The Farmers’ Markets in Italy: a growing trend

Interview to Pietro Hausmann of the Campagna Amica Foundation

Last Friday 27th June, Lucia and I have met Pietro Hausmann, who works for Campagna Amica and who deals with the development of its markets in Italy. Campagna Amica is a foundation based in Rome and it is a national network of direct selling of local products, formed by markets, farms, agritourisms, restaurants, urban gardens, small shops and ethical purchasing groups[1].

Pietro Hausmann - Campagna Amica

Pietro Hausmann – Campagna Amica

Our aim was to better understand the growing movement in Italy of the so called “farmers markets”, or local producers’ markets.

We want to get known their history, their organization, their values and their perception of the Expo 2015. The easiest way to do it, was to start from the city we live in, and in particolar, from the market that Lucia visits every weekend.

We turn up for the meeting at the market which hosts Campagna Amica at Circo Massimo and after some minutes we see someone coming in our direction, driving a scooter. We expected to meet an elderly man… At least, according to the Italian standards, those who have such an employment cannot be younger than fifty years old. But, when he took off his crash helmet, we discovered a nice young man: Italy is changing, what a wonderful thing! Italy is counting on young people! This vision gives us a great enthusiasm: probably, there is really a chance for us, young people!

Let’s start with our interview!

Which is the history of the Campagna Amica Foundation and how has the idea to organize local Farmers’ Markets in Italy, developed?

Athe beginning of 2000 the small producers were in a very critical situation, after the crisis of the nineties. A contributing factor to this situation could be the rise of supermarkets and hypermarkets. As a result, the small producers were not able anymore to sell their products, because they lacked the commercial outlets.

For this reason, Coldiretti, the main National agricultural organization, formed by many small agricultural associated farms, has intervened to help small producers. This is the moment when Campagna Amica has been created. Its aim is to support the agricultural farms in the direct selling of their products and in the increase in the value of the territory and the sustainability.

Poster Campagna Amica

Poster Campagna Amica

Between 2000 and 2008 some markets across the National territory have been organized. These acted like sales channels of local products, which were but only occasional events. At first, the main objective was to try to understand which was the reaction of the consumers.

We noticed that the people coming to this type of markets were not only interested in buying the products, but also they wanted to interact with the producers. The idea of the local Farmers’ markets, as an efficient support to the local agricultural farms starts from here.

In 2008, we decided to create markets at the regional level, all around Italy, where the producers come from all over the interested region in order to sell their products, which clearly offer a greater quality and sustainability, because they are produced within the region (in some regions within a maximum of 250 km – the so called “km 0″).

These markets have had a great success not only because of the positive reaction of the consumers, but also because all the agricultural farms, which were going bankrupt, in 2 years were able to pay off debts and were even able to make new investments, thanks to this new privileged sales channel.

How do the markets of Campagna Amica work?

Being part of Coldiretti, the Foundation receives its support and use its offices which are present in every province. The farmers themselves are members of Coldiretti. Only in the Lazio region there are more than 500 members and, therefore, more than 500

Market of Circo Massimo -  Campagna Amica

Market of Circo Massimo – Campagna Amica

farms.

In 2011 from 600 markets, we have created 1000 markets. We started from zero, with a very efficient communication campaign  based on the made in Italy. Today more than 1200 markets exist all over Italy, with a permanent presence in every capital of the province. The areas where the markets take place are usually deserted areas, or areas which are not used anymore, which are granted by the local authorities.

Apart from the big Mercato di Campagna Amica del Circo Massimo, opened in the weekends, in an area which was previously a dump for the cars of the public utility, other ten markets are organized, in Rome, in the city squares or other public places. This way, Campagna Amica promotes an increase in value of the territory, in favour of a greater sustainability.

Do you support or promote the biological production?

There are some biological producers in our markets, but we lack a real policy which aims at promoting the biological. Unfortunately it is still very difficult for the farmers to start or to cultivate biological productions.

How many people do they work in the foundation Campagna Amica?

We are more or less 8 people. The majority is women and young people. Indeed, our contribution as young people has been fundamental in the development and realization of this idea.

How did you get here?

After quitting the university, I went to New York to work for an Italian firm which sells italian products and I dealt with marketing and logistic. This experience has enabled me to enrich my knowledge and expertise and, of course, to learn the language very good. This gave me the chance to be part of Campagna Amica, when I went back to Rome.

What does the Expo 2015 represent for the foundation Campagna Amica?

Expo 2015

Expo 2015

The Expo 2015 is such an important event for us, that it represents the final stage of a project started some time ago, a unique opportunity to make known Campagna Amica to the entire world and to widespread the values in which we believe.

The food becomes everyday more “fashionable”, there are always tv programmes, events, blogs speaking about food. It is such a growing trend, which can turn counterproductive. This is why it is essential to launch a message of food sustainability and increase in value of the local products.

Campagna Amica will be present at the Expo in the Italian Pavillion and we will organize also a permanent market for 6 months in Parco Sempione in Milan.

How do you explain the success of the markets of Campagna Amica? What do the consumers look for?

There is a growing demand, from the consumers, of a direct contact with the people who cultivate the land. People want to know, reasonably, where does the food they eat come from, and above all how they cultivate it.

We often organize, within our markets, socio-cultural events, (when the place allows it, like in the case of Rome), like for example workshops on food and agricultural products for children, tasting and small catering with local products and even visits to small vegetable gardens that are present in some of our markets.

Variety of products at the market in Circo Massimo

Variety of products at the market in Circo Massimo

The people who come to visit our markets do not come here just to do the shopping. They often come here to spend some time in a sociable place. On average, they stay here one hour and a half: they chat with the producers, they have lunch here with the local products. It becomes a real life experience, alternative to the everyday life. This way, they discover old values such as the farmland, the countryside and the farm job, and above all, they discover the importance of the quality of the food they eat. In a sense, the consumers in these markets represent Ethical Purchaising Groups, because they give the chance to the consumers to meet directly with the farmers and to discover the products of our territory. The problem of the price (which is usually higher, but not always, than the supermarkets), is extinguished thanks to the quality of the products. In other words, we have beat the high price with the high quality!

This is a unique way to recreate that strong link with the farmer, which was taken for granted in the past, and to discover how rich is the land where we live in!

Thank you Pietro for this breath of hope you have given us with your testimony!

Laura


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