Those who buy food directly from farmers are following the trend. More and more farmers are therefore marketing their products not only through weekly markets or their own farm shops but are also discovering other innovative possibilities.

When choosing their distribution channels, organic farms, which usually offer a wide range of plant and animal products, have to consider carefully. For example, there is the – regular or action-controlled – direct sale from the farm, the stall at the weekly market in the region, direct supply to end consumers, distribution via organic food stores or food retailers or delivery to bulk consumers. In order to be closer to the consumer, some farms open farm shops in the city or have their customers put together an online “farmer’s box” (Bauernbox) that can be picked up at a central location.

The “subscription box” project was launched almost 30 years ago, and there are now around 150 suppliers who deliver regional organic food directly to their customers’ homes, regularly and on pre-order, often individually packaged. Some companies offer only vegetables and fruit, others also bread, cheese, meat and eggs, and in most cases the range is presented on a separate online platform. 40 subscription box operators have joined forces in the association Ökokiste e.V. (Eco-Box) and defined their own strict rules according to which they get certified.

Farmers and customers have joined forces in producer-consumer associations (Erzeuger-Verbraucher-Gemeinschaften – EVG) to market regional organic food products together. Such a “food cooperative” bypasses the retail trade by ordering larger quantities. Some “FoodCoops” have become large companies that market the products of the participating farmers in organic markets. Cooperation is even closer within the framework of solidarity-based agriculture (SoLawi). Here, consumers finance one or more farmers with regular contributions and receive their harvest in return. This means that the farmers’ work is paid for. More than 270 SoLawis now belong to the Netzwerk Solidarische Landwirtschaft e.V.

Flexible shopping

Many distributors deliver fresh organic food nationwide, but then these are not necessarily regional. “Crowdbutching” is about the online marketing of meat. Consumers can buy shares of cows, pigs or poultry, and only when the complete animal is sold, it is slaughtered.

With the network of Marktschwärmer (market hawkers), consumers fill their virtual shopping trolley with regional products and pay online. A few days later, producers and customers meet for the delivery of the food at a specially initiated “market” in the neighbourhood. The advantage: The supplier only brings what has been ordered; there are no leftovers, but time for conversations.

For providing the online platform, the company behind Marktschwärmer receives 10 percent of the net turnover, another 8.35 percent goes to the “hosts” of the hawkers. 81.65 percent of the revenues ultimately remain with the producer – in most cases more than if the producer would market via the retail trade. Disadvantage: The flexible ordering system gives them less planning security.

More and more often you see food vending machines where customers can help themselves. At “milk filling stations”, for example, fresh milk can be filled into bottles brought in around the clock. But also other dairy products, eggs or sausages are offered in such vending machines, which are set up at well-frequented locations and regularly filled with fresh goods. Even supermarkets or shopping centres with many walk-in customers are increasingly placing such vending machines in front of their doors to meet consumer demand for regional products. Turnover of 50 to 150 euros per day is possible, it takes about 15 minutes to fill them, and the electricity costs amount to about 45 Euros per month.

Climate dependent

For smaller organic farms that want to process and market their milk directly – with little capital and labour input and without specialist knowledge – “mobile cheese dairies” are a suitable introduction to cheese production. On order, a master cheesemaker will literally roll onto the farm with a truck or trailer and make cheese on site. The end-product usually matures in external climatic chambers and the farmer then gets the finished cheese back. The mobile cheese dairies charge between 0.51 and 0.60 euros per kilogram of processed milk, including the maturing process. There are several advantages associated with this type of “farm cheese dairy”, for example, it does not require a business registration.

For locations with a lot of excursion traffic or tourism, there is another possible mainstay in the summer months: processing the farm’s own milk into ice cream and selling it. However, before investing in the facility – between 50,000 and 150,000 Euros, depending on the space available – it makes sense to carry out a market analysis and estimate the potential number of customers. The necessary know-how is imparted by an ice-cream specialist school as part of a one-week training course. From about 4000 litres of milk and about 400 litres of cream, 8000 litres of ice cream can then be produced. A 1-litre package can be sold directly for about seven Euros; when sold to retailers or the catering trade, the price is slightly lower.

Those who do not want to plan and implement everything on their own can cooperate with franchise systems such as Bakker & Kok. Although then, no in-house creations may be offered, the company provides production and sales advice as well as recipes. The smallest machine costs around 20,000 euros, and an ice cream room can be set up from 70,000 euros, which is worthwhile from weekly sales of 50 litres of ice cream. The ingredients cost 2.50 to 2.80 Euros per litre of organic ice cream. In open sales, a price of 0.70 Euros per scoop results in 14 Euros per litre of ice cream.