You want to buy food that’s better for you, your family, farmers, the environment, but you don’t know where to go? Supermarkets ain’t cutting it for you? Here’s our quick guide to alternative food outlets, for every which type:

Because supermarket shopping can feel like this.

Farmers’ markets bring many food producers together and offer a wide variety of seasonal and regional produce picked fresh, sometimes even on the day of the market. They’re an easy, convenient and fun way to find locally grown food.

The direct relationship with customers means that farmers’ market stallholders are held accountable for the quality of their produce. They set and receive what they deem to be a fair price for their produce and can explain what is involved in production and what drives their pricing. This also allows shoppers to make more informed choices about organic versus conventional versus biodynamic and sample the differences.

Check out Australian Farmers’ Market Association for a list of markets in each state, or use Local Harvest to find one close to you – enter your postcode and type ‘farmers market’.

Next time you get out of town or head down the coast, look into farms that operate a farmgate or seafood providers who sell at co-ops near a pier or fresh off the boat. ‘Pick-your-own’ farms, farmgates and cellar doors all offer the unique experience of visiting the source of your produce and meeting the people who grow and make it. This is not just shopping for food, it’s an opportunity to see the process up close in person and gain an insight into the growing environment. Some fishermen also sell direct from their boat or on a pier.

Use Local Harvest to find farm gates close to you – enter your postcode and type ‘farmgate’.

This one’s for the time-poor. Take the effort out of food shopping and sign up to a sustainable box system. Produce boxes help strike the right balance between convenience and healthy, ethical and environmentally sound food.

Finding the right service is key; both organic and conventional greengrocers may offer box delivery, as do online grocers. The environmental benefits and impacts of each may differ despite catchy marketing names, so be sure to enquire about this when deciding which box system is appropriate for you. Food co-ops and CSAs can also utilise box delivery schemes by making them available for collection from a central point.

Use Local Harvest to find a box system that delivers to your area – enter your postcode and type ‘box system’, or do a quick internet search.

Are you interested in developing a closer connection with your source of food? Then consider becoming involved in community supported agriculture (CSA). A CSA extends your participation into the production of the food you eat, such that you invest and share in the risks and benefits of growing food on a specific farm. CSAs help growers by guaranteeing sales when crops are successful and minimising losses when they are not. They offer city dwellers a rare opportunity to personally invest food production. CSAs provide a great way to source direct from the farm and share the risks and benefits of production with the farmers.

Use Local Harvest to find a local CSA – enter your postcode and type ‘CSA’.

If you love to grow your own food, but find yourself with too much of the one thing, then food-swaps are for you.

Neighbourhood food swaps may offer the perfect solution to a glut of garden produce. If your crops should falter, home-cooked meals, preserves, cordials and recipes can be used as trading commodities. An online search, talking to other gardeners or community noticeboards is a great way to get involved with a local swap, alternatively you can always start your own.

Use Local Harvest to find a food swap near you – enter your postcode and ‘food swap website’ – or browse the My Home Harvest website.

If you love the idea of meeting people in your local area, sharing food stories and buying in bulk together to avoid packaging then get on down to your local food co-op.

Food co-ops are owned by their members and usually sell organic, locally and ethically sourced groceries in bulk. Food co-ops can be stores or groups that, because of their collective buying power, can provide these items in a more economical way. Producers who work with co-ops have the benefit of selling in bulk and can use less packaging.

Use Local Harvest to find a food co-op close to you – enter your postcode and type ‘co-op’.

Adapted from Seasonal Regional, by Sarah Robins.
Header image via here.