Tomatoes in Bowl photo via Shutterstock
By Diana Smith
I hate blackberries. And so does the rest of my family. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that until half an hour after my ten-year-old self picked dozens of them from the vines that grew on the back fence of our family’s new home. Refusing to force hoards of fruit upon on our new neighbors, my mother stored the berries in our refrigerator, in hope that one of us would develop an affinity for them. None of us did. The berries rotted and left our fridge and Tupperware with a permanent odor.
There were probably more than a few people in our neighborhood who actually enjoy the taste of blackberries. People who might have even been willing to purchase them from us in order to avoid having to wait until the weekend farmers market to buy them, or having to pay more for them at a supermarket. Unfortunately, at the time there was no way to know any of this, but now a new web app makes it possible.
Created by husband and wife team, Alistair and Helena Martin of Adelaide, Australia, RipeNearMe provides a platform for people to buy, sell, trade, or give away homegrown produce. Individuals can search for a variety of fruits and vegetables available in their area as well as register their own personally grown food.
The co-founding couple formed the concept for RipeNearMe after noticing that most of the citrus growing on the trees throughout their neighborhood was being left to the birds. And when the Martins realized that they were already spending $5 or $6 a kilo for citrus at the supermarket—some of which had been flown in from other countries—they began brainstorming. “We figured there must be a way to connect people to the fruit trees and produce that grows around them,” explained Alistair Martin.
Martin, who works in sales and marketing, and Helena, an optical dispenser, developed RipeNearMe over the course of twelve months before launching it last year. The result is a foraging app that allows anyone anywhere to aid in the movement of making homegrown food an alternative. But RipeNearMe does more than just put homegrown produce on the map (literally). Unlike other foraging apps, the site is unique in that its users can interact with one another. Consumers can set up subscriptions for their favorite produce, find out if that produce is still “growing” or “ripe,” and make arrangements to purchase or swap food. The interaction fosters a community and gets people back in touch with their neighbors. Further, by providing people with a space where they may turn a profit—or, at least, rest easy knowing what’s in their garden is not going to waste— RipeNearMe encourages urban growing. Something the couple is very passionate about.
“If you look at our ancestors and the generations that came before us, pretty much all of them had a background where they grew some food.”But, as Martin pointed out, most people in developed regions today are not involved in producing food on a significant scale, and supermarkets, in part to keep up with the demand of a growing population, are outsourcing food. “At the moment there’s Californian peaches on supermarket shelves here [in Adelaide],” said Martin. And as explained further on the RipeNearMe website, outsourced produce may not always be the best quality as it can sometimes lack in nutrients or flavor due to the lengthy storage and shipping process. “We want to see homegrown and people-powered food become a viable part of the modern food system.”
Fresh vegetables photo via Shutterstock
RipeNearMe seems to already offer several benefits, but the site is not finished just yet. “RipeNearMe is certainly not at its end point,” clarified Martin. “We sort of built it as a framework that we would be able to expand out on.” Part of that expansion includes plans for a mobile app as well as the ability to list additional foods such as seeds and gardening materials like compost. To aid in RipeNearMe’s development, the couple has established a crowdfunding campaign (which closes in three days).
The Martins would also like to make the app available in multiple languages and currencies. While the app is being used in various parts of the world, even in places where English is not necessarily the first the language—something Martin described as “humbling” and “astounding”—the couple hopes that they can reach more people and, one day, develop the site into a “truly global app.”
That way whether you’re someone on a budget, a traveler looking for unique regional produce, or just hoping to trade your new blackberry crop, RipeNearMe will be, well, right near you.
About the Writer
Diana Smith is a Brooklyn-based writer and photographer originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to her travels in Europe, she has also explored the US, adventuring from coast to coast and back again by way of the road. When Diana isn’t road-tripping she volunteers with a non-profit AIDS organization in New York City. Diana holds a BA in film and media studies from the University of California-Irvine and an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. To view more excerpts from her travels visit RoadsAmerica.com or find her on Twitter @Roads_America.