For the seventh year in a row Pārgaujas county Straupes parish association “Healthy city and countryside” is organizing a fair of local producers. The association is small. It is composed of only four persons, thus the team is maneuverable and able to respond quickly. The board of association consists of only two people.
Marketspace model and the idea is interesting in the fact that it shatters the traditional way of farm product sales. Generally, farmers take their products to the to the city to sell, but in Straupes Marketspace case, everything is upside down – the townsfolk are going shopping in the countryside. It has been noted by many interested parties, not only from Latvia, but also from abroad, who were interested in the fair and praised the ability to organize such a large-scale farmers’ market outside the larger cities.
Indeed, it is different to organize the market in Riga, but quite another thing to organize it in a small parish in rural areas. That’s why the idea of organizing such a marketplace was not easy, as many didn’t believe, not only in its long term sustainability, but also in a one time success. However Marketspace project grew out of a number of initiatives. One of the reasons for creating the market was the lack of logistics – local farmers took their products to sell to the nearby towns, but those in the surroundings drove to nearby shopping centers in order to buy the locally grown salad, dill and potatoes.
At that time, in Riga’s city center there was already operating the famous Farmers Market at Riga’s Bergs bazaar nurtured by chef Martins Rītiņs. His dream at that time was to establish a network of many farmers’ market across Latvia.The idea was as a starting point for Straupe’s marketspace. Why shouldn’t Starupe become a second market place? Justification was found in the history – in the past Straupe was a member of the Hanseatic League and important land trade routes went through Starupe. Even today Straupes geographical position is very advantageous – it is reachable from the Latvian capital of Riga and about the same distance from the larger cities of Vidzeme Sigulda, Cēsis, Valmiera and Limbaži. In addition, historically Straupe had two marketplaces. If it worked then, why this historical tradition would not work today? As a result, the project application for the restoration of cultural traditions was written for the current Cēsis district council. The acquired funding was used for organizing educational activities for local farmers and homeworkers, acquiring marketing and Berga Bazar experience, and holding meetings with the state controlling bodies.
Marketspace establishment in 2008 was a big challenge for the local authority, as the farmers’ markets did not include in the scope of Latvian national laws and regulations, and the local government at the time, giving permission to establish a regular Straupes fairs, acted against the law. To address this situation, the market organizers, together with the association “Slow Food Riga” and Berg’s bazaar proposed changes in legislation, which included a working group initiated by the Ministry of Economy. After serious and lengthy discussions changes in legislation were achieved. Henceforward, there was green light for Latvian farmers’ markets.
Straupes fair is held regularly each month on the first and second Sunday at the market square, Straupe’s dairies area and it is recognizable by the name of “rural Straupes benefit fair”. It operates on the motto, “We grow it ourselves. We make it ourselves. We sell it ourselves.” Farmers and producers here can realize local, seasonal and homemade products that’s why intermediary buyers and brokers can not become members of the marketspace. Those who want to trade can be found in great numbers in the known marketplaces, so in order to support people from the County, the priority is given them, thus it is a great support and ability to directly reach the activists from the nearest neighborhood. Fair participation may be takeen by the craftsmen who are able to offer a product that is closely linked to local traditions and food products, as well as those who are able to offer a very interesting craft and art products. So any product that is sold in rural Straupes benefit Fair, should be self-produced or produced and farmers or manufacturers, or their family members or else employees should personally participate in the Fair. They must be competent to be knowledgeble of the products they’re selling. In thins way is ensured a direct relationship with the customer, which enhances the reliability of a product being purchased in the market.
The aim of the organizers of the marketspace at the beginning of the project was not only to achieve that regular fairs are functioning in Straupe, but to help and encourage local, small farmers and entrepreneurs. It has materialized with a vengeance. Thanks to marketspace activity, many have started their own businesses, registered companies and continue to operate successfully not just locally, but they travel to trade their products, not only throughout Latvia, but also to other European Union member states. Fine restaurants from Riga buy farmers’ products which they have discovered at the market and which they are also in favour of. Besides, the marketplace organizer’s idea of this kind of market exchange was realized as well. Farmers and food processors find each other directly on the market square in order to exchange, purchase and process goods.
The marketspace organizers have made a new setting for the next period – to motivate farmers and processors to produce more and higher quality products, with quality meaning that local region-specific plant and animal species are grown and cultivated, using traditional processing methods and the whole production process is an expression of respect for the environment. These principles are consistent with the world famous Slow Food movement. Engagement at the farmers’ market and Straupes mainstream Earth markets will maintain a local market specific niche, which is interesting for both the buyer from near and afar.
Project is realised as part of EEA Grants sub-programme “NGO Activity Support Measure” of the programme “NGO fund” for period 2009.-2013.
Project financially supported by Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway. Programme financed by EEA financial instrument and Latvia. More about the programme can be found on the following webpages:
www.sif.lv www.eeagrants.lv www.eeagrants.org