The association of odRolnika established and runs the Local Product Center in Rzuchowa, which is a place for broadly understood promotion of local products, folk traditions, handicrafts and crafts. At the local product centre, a wide range of selected local products from Malopolska is gathered in one place.
Since 2007, they have been successfully expanding the system of direct sales of organic food in the form of an initiative known as PaczkaodRolnika.pl. One part of this initiative is a direct delivery service of the farmers’ products to the consumers.
The Local Product Centre offers a wide range of activities such as study visits, workshops, training and exercises in the field of direct sales of high-quality food are offered. The group teaches how to create groups of consumers and producers and then cooperate within the group. They also provide knowledge in the area of building a tourist offer based on local products understood as food, crafts and local services. Farmers also run agro-tourism on their farms.
The Association Grupa odRolnika (Eng. From the Farmer Group) was founded in 2007. From the very beginning, the group consisted of eight agricultural producers with organic farming certificates. All of the farms are located in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship, situated in the south of the country, in the geographic area of the Carpathians, characterized by high fragmentation of farms. The aim of the project is to promote direct sales of agricultural products from small and family farms in order to assure their further existence.
The area of agricultural farms varies from 1 to 20 ha of arable land. However, the majority of farms oscillates around the average for the Lesser Poland Voivideship, that is around 3 ha. They are usually focused on fruit and vegetable production.
The odRolnika project includes the sales of:
- organic foods, produced under the supervision of a certification body,
- traditional foods, produced on a small scale and in an environmentally-friendly way, without the supervision of a certification body,
- products included in the list of traditional products and registered in the database of traditional products.
Currently, the group provides the following forms of direct sales:
- online (delivery from the farmer directly to urban inhabitants),
- in a stationary store,
- during organic and local product fairs,
- directly from the farms (during their open days) – the clients can pick their products directly from the field, pick them up from the farm or buy at a sales point located at the farm.
The odRolnika project has been an incentive for many similar initiatives among farmers who wanted to maintain their farms but were not able to make their living from agriculture only, because their farm was too small. The project has also become a starting point for many initiatives, such as the promotion of healthy food on agritourism farms.
Over time, tourists became interested in the production process, which led to the creation of local product packages. The selected farmers from the Lesser Poland Voivodeship created tourism packages including accommodation on an agricultural farm for tourists who are interested in the local culture and traditions, based on the richness of organic food products.
It should be noted that all offers were created in cooperation with the Local Action Group Dunajec Biała, which operates in that area. Currently, tourists can choose from 13 packages organised at different farms. The programmes can last one or more days and include a diverse range of leisure activities. The packages are designed for both individual tourists and organised groups. Bookings can be made directly with the organiser of the selected offer, as well as in a tourist office. The fact that the packages are offered in the tourist office shows that they are prepared in a professional way.
Local rural leaders do not want to stop there and, with the help of the Association Grupa odRolnika, they launched the Local Product Centre (Centrum Produktu Lokalnego) in Rzuchowa. The idea behind the Center is to promote local products and, therefore, improve the quality of life in rural areas by satisfying social and cultural needs of rural inhabitants and promoting rural areas in general, especially within the area of the Local Action Group Dunajec Biała.
Within the framework of the project, a modern Local Product Centre (LPC) was build, which functions as a cultural and tourism centre. It includes a conference and training room for 60 people, and two smaller rooms for 30 and 15 people respectively. The Centre was built to host various activities, such as exhibitions, tastings, workshops, lectures, multimedia presentations, film screenings, conferences, festivals, thematic meetings, healthy cooking courses and much more. One of the rooms features a kitchen studio for the promotion of local products in culinary TV shows. Apart from that, the LPC
- deals with the promotion of local products;
- takes care of the image of local products and their producers,
- supports and coordinates the promotional activities of entities dealing with the production and distribution of local products,
- informs of the local products’ values,
- participates in processes of submission, registration and control
- and issues reports and certificates for local products.
The LPC also assures consulting in the field of local product promotion, in the wide meaning of the term. On the ground floor, there is also a shop with local produce, such as fresh and organic fruit and vegetables from local producers. Local farmers who can directly sell their fruits and vegetables manage the shop.
At present, the group consists of 22 farms from the Małopolska and Świętokrzyskie provinces in Poland. In total 60 % of them are certified as organic farms. The average area of crops grown using the organic method is 1 up to 20 ha per farm. They produce vegetables, herbs and fruits and sell fresh or dried products.
In addition to organic products, local products are sold, such as the beautiful Jaś bean (protected designation of origin), which is one out of nine traditional products (e.g. pickled cucumbers in a well and wines) on the list of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
In summary, the farmers rely on an enotouristic offer that combines food with the trademarks of the region.
The most important milestones are:
- The Farmer Group odRolnika started in 2007.
- They became an agritourism business: the development of agritourism with the offering of tourists packages (13) started together with the Local Action Group Dunajec Biała in 2010.
- In 2017 they started the Local Product Centre in Rzuchowa.
The Association Grupa odRolnika has established the association of the Local Product Centre from the members’ own contribution and the grants from the RDP 2007-2013 (LEADER Program).
There are currently 10 people employed. As part of the association, workshops such as handicrafts and cookery are offered. Educational awareness of children and young people through education is increasing.
- The Local Product Centre in Rzuchowa is an innovative venture and the first one in Poland. Similar initiatives are also implemented in Western European countries.
- Farmers rely on enotourism, which combines food with the region’s trademarks.
- Consumers can order products primarily via the internet and they pack the packages themselves. The customers are spread all over the country and even come from abroad.
- The Local Product Center combines ecological production with direct sales and educational activities and all of these elements constitute a coherent whole.
Plans for the future are the concentration of consumer groups, as part of the Local Product Centre instead of individual consumers. Another focus will be the development of educational activities to combat bad eating habits among children and young people.
Tips for the learner
In order to run such a business, the most important thing is the will and determination. A farmer can be anyone, just as everyone can run an ecological activity, but not everyone achieves such success. In small farms, it is important to implement the concept of sustainable and multifunctional development.
In order to understand the phenomenon of multifunctional activities including: products directly from the farmer, rural tourism offers, promotion of local foods and many other initiatives undertaken by agricultural producers and rural inhabitants, one should meet their main organiser, Mr. Czaja, as well as other members of the team. All of them are very active. They are distinguished by ingenuity, ambition, activity, diligence, willingness to learn and ability to cooperate, that is, the key characteristics of entrepreneurial persons. At the same time, and perhaps above all, optimism and constant smile. They all want to promote their areas, organic farming and natural and cultural heritage by offering their agricultural produce or tourism packages.
Authors: PhD Małgorzata Bogusz, Msc Maciej Dymacz