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Farmers’ markets 23 October 2012

Posted by cooperatoby in cooperative.
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Kambos, Ikaria, from Mt Pigi

When we were in Ikaria last summer – it’s a rather mountainous island west of Samos – we noticed that all the food seems to be imported. There are significant areas of fertile land – for instance in the Kambos valley where we stayed – that have been cultivated for millennia. But there seem to be no facilities through which local landowners or farmers can sell their produce. No doubt there is a lot of what economists call self-supply, i.e. people growing their own food for themselves, their families and friends.
In these straitened times, one hears of office workers who have lost their jobs in Athens and emigrated back to the family farm because this is the best way they can survive. So it struck me to ask whether the existing informal systems could be stepped up. It’s often difficult to exactly match what one person has available at any moment with what any of his or her acquaintances needs. That’s why we have things called ‘markets’ in the physical as well as the abstract sense. If more ‘liquidity’ could be added to the system, then customers would know what was available where and when, and this would in turn encourage producers to bring more stuff to market.
So maybe a very small piece of social innovation that would relieve poverty in Greece – and not only in Greece – would be to try to set up farmers’ markets. When I worked for ICOM we developed simple co-operative model for markets that was widely taken up. It’s not difficult to do. Look at how well allotment associations work. Belgium thrives on traditional open-air markets. Temporary open-air markets are all the rage as a way of using empty plots in cities – like the DeKalb market in Brooklyn. A glance at Wikipedia shows that the market tradition is alive and well organised in Greece – in fact if anything it looks a bit over-regulated. A site on Crete says they are omnipresent – but they aren’t, are they? Another blog links to local listings, including a comprehensive site for the Athens region. Are European programmes like LEADER+ working on this?
Follow-up
I’ve just discovered that in March there was a question in the European Parliament about the regulation of Greek farmers’ markets.
The federal body in the UK is Farma.

PS Markets aare fighting back: a BBC article about Pandrossou Street market on Facebook. (Thanks Graham!)

PPS Feb 13: Report of the successful Making Local Food Work project in the UK.

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