, a local online farmer’s market serving the Waterloo Region (which includes Kitchener!). I had the chance to sit down with the founder, Nina, a few weeks ago and one of the current owners, Rachael, a little while after. It was great talking with both of them about the development of Bailey’s, asking lots of questions, and learning more about the business and its history.
Life as a locavore can be a challenge but does it have to be? As much as you may enjoy a good challenge, most people prefer to limit the challenges in their lives. Eating local year round often means shopping at several different places—farmers markets, local specialty grocers, health foods stores, etc—and constantly wondering if you’re going to be able to find the items you’re looking for! In Kitchener/Waterloo Bailey’s Local Foods enables consumers to find all their local food needs in one place online!
Bailey’s Local Foods began as a small buying club and has grown into an Online Farmer’s Market. As a consumer you have easy access to dozens of farmers and producers from within a 100 mile radius of the Region of Waterloo. For every scheduled pickup day there is a deadline for ordering. Customers know in advance what is available and are able to plan meals accordingly. During the main growing season there are weekly pickups and during the winter they are every 2-4 weeks. The comprehensive online ordering site allows the consumer to see which producers have a certain item, how much it will cost, and how many of each item are available.
“I wanted Bailey’s to be easy,” says founder Nina Bailey-Dick. “I wanted people to know that these foods were good options for them. It relieves a mental load to know that someone else is doing the research and passing along the information about the food and its producers. Part of the reason that was important to me was because I had been at that state where I could only handle going to the grocery store—I wanted to help overwhelmed people.”
Bailey’s came about through a very organic process. Its roots lie in 2007 when Nina was on her maternity leave with her third child. She had her baby, toddler, and 5-year-old and found herself making regular trips out to the country to visit local farms for fresh produce. Her parents had recently moved in with her family “and as a way of getting my dad involved with the community we started telling others when we were picking up stuff. It snowballed early on and soon there were 60 people showing up for pickups in our front yard. I was overwhelmed and didn’t have a good system. Rachael [Ward] stepped in and helped me organize and got me set up with a Google Docs survey form. She walked me through it and helped me learn how to use it. At the end of the season when I had a chance to breathe I said ‘I can’t do this on my own, Rachel do you want to join me?’ Rachel’s husband got involved too and volunteered his programming skills to develop the online site, 100 Mile Food Systems.”
At the end of the first season the city of Waterloo came to Bailey’s to let them know that they were breaking city code. “They were logical about it, but allowed us two more weeks to deal with the remaining stock we had. We had to figure out how we could continue.” Nina and Rachael researched local churches that had commercial activity zoning and chose First United Church Waterloo.
They began their second year with pickups at First United, and were able to expand to more varieties of produce and processed foods. The third year Nina decided to sell her half of the business to Maryrose Ivanco. Reflecting on that decision Nina says, “I realized I’m good at starting things and then want to move on. Maryrose and Rachel have taken the business to the next level.”
Today Bailey’s averages a yearly membership of over 400 individuals and families. Current owners Rachael Ward and Maryrose Ivanco work hard with three other staff members and a dozen volunteers every week to make sure that the ordering and pickup goes smoothly and that customers are updated on last-minute changes and special offers. They are in the process of creating a new website that will replace the current one, www.baileyslocalfoods.ca.
“I don’t think buying clubs are the answer for everyone,” says Nina. “Some people do the farmers’ market, some people love going to the farms—buying clubs aren’t the solution but they are a part of the solution. I’m not a purist about eating 100% local food, but we need to replace the stuff that can be easily replaced. I’d like to see many buying clubs, all over the city.”
All Photos © Bailey’s Local Foods, 2013
This article was originally written for Ontario Culinary Tourism.