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Farmer-Citizen and Eco-Regions

Why ecological areas?
You often hear: sustainable agriculture starts with the consumer. Dutch consumers are said to be unwilling to pay a fair price for sustainably and animal-friendly produced meat and vegetables. Buy organic: this will ensure increased demand for production without pesticides and artificial fertiliser. As well as more attention for animal welfare. If cattle go outside more and eat more grass instead of GM animal feed, they will produce healthier milk and meat. And if fertiliser and pesticides aren't used any more, surface water will be cleaner.

All well and good. But organic produce is often sourced far away. Organic mangetout from Kenya, eggs from Italy, taco crisps from California. It gets all mixed up in eco supermarkets and they often don't have local produce. Maybe this is exported to countries that have a greater demand for it. This all costs a lot of energy: moving water, and all the hauling of food. And we, the consumers, lose our link with the farmer who provides our food. We are tempted by tens of thousands of processed and attractively packaged products in supermarkets that, together with processing companies and wholesalers, take away a big chunk of the farmer's profit margin. And because of the food industry's and supermarkets' advertising we lose track of healthy food. Founder of the Slow Food movement, Carlo Petrini, said that '[t]he dignity of the local economy is the only one that allows for the realization of what is becoming an oxymoron: sustainable development.'

What does an eco-region look like
In the Netherlands only one region has made serious progress as an eco-region: the Vecht Valley in Overijssel (a region to the east of Zwolle). Here regional products have got a fair chance that contributes to the regional economy, thanks to the cooperation between producers, shops, the catering industry and tourism. This cooperation has been set up partially as an initiative of Slow Food who work on the establishment of what they call 'food communities'.

Other examples:
  • Sound Soils (The Hague and south-west part of the 'Green Heart' area): an initiative from the Network Vital Agriculture and Nutrition
  • Wageningen's Wealth and de Wageningse Eng

Organisations involved with eco-regions and farmer-citizen links:
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