The oikos trip to Oikopolis in Munsbach - A Delicious End of the Week
The trip to the Oikopolis facilities just outside Kierchberg proved to be a yummy and enlightening excursion. After a rocky start, we were fed lunch in the store’s café and sat down with three representatives for a presentation. Jeff, Peter and Clemens walked us through the various stages and decisions made by the Luxembourg co-op’s members. After the information session we were introduced to the production and shipping warehouse, touring all areas including packaging of fresh produce, ready made, grain processing and finally, storage.
The basis for distribution of bio products in Luxembourg is in part due to the desire to reduce industrialization of the Bio food chain, believing that quality and product variety are reduced when farmers are placed at the mercy of the demands of their retailers. The co-op has a strong ethic based on small market preference and support as well as Rudolf Steiner’s theories on agriculture and holistic land use.
1988 marks the year bio food distribution efforts began in earnest in Luxembourg. The production and quality guidelines of the Demeter and Biolabel helped by providing a platform from which to organize around and now also include EU guidelines with the adoption of the German based NATURATA label. Within the first 6 years the most pressing issue faced by the Luxembourg Bio label involved having more produce than was being sold; in 1994 a deal was struck with Cactus to allow for this issue to be resolved. An important element to remember is the ideal of supporting small market and product diversity, therefore an important element of the deal was the agreement for the Cactus stores to charge the same amount for all bio products as the smaller stores.
One way the ideal has been upheld has been through the introduction of round table discussions that included members from all three stakeholders: producer, wholesalers and consumers. This type of discussion format allowed for the face-to-face acknowledgement of the challenges faced by each member, allowing for variety, dialogue and cooperation to strengthen the bio market. Another effective method for upholding the ideal of quality, cooperation and farmer support is through the warehouse distribution, storage and product acquisition practices. Produce being offered is obtained with these preferences in mind: (in descending order) biodynamic Luxembourgish products, other biodynamic brands, EU bio products, ‘regional’ products, ‘local’ products and finally international products. Storage of produce is taken up in large part by dried goods and then by orders waiting to be delivered, this element is important to note due to the lack of large quantities of accrued produce waiting around to be sold, ie: back stock. Finally distribution of products is order based, which is not really so different.