PORT TOWNSEND, Wash.– It’s called the “gig economy”. Technology is changing how we connect with one another and even how we make money. You can rent out your guest room on Airbnb. You can lease out time in your car with Uber or Lyft ride services. And now, thanks to a Port Townsend man, you can sell backyard produce and create community at the same time. It’s a service called “Veggie Vinder”.
“Two different kinds of potatoes,” points Dave Seabrook to the far end of his large backyard garden. “Red potatoes and Yukon Gold back there.” Seabrook and his wife Karen have converted a big chunk of their forested property outside of Port Townsend into a lush garden.
"It's a productive venture, but it's also just enjoyable to be out there," says Seabrook. Not all of what they grow is for them, some goes to local food banks and they've started selling on a new social media platform. Veggie Vinder connects backyard growers with those looking to buy produce locally. Buyers can get their orders delivered for about five bucks or can just go and pick them up.
"A huge, huge difference," says Mark Djarnatt. He's a father of three who was one of the first buyers on Veggie Vinder. "You taste some of this and compared to what you get in the store and it's an amazing difference." Right now the produce from the website can only supplement his grocery store trips-- but since the prices are similar, he loves buying locally and knowing the grower.
"We don't have the room for a garden," says Djarnatt, "but if we had the room-- we would be doing this."
Veggie Vinder just turned one year old this summer. Already they're found in eleven states so far. But this hyper local concept of connecting growers and buyers could very well go global.
"I'd like to see this in other countries," says Veggie Vinder founder Sam Lillie, "where other communities can just form together and just get this going." Lillie's seed for Veggie Vinder was planted on a long walk home. "I saw apples and stuff like this growing in people's front yard and I thought 'why can you just from a neighbor?'" Lillie knocked on countless doors signing up backyard growers to sell their extra produce at no cost to them. Lillie says it just felt wrong to make any money from growers since they put so much effort and time into tilling the soil, watering and nurturing the plants. Veggie Vinder's business model puts a 20 percent surcharge on each order that the buyer pays.
"We've got more buyers than we do growers, which has been crazy," Lillie says. "We've got this huge demand for it. It started with people and we wouldn't be where we are without our community members."
And with high demand, Lillie challenges all backyard growers to give them a try as we enter harvest season. "As soon as somebody posts an item on Vinder, it opens their community up," he says. "The options and the possibilities are endless."
For grower, Dave Seabrook, he's been fan of being a part of the service so far. He says Veggie Vinder is a great addition to local farmers markets, since market schedules can conflict with all sorts of things in people's daily lives. "The more people get involved growing and getting interested in purchasing local produce," says Seabrook, " the stronger your local community will be and the greater resilience your community will be when you need that resilience."
Right now Veggie Vinder is a only a website platform but a phone app is currently in the works. Seabrook says everyone should give it a try, "plant a seed and see what happens."