2015 | Dec
The “No middlemen” markets that have recently made a dynamic appearance in squares and open spaces in urban neighbourhoods are another form of Alternative Food Networks and of new city-countryside relationships. These informal markets bring farmers and small producers in direct contact with city consumers, bypassing all middlemen from the trade network in foodstuff and groceries. They are part of the social movements that emerged after the economic crisis in Greece, aiming at a solidarity-based, sustainable economy for the benefit of producers and consumers. The crisis has further highlighted the distortions along the agricultural product supply chain, through the involvement of dealers and intermediaries, who increase the final price of food. Furthermore, consumers do not know the exact origin of the food reaching their table (where and how it was produced, the methods it was processed by, the miles travelled from farm to shelf) and thus they often question its quality and nutritional value.
Therefore, in contrast to large agribusiness and retail networks, small trading networks not only restore the relationship of trust between producers and consumers, but also strengthen local economies where the products are produced. For city consumers, the benefit is not simply limited to buying “quality food with identity” at affordable prices, but also includes their active participation in citizen movements, the enhancement of social solidarity in the city, the support of small family farming and independent producers.
It all started with the so-called “potato movement” (2012), pioneered by the volunteer group of the Pieria District “My Land” [Ο τόπος μου], expressing a strong social demand for cheap food without commercial intermediaries. The first spark was lit and the “no middlemen” movement quickly spread to many cities in Greece, in response to the food needs of urban households that have been impoverished by the economic recession. In the greater metropolitan area of Athens, these alternative markets were spreading in squares, school courtyards, car parks and other open spaces. They were put in action in order to directly address the pressing food poverty problems of the population, through citizen group initiatives and neighbourhood collectives but in some cases also through municipal administration initiatives.
The “no middlemen” markets of the “resistance and solidarity movement” of Galatsi “Pairno Ampariza”, the solidarity network of the 6th Community of Athens “The ant”, the “bazaar” of the solidarity and culture movement of the citizens of Psychiko – Filothei “Oi Obrelles” and the no middlemen movement of the citizens of Halandri “Let’s spend together” and many more arrange their stalls on scheduled Sundays all year round. As noted by the members of the Galatsi collective:
|“We are exploring other methods for organising food distribution without middlemen of any type. We decide about the products we consume by ourselves. We support small Greek producers by providing them access to consumers. We cover our daily needs without focusing on profit. We respond to the dissolution of the social fabric with collectivity, social cohesion, mutual help and a cooperative spirit” (www.xmesazontes.gr).|
The organisation and operation of these markets is based on the voluntary action of citizens, while thoroughness and systematic preparation by the participants are key components for their successful outcome. Their success is evidenced by the increasing quantities of distributed products as the ‘no middlemen’ movement gains ground and consumers. A member of the General Meeting of the ‘no middlemen’ movement of the citizens of Halandri “Let’s spent together” notes:
|“The first distribution started in December 2012, when we already had 300 orders and distributed 11 tons of products. Two years later, orders have reached 1010 with37 tons of distributed products, while, from the 10 types of products we had in the beginning, we now have 90 different types, including oil, cheese, potatoes, honey, legumes, wine and nuts”|
- Renting H, Schermer M and Rossi A (2012) Building Food Democracy : Exploring Civic Food Networks and Newly Emerging Forms of Food Citizenship. International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food 19(3): 289–307.
Voluntary action team of the Pieria District: http://www.otoposmou.gr/