Local food will be priceless. How do we fight big agribusinesses and talk to farmers to produce in traditional ways?

To all the participants at the event on Food localisation from 30th October - what do you say to this? You probably have different visions of the future, and it’s OK, but wondering how you experience this issue as project builders, network developers, or as consumers? We’re looking to understand personal experiences:

@Sonia @EwaSJ @jasen_lakic @Vladb @rodrigo @paco21 @lylycarrillo @jvangeyte @Milan @dconvents @albow7 @michal.trzesimiech @Kamel @L.Nobel @rps @LocalProducer @Puja

Also paging @yannick!

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I appreciate this analysis of the situation in Serbia – with many small-scale farmers still at work, it’s certainly not as bleak as elsewhere in Europe.

As for what can be done to make small-scale farming an attractive profession and to achieve food sovereignty in Serbia, I have a different take. It starts from not counting on any government support, because government is usually captive to the influence of the lobbyists with the piles of cash. And, I also think it’s useless to appeal to the conscience or foresight of consumers: often, they go for the cheapest food, produced by Big Ag companies, because they don’t have money for more. Neoliberal markets are pushing consumers hard everywhere, and foresight for them would rather mean to save up for a rainy day than to support a local food system with uncertain outcomes.

Instead, what I propose is a solution that, from the start, benefits everyone and achieves a localized food sovereignty. I assume many farmers on small farms in Serbia are already part-time farmers as they have to supplement their income from other sources. In such a situation, one could try to persuade a group of ~20 such farmers to become a food-sovereign unit. Each of them would specialize somewhat, which makes production more time-efficient compared to a case where everyone grows everything they need for themselves. And then they use a system of circular bartering to help each other out. Later, handicrafts people etc. can also join such a system, forming a local economy that is sheltered from any competition with Big Ag.

I have written about the economic properties of such a circular barter system at length (you can search for “PayCoupons” here on the platform, which is the name of the prototype circular barter system we created). It’s basically a deadlock resolver: people who were outcompeted by big ag companies and sitting at home idle can just as well re-start their small-scale farming and trade with others who were outcompeted in the same way. Compared to not being able to supply for oneself in a big ag dominated economy, a “less efficient” local economy of small farms is certainly preferable, as everyone will be able to make their own living.


Both of you make good points:
@Dmjonic I would say the education is so important, of both farmers and consumers. As you said, the infrastructure in rural regions is challenging to say the least.

I ate wild berries whole summer here in Belgium. As some of the walking paths are very frequented, I couldn’t understand why others weren’t doing the same. Especially kids, they would stop by and look at me, wondering what am I doing maybe? Reminded me of an incredulous face a friend made when I told him he doesn’t know what a tomato or an egg really tastes like.
Well last year I took 2 of them, Brussels city kids, to a small village in Croatia. I think they ate 2kgs of tomatoes just for breakfast :rofl: :joy: :sweat_smile:.
People are disconnected from the whole process, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear children claiming berries grow in the supermarkets soon…so we do need to show them the value of proper nutrition.
Too bad it’s not done by those in charge of our health but, it’s not profitable enough.

About subsidies, the solution might be somewhere in between. I agree with @matthias , I don’t believe in gifts as a sustainable solution for anything BUT, I spent quite some time working in rural development/EU funds ecosystem. There are real benefits for small farmers when they can buy machines and build structures, or plant trees which will last decades and bring steady revenue. So I totally support this kind of grants. I am well aware they are often not efficient or even written badly when influenced by bigger entities. That, depends of us, though, so system in place isn’t that bad but we humans certainly like corrupting things.
So, for me long term solutions are definitely somewhere along @matthias thinking but there are very useful grants (if properly distributed) to speed things up.
Also, grants are pointless if the farmer cannot be competitive on the market due to conditions outside of his immediate influence.

I also believe farmers can achieve much higher efficiency and reduce the cost further by cooperating and using planned development. That’s what we are doing now in Croatia, in the village of my grandparents. There is too much distrust but, we have now 6 people willing to work together. Instead of all 6 buying one machine worth 20 000 euros, we will each buy a different one and use them for anyone who needs them. We will also create a brand where possible and a common platform for marketing our products/services. We simply need to create a very powerful example. It is pointless to talk in Balkans, there have been too many lies and empty promises, so just do it and do it well.

