by Hanna Lutz
When I moved to Berlin two years ago, there was only one organic food market in my neighbourhood. Today, there are countless markets, restaurants and cafés and even discounters that sell organic products. I can drink fair trade organic mate made in Argentina in a Brazilian café, get organic apples from New Zealand in the organic corner store and go to a close by supermarket and buy some organic cereals from a company in a southern city in Germany I have never heard of before. So…thank you for all that “globalized” choices. But I don’t really consider an apple being shipped from the other side of the world organic. Whereas an apple being harvested in and transported from a close by region, (even though it might not have an organic certification), feels much more organic to me. So what I did as a consequence is ordering a weekly “regional box” from a company in a region in Brandenburg that distributes local farmers’ seasonal products (like fruits and vegetables, dairy products, wine and beer etc.) under the umbrella brand “Märkische Kiste”.
Growing, producing marketing and distributing locally does not only contribute to a more climate friendly world but also to a successful regional development. In this blog entry I want to give two best practice examples concerning the distribution and marketing of local and regional products and show possible impacts those regional initiatives have on the development of certain German regions.
Regional initiatives are local associations of producers, processors, sellers as well as other social groups. The boundaries of the region can vary greatly, but often there are natural areas or municipal and county boundaries. Regional initiatives differ from traditional direct marketers in the way that they often follow goals that go beyond the sale of the products. They are concerned with landscape and nature conservation, the preservation of old fruit varieties or animal breeds and also with regional identity and development.
A very nice and successful concept is the franchising concept “Q-Regio” (funded by the Brandenburg Ministry of Economic and European Affairs and the European Union). It was established in the Uckermark, an area with weak infrastructure and about 25 percent unemployment rate in the northeast of Brandenburg. Since 2005, independent licensees have opened up six Q-regional shops with a uniform appearance in cities of Brandenburg and in Berlin. The range of shops include regional food of exceptional quality, many hand-made products of small enterprises and organic products.
The Q-regional stores, located between delicatessen, health food store and supermarket are well received by customers. They are happy about the offer of local products and also the fact that the entire value chain takes place “just in front of their doors”. With their small-scale, landscape- and nature-friendly and often organic production methods the suppliers contribute to the conservation of rural biodiversity of their region. Additionally, the Q-Regio Shops have reliable and regular customers that give farmers whose production volumes may not be enough for large customers the opportunity to market their specialties successfully. In this way the regional marketing secures jobs within the local production and also creates new jobs within the stores.
If you would rather buy your regional specialities directly from the producers, the internet platform Freun.de, initiated by the German branch of Friends of the Earth BUND, gives a nice overview of local providers in the German federal state Lower Saxony. The convenient database contains farmers and producers that contribute to the preservation of old cultural landscapes in Lower Saxony. Their focus is on the production of meat just like heathland sheep or cattle breeds of old beef species that allow farmers to maintain valuable landscapes. In addition, juices, honey, milk, cheese, wild game and fish and even services such as holidays on the farm are part of the product range. There are also farm festivals and numerous events at which consumers can experience the country life of the region and traditional specialties.
To sum it all up: Those kind of regional initiatives , support local value chains, secure and create jobs, keep profit in the region, help to maintain agricultural activities and therefore also the cultural landscapes. Moreover, they reinforce social bonds, regional identity, a feeling of community, regional image and therefore offer a high potential to be tapped for sustainable regional development.