WE have apples,” is displayed on the front window of Organic Collective in Hilton.
The sign seemed strange as you can buy apples at any supermarket, but this isn’t any supermarket and the apples, like all fresh produce at Organic Collective, are only available when they’re in season locally.
OC owner Bernie Morrow claims apples bought in February are tasteless.
“They’ve been in cold storage for nine months,” he says.
More than 17 years ago, five hard-up families began pooling money to bulk-buy food from the Canning Vale markets.
Unemployed at the time, Mr Morrow found himself doing all the leg work: “And it started evolving into a business,” he says.
In the early days it was just a weekly home delivery, with boxes of organic goodies left on locals’ doorsteps.
Then a shop was added.
Over the years the range has diversified and along with fruit and veg you’ll find a great bulk range, including flour, tea, rice, organic popping corn, and just about everything in between.
There’s even colourfully wrapped toilet paper, available by the box or by the roll.
Organic and recycled, 50 per cent of the company’s sales go towards building toilets in developing countries.
Mr Morrow says the growing demand for organic produce hasn’t made sourcing it any easier.
“With organic you do have to run around to get it; you can’t just pick it up from anywhere,” he says.
“In WA we have only a handful of organic growers.
“It’s a lot of work. We do have farmers who bring in direct to us, but everyday we are at the markets.
“We supply healthy food and work with the natural ebb and flow of the seasons.”
WA’s unseasonal weather has had an impact, with some things more abundant and tastier than others.
“There seems to be quality issues, which is unfortunate for growers, and customers…[but] grapes have been good this year.”
At OC you won’t find the uniformly shaped fruit and veg you get in the big supermarkets (they reject around 60 per cent of produce at the farm gate because it doesn’t conform).
“Natural variation is something consumers need to understand,” Mr Morrow says.
A former graphic designer, he knew 10 months into the job it wasn’t for him.
“I have a passion for food and a healthy community, and work in what I believe in,” he says.
“We hold strong to these values.” Organic Collective is on the corner of Winterfold and Greenslades Streets in Hilton.
by JENNY D’ANGER