Alternative ways of buying directly from the producer

You want to buy directly from producers but you don’t want to have to go round to each producer separately. How can this equation be solved? There are alternative buying channels, such as the REKO model, food co-ops and community-supported agriculture (CSA) schemes.

The REKO model

REKO is a model designed for producer and consumer groups doing business together, in which a written purchasing agreement is entered into between the producer and the consumer for a set period of time, e.g. two months. The producer delivers the products ordered to an agreed location once a week at an agreed time, e.g. between 6 and 7 p.m. The REKO model is cost-effective and saves time for both parties.

REKO is ideal for you if you want to buy fresh, clean, good food at a reasonable price, if you want to know where your food comes from or prefer to buy local organic products. REKO means you get fresher food, you aren’t paying for unnecessary advertising, packaging or transport and you are supporting your local community. At the same time, you get the chance to meet the producer of your food, and you can meet “kindred spirits” and share your experiences or maybe swap recipes. Buying fresh, seasonal products also provides environmental benefits and you might even encounter varieties that you might not necessarily find in ordinary shops.

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Food co-operatives (ruokapiirit)

In food co-operatives, a group of consumers jointly order a large amount of local and organic produce directly from local producers. Joint orders are made using an order form usually once a month and are delivered to the distribution point on an agreed day, when the members of the co-operative fetch the products they have ordered. Food co-operatives are usually run by volunteers. Larger food co-operatives are often run as organisations, where members pay a small membership fee to cover costs.

The advantages of food co-operatives are getting fresh and safe local or organic food, ease of ordering, a reasonable price, high-quality produce and traceability direct from the producer without intermediaries. Typical products ordered from food co-ops include cereals, vegetables as well as herbs and spices. Some food co-operatives also offer the option of ordering organic meat, eggs, honey or dairy products, or even laundry products, foreign organic produce or Fair Trade products.

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Diagram of the process of launching a food co-operative from Jenni Saarinen’s dissertation, Laurea University of Applied Sciences (in Finnish):

CSA schemes

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a community made up of the farmer and consumers. In this co-operative venture, the farmer does not sell the food he or she produces to wholesalers and on to chains of retailers but directly to consumers. The difference between this and an ordinary food co-operative is that the farmer sells different kinds of food shares which are paid for in advance, usually in early spring. These make up the farm’s annual budget. In return for their share, the members receive the farmer’s harvest for as long as it lasts.

The risk of this model is that if the harvest is poor, your food basket won’t be as full as it might be. The good side of a CSA scheme is that the members have a say in what is grown in the fields and can help to grow the crops as volunteers in a community project, maybe even arranging a harvest celebration. Members of a CSA community also know in detail where their food has come from and how it has been grown because they are able to take part in growing it themselves. The food is clean and locally produced, straight from the field to the kitchen. The CSA community can work together to minimise farming methods that place a heavy burden on the environment, transport, packaging and the number of intermediaries, which means that CSA is usually very environmentally friendly.

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CSA schemes in different parts of Finland

Direct sales guidelines for producers

The popularity of direct sales is constantly growing among different target groups (consumers, retailers, food co-ops, restaurants, etc.). Nationwide development work aims to make it easier to bring entrepreneurs and different target groups together. True Flavours has put hard work into promoting direct sales and further processing on the part of small businesses by increasing dialogue between entrepreneurs, customers and food legislation. One concrete example of this is the direct sales guidelines soon to be completed, which will increase the know-how of entrepreneurs looking to start high-quality direct sales, and provide advice on how to get started. Direct sales is the future. All we have to do is make it happen successfully.

Text: Pauliina Hakanen and Johanna Mattila


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