Supermarkets are marvellous as providing anonymity.
The pre-cut stir fry pack bears little resemblance to an actual cabbage (let alone gives any hint of the bees that pollinated the flower), and it is very hard to imagine a lamb chop attached to a little sheep. If customers got to meet the people who produced their food and ask questions about animal welfare, growing methods and staff relationships, I believe most people would change their eating habits.
REKO is a Finnish term meaning ‘Fair Consumption’. REKO brings producers and consumers together, creating local networks, and supporting small scale local producers. Since November 2018, three REKO Rings have begun in the Midlands – all powered by volunteers. The first outside of Europe.
Small producers, who are doing farming right for the planet, the animals in their care and their community, often struggle to find markets for their produce.
They don’t have the volume or can’t be regular enough for traditional markets, but it is GOOD FOOD and needs to be shared. The REKO idea is that producers post what they will be harvesting that week – so 7 bunches of carrots, 2 dozen eggs and 5 bottles of mulberry jam – for example. Customers order by commenting, pay upfront (if producers want them to) and collect from a central spot once a week. So, no one harvests more produce than has been ordered, minimising effort and waste and customers know that the produce is super fresh.
Carol Addis is thrilled by the concept. “It is such a wonderful opportunity for people in Howick and surrounds to have an assortment of ethical food in small quantities available weekly – and that is reliable. Our community gets together for just an hour and has an opportunity to meet new people too. We so need to encourage community spirit.
I almost never have to go into a supermarket now. I buy my bits of fruit from my favourite street hawkers, that helps supports a family. I include the wonderful Dovehouse Organic Farm Shop in my weekly trip to Howick for the REKO morning as there are many things I continue to buy there. REKO has made my life perfect.
Next week, I am taking a couple of camp chairs and inviting my friends as it’s a nice little place for a coffee meet up – and to support Country Ground Coffee who trundle all the way from Notties after the REKO gathering there.”
It works pretty simply – producers post adverts of their produce, in a closed Facebook group, early in the week, where orders and deliveries are agreed upon. Producers meet customers to deliver their order at a designated time and place. The aim is to have a delivery once a week but because all produce is local and seasonal, there may be some seasonal variation.
Producers bring the produced ordered (and often paid for in advance) and customers arrive to collect it and engage in conversation. You can look the farmer directly in the eye and ask her about animal welfare, or what fertilizers he used on the particularly plump pumpkin.
Sanele Nxumalo of iThemba Nursery in Sweetwater sells at both the Hilton and Howick REKO Rings. “It’s a great business networking opportunity. Different people, from different places selling different products and we all share stories and learn from one another. The ideas we get on how to upgrade our produce and improve our packaging are very useful. Also, knowing that we have a regular income every Thursday and Friday for our project is very helpful. We are all like one family now, which I am thankful for.”
Howick resident Christine Hugo is a regular. “It’s this prevailing environmental care and culture that attracted me to the Midlands a few years ago. It’s empowering to meet farmers and producers personally. I love supporting small scale, local farmers who are doing things the right way, i.e. natural or organic and especially cruelty free. What I also value about REKO is that we get produce with no packaging or reusable packaging, and we know exactly what goes into the production of our foods.”
Kim Longhurst, who has recently moved to the Midlands from Durban wouldn’t miss it for the world. “As part of our journey to support local, ethical, organic producers we are delighted to be REKO members, as consumers. It is wonderful to be able to meet growers and farmers in person, to hear their stories and see the hands that make, plant, grow and nurture the food that we eat. It is such a pleasure to be around like-minded people and learn from their experience.
Andrea Barass concurs “What an awesome initiative. It is so convenient to plan ahead and order online, knowing that the products are good for my family and support local producers. I am so looking forward to trying out my incredible ‘harvest’ today – including completely free range chicken, and eggs, stone-ground flour pizza bases, fresh spinach, cabbage, butternut, lettuce, African horned cucumber (great in gin apparently) , and planting out my herbs and veggie seedlings. It’s way better for the Earth to shop small too!”
- Hilton REKO Ring meets on Thursday afternoons from 15h30 to 17h30 in the grounds of The Church of Ascension in Brindy Road.
