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First middleman-free indoor organic market in Greece offers big savings

By Vassiliki Chrysostomidou

Turning off the national highway toward Kryoneri, north of Athens, brings you to Farmers Republic, an organic supermarket which on Saturdays and Wednesdays hosts farmers selling their fresh organic produce. It is also equipped with a kitchen that offers a short but tasty and organic menu for customers.

“The market is run according to international standards. All of the organic farmers are certified by independent authorities, while we are now in a position to carry out inspections ourselves,” Dimitris Koutsolioutsos, the founder of Farmers Republic, told Kathimerini recently. “We have around 10,000 visitors a week and more than 55,000 on our website.”

Farmers Republic recently launched an online shopping service (farmersrepublic.gr), which arranges for a delivery service but also allows customers to choose to shop from a particular producer, which Koutsolioutsos says is a first among schemes of this type worldwide.

Deliveries, explains the founder of the market, take place on Mondays and Tuesdays and were initially limited to the Attica area, although other areas have been added at an extra cost. The delivery service costs 3.50 euros for orders up to 50 euros and is free for orders over that amount. The prices, meanwhile, “are 10-30 and even 40 percent lower than at other organic produce markets,” says Koutsolioutsos.

When I visited, Nikos Golemis, a farmer from Sparta in the Peloponnese, treated me to an orange. “It’s as sweet as honey,” said the farmer, who runs a family business on 25 hectares producing citrus fruits, olive and olive oil, and more recently, eggs. “It’s all a matter of mentality: We eat it first and then give it to our children and then to the consumer,” he added.

As far as the customers go, Golemis said that there are those who really know their stuff and how to shop organic, and others “who buy organic because it’s trendy.”

“There are also those,” he added, “who will buy just enough for their children because they can’t afford more.”

Giorgos Karantonias dropped out of medical school to become an organic farmer and since 1991 has been growing vegetables all year around at the 4 Epoches (Four Seasons) estate. His prices on that particular day were 1.70 euros per kilo for kale, 70 cents/kilo for cabbage and 1.65 euros/kilo for celery and cauliflower. “In some cases the prices are the same as for non-organic produce,” he assured me.

Yiannis and Manolis are regulars at Farmers Republic and have embraced the entire concept with gusto. Their only complaint was that they would like to see a wider variety of produce on sale, adding that they were hoping the e-shop would help this happen.

Haralambos and his wife were visiting the market for the first time and were extremely pleased with what they saw. They had already bought a bag of tomatoes from Hania at Antonis Houmadakis’s stall.

“My farm is a family business. It is 1.2 hectares and yields about 7-10 tons,” Houmadakis said. “The yield at organic farms is about one-third less that at conventional farms.”

He was also very pleased with the new market. “I’ve acquired regulars and the more people who know my products the more people come looking for them. Right now I’m sold out by 3 p.m.”

ekathimerini.com , Thursday September 4, 2014 (15:48)  
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