When farmers are supermarket owners (France)

When we enter a supermarket, we become the final ring of a chain, which starts from the farmer, works its way through other commercial actors, and ends on the counter in front of our very eyes. The first “ring”, the farmer is in the least favourable position. His or her production must be approved by market law… technically by those who control commercial networks and sales. It is not a coincidence that the mafia have taken control of this “space” in the commercial chain which ensures high revenue, and at the same time gains agricultural land in order to speculate on recycling capital.

Breaking this chain is the solution. In previous newsletters we have mentioned groups of farmers and consumers who fight to save the dignity of agricultural work and food security. We have now been informed of another interesting initiative led by a group of farmers in Colmar, France. 35 of them have purchased a supermarket where they sell their own products. For years, organic producers have been creating their own retail commercial channels, even with small, exclusive markets. Back in the day large scale distribution was still thought to be out of reach, with the exception of previously arranged agreements, with the same distribution chains. The farmers in Colmar were able to buy a Lidl supermarket and fill it up with their own products. It is called Coeur Paysan (Peasant Heart) and selling occurs directly between the producer and the consumer. Many ancient kinds of agricultural products are made again available, recovering their ancient and natural taste.

It is interesting to see how consumers can rediscover these tastes and the variety of products, which typical commercial sectors no longer take into consideration. These 35 farmers offer their entire production by diversifying it, and responding to growing demands for healthy local food (all farmer produce is collected from within a radius of 40km from the supermarket). Prices are also much lower than those of the distribution chain.

Farmers are directly accountable for their products in front of the consumers. They decide their own prices, and only upon purchases, the supermarket takes between ¼ and 1/3 of the amount. The farmer is therefore responsible for its own products until the client takes them: this is a further form of protection for the consumer. Farmers take it in turns to work at the shop (at least two half days per month) so consumers may get in touch with them personally. In other words a relationship based on transparency and trust between producer and consumer is established.

We think this is an excellent example to be repeated in all EU Member States.