In an original campaign to refute reports that their produce is tainted by industrial waste that makes its way to their crops’ irrigation systems from the Asopos River, a group of farmers from Thebes on Wednesday set up a makeshift open-air market on the capital’s main square, distributing produce for free.
Hundreds of people formed long queues at the Syntagma Square «market» to take advantage of the bags of fresh fruit and vegetables being handed out by the farmers. There was no shortage of minor scuffles and loud verbal exchanges as people tried to grab produce off the stands.
Vassilis Katsaras, one of the farmers promoting his produce at Syntagma, said that «talk about alleged traces of heavy metals and depleted chromium in the crops of Thebes spreads fear and panic among the public. By doing this they are leading to our ruination, forcing us to sell our land for peanuts.» The Synatgama Square campaign, he added, is about «looking at the people straight in the eye and telling them that the only truth is that the agricultural products of Thebes are pure and safe.”
Another farmer, Dimitris Bekris, said that the allegations are unfounded «because the pollution in the Asopos is far away from our farms and, anyway, we draw our water from Yliki Lake.» He added that because of the negative publicity, many farmers in Thebes and generally in the prefecture of Viotia had resorted to marketing their produce as coming from other parts of the country.
The farmers will also be distributing produce to the food programs run by the Archbishopric and the City of Athens, as well as to public hospitals.