When do grants not work? Grants are pointless when there is no proper education of the population and monitoring/evaluation afterwards. In that case, they are a waste and in many cases do more damage than good.
They also don’t work when the overall system enforced by relevant laws/treaties are favorable to huge companies.
I believe food should be cheap. Why? Well because food is the most basic requirement for each human being. It is an essential part on our quest for freedom, as it is also a great tool for control. As Mathias said, a lot of people cannot afford quality food and they will go for the cheapest. It will later cost them much more but what are they to do?

Food is not expensive now because it must be. Food is expensive now because we created the system in which it MUST be expensive.
One of the big reasons is the abandonment of rural regions, migration to urban centers. It is increasing both the cost of living for everyone in cities and cost of production/delivery for smaller producers.
Another one is the taxes and laws put into place. Supposedly for protecting the consumer but in fact allowing big companies monopolies on life basically.
Nobody should be able to patent life. Nobody should be able to standardise life.
Another reason is linked to that as well. When people are fed the same story that they MUST BUY Z seed, for it they need X pesticide and Y fertiliser now. The seeds are of course sterile or will not yield almost anything if you dry them and replant the next year…and they all lead to the same company with 95% market share? What is that? It is a travesty of a system!

So what would be the solutions?

  1. Use the current crisis and upcoming economic difficulties + remote work possibilities to encourage migration back to the rural areas.
    Policy encouragement, cheaper, greater self sufficiency, quality of life much higher (lower pollution) etc…there are many pros. The biggest con for city people would be lack of human potential when they look at some village etc. That can be changed very fast if done in an organised way. Bringing educated, creative people from cities to a rural area and combining them with the experience people there already have, would bring great results.

  2. Network! First network with other like minded people in cities (who are looking into moving), with idea of combining skills to build communities with great potential. Then network further, nationally and internationally, to create very big organisations which can represent us at the highest levels of policy making. There is always private power versus public power. We cannot compete in private power (financially), but they cannot compete in public power (votes).

  3. Participate to the maximum in local affairs. From my experience, there are a lot of ways to get authorities to build the much needed infrastructure. Some include simple persistency and activism, others include actually educating them (as they might not be aware of opportunities from various funds). Direct or participatory democracy can be implemented at that low level quite easily.


Speaking of which, have a look and see if you Want to be involved/ join? Green Deal Call: selected topics for Edgeryders

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I’m away from home and will be available only intermittently, but it doesn’t mean I don’t read your messages. :slight_smile: Will answer a.s.a.p.

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Thanks, will check it out. If there is something with concrete project implementation with direct impact on the ground, I will join. If it is research centered, hardly.

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Mostly agree with all your points. However it has to be made clear, and the current crisis makes it more obvious than ever that the existing system of subsidies, regulations and everything that goes with it has never been made in order to support food sovereignty or any small business including family farmers. So we must not count on that. After years of work on EU regulations and policies I can tell you NONE of this policies does support local farming, organic farming, sustainable practices and so on. Even if there is some “greening” going on, even if some family farmers do benefit from subsidies, and there was certainly some money allocated here and there, this is just totally ineffective while 95% of funds go to support the exact big industries that are destroying the planet and the rest is subject to heavy administrative control. So everything has to be totally rebuilt from scratch because at the current point those regulations are so bad it is not even possible to reform them. We have spent years and years of trying to have a better greener Europe and all we have is our best organic farmers struggling for survival not even because of lack of funds but because they face too much obstacles from taxes, regulations, sanitary norms and other. At the same time, the ones that get most of the money are those who spray the fields with bee killing pesticides and want to plant GMO crops all over. And the danger now comes not only from taxation but from crazy sanitary regulations which are killing for example small scale pig breeding while terrible industrial farms with thousands of animals kept indoors are still allowed, no problem. So I do not want to sound pessimistic people, but the systemic change will not come from current governments or EU institutions, or it would only be for the worse. To built sovereignty and independence we must first of all organize locally and as much as possible invest in our communities. Which is very difficult as we have been now dependent from that same overcentralised and over controlling system and never learned to cooperate and support each other. And let’s also make it clear, there is no such thing on the planet Earth as free trade or free market. So it is somehow a mistake to think we live in a neoliberal world, while it is forbidden to buy seeds from your neighbour, but it is mandatory to buy them from a big registered seed company. The system has been designed by the big players to exploit the small ones, and this is nothing really new. But still 75% or more of the food is actually produced by small farmers. So yes, we should focus on communities, yes we shall network and built local strength, and yes the money must be reinvested in a completely different way. We need a complete reset and that won’t be easy. But it has to happen and family farmers are at the heart of the change.


