Dig In vs the Beast Fae the East – The Power of Local

We’re just about thawing out after what was an incredibly eventful week in the life of our wee shop.

Tuesday evening, the snow starting drifting in as we gathered for our 5th AGM, reflecting on the successes of last year and catching up with our members, shareholders, volunteers and community built through this wee unassuming grocers. Little did we know that the Beast from the East was on her way, wreaking havoc with our food supply and collective ability to function…. or did it?

By Wednesday evening, the Beast had landed, red warnings issued, all public transport had ground to a halt and workplaces were being closed up and down the country with people being urged to STAY AT HOME. But not for Dig-In… Thursday, Friday and Saturday passed in a white, windy blur as Morag, Claire, Katariina and volunteers kept the doors open all our usual opening hours as we served more customers than ever.

Small scale producers (not driving HGVs) were able to deliver direct to us, bypassing distribution centres and off site industrial bakeries and processing units. The incredible logistic machine that is the supermarket supply chain is immensely impressive, but as evidenced last week, simultaneously vulnerable and fragile. It’s a good time to reflect on our short supply chains and why in the face of a storm that emptied shelves across the country, our community shop proved resilient to the shock scarcity and absenteeism.

No 1. Local, motivated and empowered staff

All our staff live within walking distance of the shop. They are also empowered to make the decision on shutting up shop or keeping going. They responded to the community, and stayed open and served more customers in a day than we have ever before!

No 2. Local volunteers and community on our side

We’re embedded in the community. Volunteers turned up with shovels, cleared the path, supported suppliers in unloading in the snow, restocked shelves, served the endless stream of customers and kept spirits up while every other shop closed around us!

Volunteer in the snow
Ian, our Volunteer of the Year taking on what seemed like the never-ending task!

No 3. Local suppliers (with smaller vans… and their own ovens)

This photo of the M80 from Thursday¬† put fear in the heart of anyone expecting a delivery…

However, our local suppliers, mostly accessible by A road, managed to get to us through the snow…

We know that certainly Dig-In could never have catered for the whole of Edinburgh last week… but across the country we saw many small, independent, local shops stepping up, baking their own bread, connecting with local dairies, local producers, wholesalers, growers who collectively were more flexible and therefore more resilient in times of chaos.

We live in uncertain times…¬† Brexit and climate change threaten complex food supply chains as we know them. We’re thinking about how the power of local can help us weather the storms to come. Want to join us?