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Voedselteams is an online ‘food market’ where customers can buy produce from local farmers. When enough people from a suburb are interested in being involved, a group is formed with its own administrative and financial coordinators. The group connects to the national Voedselteams website which provides each member with a login and gives specific information relating to their locality, including a list of produce available from nearby farms for sale each week. Once you become a member you can select from a huge range of local produce including fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat, flour and juice. You order your food online and one week later you collect it from a local pick up location. Recently a new Voedselteams group started up in Gentbrugge. I went to their first information meeting. It was a great night with about 40 people turning up.

Firstly Voedselteams facilitators provided information about how the system works and answered questions from the audience. For example, one woman asked about whether the food was organic. The team leaders explained that the main focus for Voedselteams is to support local farms which are small businesses. While many of these farmers use organic approaches, they still might not be qualified to register as officially ‘organic’. For instance beef, chicken or lamb farmers might not always be able to find organic grain for their livestock. Yet their animals might still live free-range and healthy lives. There is information about the local farms on the website. This help Voedselteams members learn about their local suppliers but it also paints a clearer picture of the struggles faced by these farmers. Small businesses can’t always keep up with the regulations and standards or titles like ‘organic’ as much as they strive to.

After a short break, it was time to hear from the farmers! A group of them came all the way to Gent to share their stories and show their produce. There was a bee keeper who makes delicious honey and a vegetable farmer whose wife writes a letter to their Voedselteams customers each week. There was a farmer who runs a flour-mill, another who grows apples and pears, a dairy farmer, a goat farmer and a sheep farmer who produces dairy products called Johan. I spoke to Johan about his farm in Teme. Voedselteams is his main source of business (he also runs a small shop at the farm). Johan has a wonderful system where the government pay him to keep his sheep on their land to keep the grass and weeds under control. It costs the government half of what they would pay to look after the land with machines. And it benefits Johan because he is getting paid to feed his sheep! Johan also works with an organisation which connects people with disabilities to farmers, and many of his workers have been with him for years. Johan enjoys working with Voedselteams. Each week he receives his order and has 1 week to deliver the produce knowing exactly how much cheese, yoghurt and milk he needs to make. It helps him plan ahead and manage his time.

I also spoke to a couple of the audience interested in joining the group. Lien from Gentbrugge said that Voedselteams is a good urban solution for reaching local food because finding it in the shops isn’t always possible. Ben likes the idea of shopping online and knowing where the food is coming from. He loved hearing the farmers’ stories and likes the diversity on offer. It seems Voedselteams is a great system for people who can’t grow their own food but who want to connect with and support local farmers.

  • voedselteams.1350920765.txt.gz
  • Last modified: 2012-10-22 15:46
  • by imogen