Yeah, I agree with your assessment in general Sonia. It took a long time to come to this situation we are in right now, so it will take a long time to change it as well (much shorter than it took to come to this though).

I don’t consider “the system” as an entity which has a definite shape and nature, even though the laws implemented make it so in a way. Within it there are a lot of capable people doing a lot of good things too, it’s just that at the moment we have private power dominating the ecosystem so much.

Sometimes heavy administrative control is necessary, if the goal is to ensure the efficiency of the investments used. I totally support good monitoring and evaluation systems. I have seen so much abuse of EU funds over the years, so I find it necessary. Unfortunately I have seen in practice that the bigger players are immune to it, and they are the ones getting so much money indeed. Why? Well locally they simply have too much influence.

Over regulation is very counter productive. I have a feeling it is a mixture of the ever growing Brussels law makers structure, needing to justify its existence, and heavy influence by those who can afford such regulation. Result is the destruction of smaller competitors and enforcing of monopoly.

There is a lot of work to be done, but in baby steps :slight_smile:. Step one for me is education and revitalization of rural regions. The biggest strength could be diversification of economy, it is very important. As you can see, the climate is becoming more and more volatile. We cannot rely only on agriculture, nor should we. I believe real innovation will happen when we attract people with very different backgrounds to rural regions and get them involved in local problems.


@Sonia, thank you for this compelling overview, and @jasen_lakic for the clear list of priorities that you mention: going back to rural and focus on networks and education of the farmers,
You and @dmjonic seem to be in close agreement in these areas,

Have you met @Ewa from Poland? She just registered for the event and agrees that the government has never really supported sustainable agriculture. She also says the following:

I was engaged in building a coalition of organizations that would get involved in campaigning and education arounf CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). NGOs active in cities quickly got involved but it was much more difficult to engage farmers and their organizations. I think a big challenge is how to find a common language between “city activists”, NGOs and farmers, people working in the countryside and how to connect them into a common platform that would seek more sustainable solutions in agriculture policies, law and practices.

@Paco21, who is our guest speaker from EIP Agri, said in a post here that:

The near future of EIP-AGRI as policy instrument is bright as you should have seen in the leagal proposals. The real challenge I see is to make sure the knowledge / innovation reaches the local farmer and he applies it being convinced it will make difference.

So I ask you: what kind of structures do you have around you which are doing a good job at this? do you have examples of collaborations which are making a difference, even in the smaller scale? If European/national funding can be used to some extent to start something, and we should not depend fully on it, what should it be used to?

IF we don’t use it, whose job is it to build those networks of awareness and sovereignty? NGOs?

I can think of the French model of community supported agriculture, which is now popularized more and more, but would that qualify as innovation in the views of the funding bodies, @Paco21?

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Totally hear you :slight_smile:

For me the most logical step is to work with LAGs. They cover a big majority of the EU territory. They already have local networks and spaces for educational purpose.
I realised there is a good will to exchange practices internationally when I was involved in organising a conference for all LAG coordinators in Croatia. As I reached out to my contacts in France, Slovenia, Belgium and Finland. The responses were mostly positive.

The thing is, they are mostly very involved in local matters so the missing link is somebody/organisation who can transfer the knowledge/innovation from elsewhere.

ENRD could fulfill that purpose, as they do send information to the ministries of every country, which are supposed to translate it in the native language and spread it locally.
I haven’t been very active in rural development for 4 years or so. I can’t tell now what is the capacity of ENRD, if they expanded beyond their help desk team etc.

