In one of the August issues of De Boerderij – a popular magazine for Dutch farmers – the cover theme is The new trend of direct marketing: innovative farmers are increasingly successful in finding their consumers. The magazine concludes that over 3300 farmers (out of a total of 73.000) are now selling their produce directly to consumers – bypassing supermarkets in the process. And this number is growing fast. Why is the age-old practice of direct marketing coming back in a country like The Netherlands? And what are farmers’ and consumers’ strategies to do so? This new tendency in the Netherlands may well provide a new argument for farmers in developing countries to continue their direct marketing links – and to prevent dependency of selling their produce to supermarkets only in the name of ‘development’.
In the Netherlands most consumers go to the supermarket fort heir basic needs in terms of food. But another tendency is gradually gaining strength. A growing number of Dutch citizens – the vast majority of them living in urban areas – want to become engaged more directly with those who produce their food. The terms ‘local’ and ‘sustainable’ trigger consumers to buy their products directly from farmers, instead of through supermarkets. Both farners and consumers are taking remarkable initiatives. ‘Local for local‘ is the new trend. This is all about consuming products from your own region.
Dutch farmers are gradually developing innovative ways to sell their produce directly to consumers – but the income derived from this activity also varies considerably. Often special quality products – such as organic produce or ‘forgotten vegetable varieties’ – are offered, that attract special client groups. Social media play an inportant role in this new development.
These are some of the direct-marketing initiatives developed by farmers:
- Farmers’ shops based directly at the farm. The farmers with a website sell twice as much in their shop as those without. This form of direct marketing provides the best income opportunities.
- Direct delivery from farmers cooperatives – for example the farmers organized in agrarian-nature cooperatives (ANV). An example is ANV Altena Biesbosch: the 15 members are selling 10-100% of their potatoes, cheese, vegetables and fruits directly to consumer groups or restaurants. This cooperative has a membership of 100 farmers and 160 consumers – and this number are growing.
- Direct delivery from individual farmers – for example in the case of beef, individual farmers have developed a direct client group, to which they deliver directly on a regular basis. Often local dual-purpose breeds – such as the Brandrode Rund – are used, and in this way animal diversity is promoted. See, for example Natuurboer uitde Buurt (translated: Nature Farmers in your Neighborhood) or Hemels Vlees
- ‘Pergola constructions’: individual farmers develop their own client groups, whom can also be partial owners of the farm. For example Oregional in the city of Nijmegen sells fresh local produce regularly to institutions, such as hospitals and old-peoples homes.
- Cooperatives of regional special products. For example Wadden Gold – speciality products from the Wadden islands
- Farmers’ markets: Around 100 farmers are regularly selling their produce at farmers’ markets.
This is a special farmers’ market at Schiphol Airport
Citizens – and citizen organizations – are also taking the initiative:
- Versvoco’s – or fresh-food cooperatives – in which citizen groups place orders and distribute fresh food directly from the farmers. There are 10 of such Versvoco’s in the country now.
- Webshops. For example the new website thegreenbee.nl presents an overview of all farmers’ shops in the country. Thousands of people visit this website every day – and through this website consumers can order and receive food-packages delivered at home. The service also includes a Twitter about new produce that can be ordered.
- Local markets – it is a new tendency that markets with local produce are organised by consumers themselves.
- Boerenbox: local produce is marketed in a small box, that can be adapted according to a festivity, organisation or region.
Generally speaking the farmers get a better price for the products sold directly to consumers – sometimes up to 200%. But this is not the only advantage for the farmers. `I get more feedback and acknowledgement for what I produce’ says farmer Berrie Klein Swormink – who delivers beef directly to his clients.
Farmer Berrie Klein Swormink: ‘It requires more effort and that does not always pay out, but you are directly engaged with your clients. It is important for me, not only for the money, but also for the appreciation’.