On the 26th of October, a group of Newbie farmers from Ireland, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Scotland and Belgium participated in field visits in the area of Montpellier. As part of the Final Newbie Meeting, these field visits were organized and guided by Newbie partner RENETA. The group visited a cooperative supermarket called “La Cagette”, a network of producer shops named “Boutiques Paysannes”, farmers association CIVAM and advising organization PAI.
La Cagette is the first cooperative and participative supermarket in Montpellier. The cooperative has more than 1800 active members. These members are not only the owners of the store, they are also only decision makers and the only -customers. La Cagette aims to offer a transparent and sustainable alternative to large supermarket chains. They offer more organic products and consult their members on which products should be offered. Additionally, they apply a fixed margin of 23% on the products they offer. Therefore, La Cagette may be cheaper than the regular supermarket. However, this is not always the case. Nevertheless, the purchase price is a fair price set by the suppliers and members know exactly how much these producers have gained. The majority of the suppliers come from the region (< 200km). Since La Cagette is a non-profit organization, all profits are re-invested in the store. You can check out their website via this link.
Members are the sole clients: only members are allowed to shop in La Cagette. To gain access to the cooperative’s supermarket, they need to buy one or more shares of 10 euros. Additionally, members need to help out in the store for 3 hours every 4 weeks. This labour includes tasks such as cleaning, restocking the store and operateing the cash register. During each shift, 6 to 10 cooperants are working at the store. However, La Cagette also has 7 full-time employees as well. These employees coordinate everything and make sure that the goods are ordered and delivered on time,
Members are the sole owners: together, members have to make all decisions. To evaluate decisions, different committees were formed at La Cagette. In these committees, members have the opportunity to discover and evaluate new products, introduce new members, discuss about the purchase of new appliances, discuss a potential expansion or relocation of the supermarket, etc.
How does a visit to La Cagette work? Once you are registered as a member, you can shop at La Cagette. When you enter the shop, you will find a computer screen where you can register for shopping or for your 3-hour work shift. If you are there to work, you can find the overview and schedule of tasks in the back of the store (see picture). If you are there to shop, you will find a wide range of local products such as fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy, beer and wine, toiletries, etc. The supermarket also includes a section with bulk goods such as dried fruits and nuts. Happy (fair) shopping!
Boutiques Paysannes is a network of producer’s shops in the Languedoc-Roussillon region (Occitanie). A Boutique Paysanne is a collective sales outlet run and managed by agricultural producers who sell their products without intermediaries. The Boutique Paysanne store in Montpellier is operated and used by 14 local producers. The participating producers, who are located in a range of 80 kilometers from Montpellier, offer their seasonal and fresh products in the store. As these producers cover a wide range of activities and sectors, the products are very diverse. They include fresh vegetables, fish and meat, honey, free range eggs, jams, chocolates, olives and related products such as olive oil and tapenade, etc. Boutique Paysanne offers both organic and non-organic products; about 80% of all offered products are organic. Customers can find high-quality local, fresh and seasonal products. You can check out their website via this link.
In exchange for a spot on the shelves of Boutique Paysanne, all producers work in the store for at least 1-2 days a month. The amount of work a producer has to deliver, varies depending on the volume of his goods displayed in the store. A fixed 10% of the prices is retained to pay the rent and variable expenses, but the remaining 90% goes directly to the producer. This allows the producer to make a much higher margin on the final products compared to large supermarket chains. Customers like this system, as meeting the producer in person increases their trust in the product.
Currently, there are 16 Boutiques Paysannes in the region. These are recognizable by their iconic logo: two poppy flowers. In their effort to expand this network to a national level, we hope to see many more of these poppies on the streets of France soon!
CIVAM (Centres d’initiatives pour valoriser l’agriculture et le milieu rural) is an association of farmers and rural people who collectively work on the agro-ecological transition. In total, 1800 local farmers are affiliated to the organisation. CIVAM is funded by the national government and the European Union. The organisation connects farmers and let them exchange ideas and opinions on various topics, ranging from pesticides to local legislation. CIVAM runs several projects on short supply chains, helping farmers to identify and overcome obstacles that they encounter. The organisation also seeks to educate and activate people who have no background or connection to the agricultural sector by organising school visits, programs for ex-prisoners and an annual open farming visit weekend. This weekend is called “L’Hérault de Ferme en Ferme”. During this weekend, many local farms open their doors, making it possible for local inhabitants to visit their farms and eat local specialities produced by their farms. This helps farmers to increase brand awareness and visibility as well as to earn some extra money. You can check out their website via this link.
PAI (Point Accueil Installation) is an NGO that helps and guides new farmers in their first steps into farming. As such, PAI helps young farmers to achieve the PPP (Personalized Professionalization Plan) they need to achieve national grants. After completing a “self-diagnosis” assessment, the new farmer receives two PAI advisors: a project advisor and a skills advisor. The project advisor helps with the financial and legal affairs of the new farming business. For example, the advisor informs the farmer on how he/she can obtain financial aid from the local, federal and European government. The skills advisor, on the other hand, helps the farmer with the technical problems the farmer encounters in his/her production process. You can check out their website via this link.
These field visits provided inspiring stories to all participating Newbie farmers. The visits to La Cagette and Boutiques Paysannes inspired us to think about innovative supply chain and retail management. Additionally, we discovered how French farming businesses are guided and supported by organizations such as CIVAM and PAI. As such, this day marked the beginning of a very interesting 3-day Newbie program.