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Bagging coconut with Brooklyn Packers

South face of the Pfizer building
The old Pfizer building

Today I had my first meeting with the Brooklyn Packers. Rode my bike to the Pfizer building in Brooklyn where I met the crew as they weighed and packaged coconut flakes. The hallways had an earthy food smell and the quite bustle of small businesses doing their thing. After saying hello I donned a pair of latex gloves and got to work tying off bags of coconut with the crew. We made small talk while our hands busied themselves with the rhythmic work.

It was a pleasure to work along side of these member-owners of the BK Packers Cooperative. They described this kind of work, coming together complete a single task, as swarming. It was wonderful to be working with my body while my mind was able to wonder. Our conversation flowed from the latest guilty pleasure on Netflix to the state of food justice in Brooklyn, to their plans for expanding into a retail space, and back around again to the work at hand.

Being part of the team and seeing my temporary co-workers do their work gave me quick insight into that work. The kind of hands on knowledge that hours of email or conversations would hardly be able to cover. After finishing with the coconut we cleaned up as boxes of peas were brought out of the fridge, ready for the next swarm. Calculations were made based on numbers scribbled on white boards, bags were counted, and portions were determined.

Humans standing around a table filling small bags with coconut flakes from bulk bags

They were converting the bulk orders from local farms into small quantities that were destined for packages which would be delivered to their client’s customers later that week.

The BK Packers currently do most of their work for clients who sell pre-packaged boxes of fresh ingredients to customers. These food packages come with recipes and follow a menu which BK Packers collaborate with their clients to create. Once a menu is set BK Packers place orders with farms, then the numbers come in from their clients. How many packages were ordered by the consumers which then is measured against the food orders, if there are any gaps more food is procured. Then the packing happens and once the bulk food has been separated into packages those are delivered to curriers, or directly by the BK Packers.

Watching this process unfold my mind was racing around what gaps technology could fill. Being able to talk directly with the people doing the work really helps target the “pain points”.

Humans consulting a white board with letters and numbers representing packing details

After about 2 hours of working along side the BK Packers I took my leave, with notes and pictures, ready to begin the first draft of a Discovery document which aims to outline their current needs and how we might fulfill those needs.

With a bag full of goodies, including apples and orange cauliflower, I biked home under the warm Brooklyn sun.

Photo pointing down into a paper bag with veggies leaning against a bike