Thursday, July 3, 2014

Soil Mate connects public with farmers

Soil Mate, a social networking internet service, is connecting people who want to know where their food and drink are coming from with farmers, farmers markets and wineries.

The service that launched this spring is available across Canada and in 40 states in the United States.

Canadian Press features Matt Gomez who “found the need for such a site when he ‘couldn't find local produce in a way that was convenient for me, not necessarily trudging into the farmers market by a certain time every Saturday to get what I needed. I was looking online to try and find real simple information, basically what was available in the area, how it was grown, where I could buy it and when I could get it and that was really all I needed. My impetus was that I had little kids’.”

He grew up in Luton, England, and in 2008 moved with his wife to Kelowna, B.C., where they became concerned about their food as they started raising two children, now one and three years old.

"I became more aware once I was here because it's more of an agricultural region and started to see that connection and over time start to learn about some of the more fashionable issues like GMO (genetically modified) crops and any pesticide use to some of the more political pieces like the distance travelled and treatment of migrant workers, all of the different pieces that go into the food security.

"I became aware of all that sort of stuff and made some changes and tried to find stuff online to buy local produce and then I had kids and I couldn't be so blasé about it," he is quoted.

With his background in online marketing, he decided to quit his job, seek investment and found Soil Mate.

Consumers logging on to the site find farms and markets within a 160-kilometre radius, directions and hours.

People can sort by crop, organic or non-GMO, and in some cases can order directly from the farm.
"The whole crux of it is to be non-political, non-judgment based, not pushing any agenda, just presenting all the information and you make your own decisions," the says.

"If organic is something that's important to you, then you can find organic. If you don't really care, you just care more about the farmer's story, then read their profile."

"What we're finding is a massive adoption rate when farmers find us ... we actually have a 95 per cent signup rate.

“The issue is just actually getting the system in front of them. I wouldn't say it's a no-brainer.
“Farmers have options, right? Directories have been shoved down their throats for years. It's just no one's really created a good directory. They can be a little bit jaded on it. ...

"Once you start to explain the concept of Soil Mate and how it's different from literally every other system out there and how it's helpful and how it doesn't have much of an impact on them from a time perspective. We did focus groups as well so we actually had farmers help us develop it, so we knew they'd actually use it and update it and all that sort of stuff."