SUS-CHAIN: Case Studies
BE: Westhoek hoeveproducten – regional marketing of on-farm processed productsDirect selling of products at the farm is one of the oldest examples of alternative food supply chains. Direct selling comprises a multitude of different product groups (meat, fruits and vegetables, dairy), different degrees of processing, presence of farm shops, etc.; but they all have in common that the farmer becomes the price-setter and there is high degree of interaction with the consumer of the produce. This case study investigates a collective initiative for the sales of farm products in a particular region of Belgium, the Westhoek. The initiative is called ‘De Westhoek Hoeveproducten’. The aims addressed by the initiative are the following: improving farmer’s livelihood, open and enlarging new markets for sustainable products, a fair distribution of added value within the system and at the same time improve the farmer’s power in the chain, protection (creation) of positive externalities to (re)build rural resources and building and improving local capital.
Initially, the farmers in the region sold their products individually to the consumers, but a 5b-project submitted by KVLV-AGRA (an organisation for farmers’ wives) initiated a collaboration between the organisation and a dozen of farmers. The initial objective of the project was “to create, stimulate and commercialise farm products in the region”. With the project proposal, the initiators also aimed at higher sales and creation of added value through collective action and the development of a regional brand.
In 2001, while the 5b-project was still active, the stakeholders decided to continue and formalise their cooperation through the formation of a non-profit making association or “vzw”. Initially, 14 farmers and KVLV-AGRA were member of the “vzw”, which is lead by a board of directors that meets at least twice a year. The objective of the organisation is to bring together producers of farm products who will join forces to enhance the quality and the acknowledgement of farm produce in the Westhoek and who will jointly promote these products. Therefore, the statutes prescribe that producers of farm products can enter the organisation if they subscribe to the quality handbook and if they are located in the administrative district Veurne – Ieper – Diksmuide or in the municipalities Middelkerke and Staden. In a later phase of the initiative, the farmers added the objective to organise actions to promote a more sustainable type of agriculture.
Over time, the initiative has grown or scaled up in two different ways. The number of participating farmers went up to 23. This concerns mainly dairy farmers (12), while 8 farmers sell fruits and vegetables. Only three participants sell meat and this is mainly due to the strict legislation and requirements. But the initiative was also replicated in other regions in the same and other provinces. The concept of those replications is very similar to “De Westhoek Hoeveproducten”: direct selling of farm products with a common label that refers to the geographical area.