Farmers' market "My Farm"

At the end of March, 2003, two New Yorkers came to visit the Green Network of Vojvodina - Steve Davies and Phil Myrick from the Project for Public Spaces organisation (www.pps.org) which had been working on revitalisation of public spaces in the USA since 1975. These two men arrived in Novi Sad, having been warmly recommended by our friend Bill Moody, who was at the time the programme director of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund for this part of Europe. During an hour and a half of their visit, Steve and Phil convinced us that the placemaking method is inspiring for the people who wanted to express their wishes about the contents of the public spaces in their own towns and cities. The result of their visit was the birth of the idea which involved organising a green, farmers' market that had not been organised up until then. Our small team consisting of <b>Professor Branka Lazić, Duško Medić, Ana Marija Vujošević and Olivera Radovanović</b> rolled up their sleeves and started digging. The decision was made that the future market should gather traditional producers, mainly from Vojvodian farms, those who have small estates and a big desire to harmonise their agriculture with the nature and the people, i.e. people who wanted to become producers of certified organic products. In December 2003, we had a two-day education seminar in Čenej, which gathered our target group. Farmers from Čenej, Kisač, Nadalj, Temerin and Kovilj arrived. We talked to them about good agricultural practice, about organic agricultural production. We also told them that the traditional look and design of farms should be brought back, and we talked about the advantages of renewable energy sources and the possibilities of how to place their products. During the spring of 2004, we had many meetings with our farmers. It was clear then that we had gathered a network of producers ready to learn and work following the rules of new practices which were created in the European Union and other developed countries in the world. Again, thanks to our friends, Olivera and Ana Maria went to New York to learn how Farmers' Markets are created, and based on the experiences of the Market of Organic Products at the Union Square in New York, they learned that farmers with certified organic products can sell their goods at prices that are significantly higher than the same food from conventional production. There they saw that Julia Roberts loves buying her groceries at the market in the middle of the famous New York square. They also noticed that buying food in the most urban place in the world can have an old-fashioned air about it, where a man can speak with the farmer who produced the vegetables.

In May, 2004, Steve and Phil returned to Novi Sad and we organised a big workshop named Revitalisation of Public Spaces - Placemaking. The workshop gathered more than sixty people. There were representatives of the city utilities, representatives from the Provincial Secretariat for Agriculture, Novi Sad University professors, representatives from other NGOs, media and what was most important, a group of fifteen farmers from all over Vojvodina. A joint conclusion at the workshop was that Novi Sad needed a special market with agricultural products which would not be sold by people who had nothing to do with growing the goods; a market where consumers buy believing they are organic, with products that have a old fashioned taste and good qualities, and come locally.

Already in June of that year, Novi Sad had its Farmers' Market "My Farm" called after the Green Network of Vojvodina programme of the same name, which encircled a planned long-term education of farmers about the organic production, the way how such products are to be distributed and a planned marketing approach. Realising such a programme required a long and patient work and a lot of learning. Our farmers learned, and so did we. Our best teacher, Prof. Branka Lazić learned, too. She had her careful eye on all the novelties in organic production and followed the European legislature in that field. Her role must be duly noted, just as we must show gratitude to the people from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water-management and a German organisation for technical assistance, GTZ in the process of making the legal framework which enabled wide-spreading of organic agriculture in Serbia.

It has not been easy to form, nor has it been easy to keep this Market during the seven years. The Market started working in 2004 almost without a single certified organic producer. Two organic producers from a village near Subotica were guests at the Farmers' Market, and they were gathered around Terra's organisation. The rest of the producers at the Farmers' Market were those who had either initiated the production according to the system proscribed by organic agriculture (at the time our legislature had not regulated this field) or those who were stuck to the traditional agricultural production. Novi Sad consumers had their favourites from the beginning, family Vozar especially. Since 2005 Josip Mamužić has been a constant participant at the Market. He is a certified organic producer who has been in the organic world the longest time, probably. In the period from 2006 to 2009, more certified organic producers appeared. From January to May 2008, all of the producers from My Farm Market went through another education seminar financed by the Ministry for Agriculture, and the usual annual meetings with the Farmers'Market producers became a traditional place where problems that needed to be overcome were discussed, and where plans for the following year were made.

From the day one, the Market became a place where villages from Vojvodina were promoted, a place where people sang and danced; where cakes were made the way our grandmothers used to make them, and where food came from multinational cuisines; where people could see how embroidery is done, or how cloths are woven, or how honey is extracted from honeycomb. It has always been cheerful when schoolchildren who love to taste the Farmers' Market produce and to get to know the new species and varieties of vegetables. Locally famous people from the fields of medicine, culture, sport and entertainment joined the market, setting examples of how important organic products are in peoples' diet. The Market had its own newsletter, and we often printed recipes for customers, especially on how to prepare meals with the new sorts of vegetables.

This 2010 is the first year when most producers at the Farmers'Market have certified organic products. This year, our regular participants are seven certified organic producers and two fruit growers had their guest appearance with their certified organic apples and raspberries. Of course, the Market is still a home to traditional farmers, just as it is home to the producers from the multifunctional agriculture. However, thanks to numerous (for our conditions) producers from organic agriculture, My Farm Market is at this moment the greatest distributive centre of organic produce in Serbia.

The campaign that the Green Network of Vojvodina had directed towards consumers with the assistance from GTZ and the Department for Economy of the City of Novi Sad called "Organic agriculture. Good for you, good for nature!" had excellent results. Our producers are happy with the increased sales of their products and the consumers are happy with the chance given to buy products that are beneficial to their health and the health of their children. And, to return to the beginning of the story connected to New York - We are happy because today Farmers' Market "My Farm" is on a par with the famous Union Square Market, and that it does not lag behind similar green markets in the EU with its offer of quality products.

Grocery

It is important to point out that My Farm programme "gave birth" to the Grocery "My Farm" which sells our farmers' products all year long. The owner of the shop is a young entrepreneur Milica Popović. The Green Network of Vojvodina made an agreement on cooperation with her, according to which the shop places the goods of the producers from the My Farm programme. The grocery is obliged to follow the principles of fair trade, that the goods on offer in the grocery are produced locally and that it should work on promoting organic products.


Prethodna strana: Sustainable Agriculture Sledeća strana: Sellers Farmers' market `My Farm`



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