A radically different food system by the Streekboer
A radically different food system and the Streekboer is organising it!
(interview with Thijs Riem Vis, June 2017)
The real food revolution starts locally! Let’s give the power back to farmers and consumers! This is the mission of three young enthusiastic entrepreneurs; Sandra Ronde, Janco Heida and Thijs Riem Vis. Thijs explains: "In 2015, Janco and I were biking around. We come from the same village. Back then I was doing a minor for entrepreneurship in Groningen. I'm from the agricultural world and wanted to be a farmer my whole life long. I was building an application for dairy farmers to simplify their registration process. Janco told me he wanted to eat pure food from the region for health reasons, but had to drive 90 km for products from the region even though there are many farmers from the region supplying a wide range of products. He started asking farmers if he could deliver their products to friends and family. Right from the start his car was loaded with products, nothing else would fit in. There was a great demand and it all went very fast. I invited him to join the entrepreneurship minor and he asked me to take on the financial side and distribution. Sandra - who also followed the minor and struggled with the current set-up of the food system - has great communication skills and wanted to work with us. Because if she wanted to change something in the world of food systems, she wanted to start close to home: this is how the Streekboer [regional farmer] was born.”
The Streekboer aims to bring the farmer and the consumer into contact with each other and create social interaction again. "We're setting up our company based on 3 values: a fair price for the farmer, healthy food of good quality and elimination of malpractices in the food system. We started in Nieuwe Horne. We already had 50 customers in the first week and developed a new website. From there we started rolling out the concept to other regions. This starts with looking for a location where farmers can come together and which is easily accessible by car or bike. Then we'll look for someone with the same core values to manage the location. The company now sells between 1000 and 1200 orders per month from local farmers directly to consumers from four locations in the north of the Netherlands. Farmers and consumers meet each other every week in these regions.
After two years of business, the Streekboer is facing a new challenge. The current number of regular customers must increase considerably in order to actually change the food chain. Scaling up is necessary to provide farmers' families with an income so that they are no longer dependent on other customers. "That's why we started the Streekboer Family. We call on farmers, consumers and organisations to become members of the Streekboer Family. Advertising is not enough: personal attention is needed to make the switch to local products. We focus on the innovators, the early adaptors. We do not yet have all the means to do it perfectly, we still encounter plenty of faults and that's why we need these people to build our company. Learning while doing is the best way for us", Thijs says. The aim is to have 1500 members by the end of this year. Then the Streekboer can take a first big step by radically changing the earnings model for food.
"We are at a tipping point, the demand for our products is growing, also from the hospitality industry and nursing homes. And companies want to work together. For example, we get together in Sneek near a garden centre. In Heereveen we work together with the housing association, they also make their location available for us. We work with Rabobank, for which we provide catering. And, we also work with local governments; enthusiasm is everywhere. The demand is definitely on the rise; we see consumers gaining more influence and paying more for quality. And we as the Streekboer are going to communicate this even more! Starting with the company Buurvrouw Durkje from Friesland. They have to increase their number of cows from 9 to 21 to build up a raison d' être and the Streekboer Family is providing their start-up capital. This is how we want to create opportunities for sustainable farmers and give consumers access to a transparent market," says Thijs enthusiastically. And so the young entrepreneurs of the Streekboer work together with their members step by step to create a fundamentally new system for farmers and consumers. Because everyone has the right to good, healthy and fair food!