I already did workshops for LAGs, specifically about EU monitoring and evaluation systems and about new vision for the rural areas. I was also asked to give courses on Excel and bookkeeping so I know they are open to this format of spreading knowledge and giving useful info to the local population.

Going through ENRD could be a very slow process or very fast process, as they have clear guidelines decided by the policy makers…so everything would depend of them I guess.

If we or any other organisation would decide to do it, I would actually use Edgeryders platform or create a new “section” of it. It could just be a clone adapted specifically to the needs of farmers/organisations innovating, having ideas or practices worth spreading.
It could be a starting step, a catalyst and facilitator of international cooperation. Hypothetically talking, if we would have a fund available which we could dedicate for spreading these innovative ideas, we could work in 3 steps:

  1. Identify with stakeholders sharing ideas on our platform which ideas would work best in which regions (it depends so much of topography and market conditions)

  2. Spread this knowledge in cooperation with LAGs via local workshops
    work with ministry and organise directly a conference for all LAG coordinators to spread the relevant best practices within their regions

  3. Finance projects in cooperation with LAGS (LAGS have local development strategies and they can draft calls for proposals)
    Eligible projects would of course be specifically those in line with local development strategy AND must be pilot projects designed specifically to be success stories for the innovative practices we want to spread

Well all that after actually having a decent amount of stakeholders involved here :slight_smile:. My opinion is that innovators and people trying out new things are very passionate about what they do and will gladly share that knowledge…especially if their activities are motivated by social and environmental responsibility, betterment of human conditions etc.

I haven’t gone in detail through existing calls for proposals on EU level, so there might be something already available for this purpose.


The system is flawed, either by design, ignorance or sheer bureaucracy, and biased towards those “in the know”.

Wherever they (and “they” are all the members of the same whiteshirt backpatting cabal) write about systematic changes, milestones to meet, backstoppers and leverages, I get sick and stop reading immediately. They have bullshitised the farmer’s work to senseless proportions. There are forms to fill, logs to keep, HACCP to install and maintain, traceability and all the other cumbersome and unnecessary things.

Yes, we need it turned upside down. Most consumers don’t care for organic certificates, but they do care about what they eat. So, the farmers should be encouraged to network, to offer informal distribution of their produce to the customer’s doorstep, instead of spending their money on stamps and seals proudly marking their produce organic, and keep it wilting on a supermarket shelf because it’s too expensive for a normal buyer.

Let me present an example of a Serbian grower of rare maize varieties. He has certified it as organic, but yet he can’t certify the maize flour coming from the very same certified maize! Because he hasn’t an HACCP system in place. Rubbish.

So why not just forget about certification and build mutual trust among producers and consumers instead? The food doesn’t have to be expensive to be healthy and flavourful.

Let me present another example: if you go to a farmers’ market, many times the tomato you buy is rather bland and run-of-the-mill. Because the farmer is a logical and streamline-oriented being and often sells somewhat underriped tomatoes because the unsold vegetables would otherwise go to waste. They spray it more because they have to return it home and keep it for another day. What I do is ask the farmer to let it ripe for another two or three days and convince him/her that I will come back and buy it, and they are happy to do so. They have never accepted any deposit money, they count on honour and their “But don’t let me down” is, for me, the biggest bond to oblige. Because it’s not his/her prime interest to sell underriped tomatoes, but to make ends meet.

If you encourage the farmer into doubling his/her production of heirloom varieties they grow for their families because you will come every day or two and buy it, they will be more than glad and may even offer to deliver it to your doors. What you two need is just a phone call. They are not a cheating race of humans, they are hard-working people, often misunderstood. And if they have reliable customers they can count on, they will ditch the headhunters from the supermarket chains, they will spray less and with less harmful chemicals (because they don’t want to make a museum exhibit, but a tasteful vegetable). Every true farmer and craftsman are proud of their produce. However, all this needs a lot of patience and time.



I can’t speak about the rest of the world but growing up we had farmers in the family. I have kept a toe in the water to stay informed. The U.S.A. understands food sovereignty and also treasures our farmers. We do provide huge subsidies to farmers Our farmers produce huge surpluses that many foreign countries block with tariffs for good reasons. Our farmers are also considered essential to our national security. While not enough of those farming use sustainable practices more and more do every year.