- Notties REKO Ring meets on Saturday mornings as part of the Earth Route Market.
- Howick REKO Ring meets under the trees where Mr Ahmed used to be on Main Street Common– opposite the Howick Community Church on Friday mornings 10h30 to 11h30.
Kim Wiggett, a passionate food grower based in Nottingham Road, just loves the concept. “There are so many awesome things about the REKO model – a market for local small scale farmers, low carbon footprint of food, direct customer relationships, supportive network of like minded people and producers, transparent competition and at the same time I get to do something I absolutely love for a living!”
The Shea O’Connor Enviro Club are regulars at the Notties REKO. They harvest veggies from the school garden to sell for school funds. They are loving the experience!
Ayanda Shabalala particularly enjoys the fact that they get to socialise with other Notties locals and learn a lot of things about running a small business. Zolani Ntombela adds “We even share information about gardening, some people are kinds and share seeds with us. It is so nice to be surrounded by people who share your same interest and passion. We get a chance to see other well grown food and it is all organic! Our school mates now realise that growing your own veggies is GOOD. Fresh from the soil, straight to the plate.”
Hilton homesteader, Karen Zunckel, who sells her excess produce as well as buying those things she cannot produce, is particularly pleased at the reduction of food-miles and packaging. ” You will feel better for consuming the sun-ripened goodness. This is healthy food, produced without agro-chemicals or cruelty. Farming that builds soil and defends biodiversity.”
Jeni Sneyd participates in all three REKO Rings, selling the food she produces organically in Rosetta. “We have always grown our own fruit, berries and veggies and get great pleasure from harvesting our rewards and processing any extra. REKO has opened up a new market for us to make income out of our extras. I think the best part of REKO has been meeting fellow producers and we have formed this tight knit group that one can bounce ideas off and share problems with. I have gained so much knowledge from fellow producers.
Each week I get very excited seeing customers re-order my produce. I must be doing something good. Getting to know our customers and getting positive feedback from them makes this all worthwhile. Who would ever have thought I would get so excited over a bunch of spinach? We will never be millionaires but give me this job any day to my previous office career.”
Kaitlynn and Andre Kauerauf of Bramleigh Farm introduced the concept to the Midlands and are thrilled at how quickly it has taken off. “We had spent one too many days sitting around at farmer’s markets, with chicken rapidly defrosting that we wouldn’t be able to sell. A pre-order system made so much sense to us. Facebook is an ideal platform for this type of sales model because a REKO Ring is run by volunteers. There is no savings fund for advertising so a free advertising platform is necessary. Secondly, only interested parties can join the group – it doesn’t become like one of those spammy emails that you were somehow automatically subscribed to last year Wednesday and have no interest in the 10 000 emails sent a day. The group is also able to be controlled – producers and consumers can be added, and also removed if they do not adhere to the guidelines. Facebook provides an easy to access, easy to use platform for multiple consumers to see the adverts of multiple producers and for consumers to quickly and easily respond. So while it may not be for everyone, it certainly ticks the boxes for the REKO model to work.
We are proud to have initiated the first ever REKO Ring outside of Europe, in Africa – in the tiny, hardly-even-a-dot-on-the-map town, Nottingham Road! And even more excited to see how the concept is growing. “
The main aims of REKO are:
- Local, ethical and organic production
- Direct relationship between producer and consumer
- Transparent prices, orders and comments
- Products are pre-ordered
- Producers are responsible for collecting payment from consumers.
- You may ONLY sell what you yourself have produced or direct by-products of your raw materials – no reselling.
- The producer must make production methods transparent and ingredients clear to the customer.
- As part of building a relationship with the customer, the producer must deliver in person to the REKO Ring collection point – even if you only have one order.
- Collection is at a set time and place, for a set duration.
- Reduced packaging, and as far as possible no plastic.
If you are interested in selling your fresh, organically grown food without packaging, then you should complete the REKO Producer Application.
Apply here: https://form.myjotform.com/83034169344557
If you are interested in buying local produce, ask to join the REKO Facebook Group in your area.