As an aside most of our agricultural production goes into industrial products for dairy, meat, oil, bread, beverage, canning and fuel factories. We produce and eat very little fresh vegetables which is about all eat local and sustainable can address. While recently more Americans have been baking their own bread they almost all use store bought flour, including me.

One more thing, even a sustainably produce tomato bought from a farmer is not going to taste as good as the ones you grow in your garden plot.



Hi Tim,

First, welcome to edgeryders, I just read your introduction post!

Do you think this concept of food security is still important these days, when there is a surplus of food produced worldwide and we have gone past the ability to feed our countries?

I ask because others in the conversation like @angelo and @Dragan_Jonic make a point of saying today’s challenge is really about healthy food chains, it’s not really about producing food but how it is being commercialised, to who’s benefits and losses.

We are preparing for an event on Monday afternoon Europe time/ your morning (you’re more than welcome to join by the way, just let me know so I can send you an access link). And we are trying to figure out ways in which more support can be brought back to rural areas - whether consumer support, coordination and resources for developing local markets etc… Of course, the situation in Europe might be very different from the one in the US, but I wonder: in your community, do you see people being more preoccupied by the source of their food, and how what actions are they taking?

Thanks for the welcome. Sorry no I can’t attend your Monday event I am already booked for Monday. Actually already over booked.

Yes, I do think food security is still important because I think we still have many problems with quality and access. Production is also not without threat.

I don’t think it is right to fight big agribusinesses in general. I think it is right to fight against unsustainable practices and those who advocate for them. Many of our rural communities depend on big agribusiness, many smaller farmers join co-ops that are essentially big agribusinesses.

Here we need to support rural communities with services that are not profitable so are not available but still necessary. High Speed Internet and healthcare are unavailable in a lot of our rural communities and educational options are limited. In addition to crop insurance, price supports, government purchases of over production and cash payments the government already provides farmers need government subsidies for infrastructure and services like the ones I mentioned.

Priceless local food will not be grown in rural communities here but in urban farms. There will always be excess local food in our rural farming communities, it is our cities that have too little local food creating a scarcity of fresh produce at reasonable prices in our food desert urban communities.

In my communities it is really only the rich people in the suburbs that seem to be preoccupied with the source of their food. They are getting farm to table subscriptions, buying organic and fair trade goods and going to farmers markets.



For decades the debate on food security has been monopolized by 2 narratives about THE solution: “we must produce more food!” and “we have plenty of food, we must distribute it better!” Both are flawed.
Food security is still important in my neighborhood as well as in global politics. Without a sufficient food supply, my family and neighbors cannot live. If you are lucky enough, you can pretend demand more, i.e. that the food is not only sufficient but it is safe, affordable, nutritious and ‘healthy’ (this is a bit more complex). At the national and global level, food security unbalances contribute to building up trade and production networks that are quite interesting to follow if you want to see where power is and how it is changing (suggestion: give a look at Turkey).
Food surplus is inherent to food security. Without surplus that makes trade possible, you are destined to spend your whole life - every single minute - only producing food for you and your family and it will never be as diverse as prescribed by decent diets. Maybe it’s something beautiful. I would not like to live like that. Of course, we can talk of many forms of trade - in the end it is based on different social conceptions of trust. You can trade with the farmer behind the corner and do it with no safety standards (@Dragan_Jonic - interesting the story of the organic certification with no HACCP - to be checked - likely the flaw is in the certification scheme rather than in the HACCP) because you know him and you trust him. Or, you can trade futures on wheat at the CBOT. Those are two extreme examples. The point is that both are trust-based systems. On trust you can build markets (small, big, veg, org, cert, no cert) and the challenge is not only to make a connection possible among those markets, but also make them cooperate. As a friend of mine puts it here, today the risk is being interdependent without trust and cooperation. In the neighborhood as well as on the global stage.


I’m guessing what you meant was “demand more”

Yes, thanks!

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Just wanted to flag three experiences (maybe Cloughjordan is known already) that might be of interest:



They all will be involved in the following event: https://www.arc2020.eu/local-food-reimagining-regional-responses/