Small farmers across Europe are struggling to stay in business. Let’s use social media to help them out.
Origin Club is a simple and scalable way to help change how we grow, buy and sell food across Europe. Much like the selection of tasty and healthy products inside their launch range of limited edition Christmas hampers, Origin Club was itself made in Greece in June 2016 during the inaugural gathering of a purposeful non-organisation called the IO Collective. A few short months of remote co-working later and Origin Club is ready to launch via a 28 day crowdfunding campaign. The plan is to reinvest all our profits back into R&D before making a more ambitious community share issue in summer 2017.
So what is Origin Club and how exactly will it capture and store the energy that its co-founders hope this campaign can generate? This article will unpack some of Origin Club’s key messaging and clarify invitations now being extended to small producers and ethical consumers in the UK and Greece, as well as other actors already in the business of disrupting food trade all over Europe.
At the heart of this idea is a simple and yet powerful belief: that by embodying principles of transparency and democracy, ordinary people can co-create a more innovative and sustainable food system. Europe’s highest quality food is usually grown by single-origin, organic farmers on a small scale. This is nothing new or controversial, in fact this is how it’s always been. But there’s a problem: small scale production isn’t a good fit for big retail chains, which means you can’t find this produce in your supermarkets. Meanwhile, farming communities across Europe face a daily struggle for survival.
“We created Origin Club to support small farmers in rural Greece who’re struggling to stay in business. We have chosen Central Greece and the UK to launch our pilot campaign and aim to ship our first order of Origin Boxes in time for Christmas this year.” – Dimitris Kitsikopoulos, local food entrepreneur and Origin Club co-founder.
Origin Club offers a simple and scalable solution. To make a difference, we can support farmers in places like rural Greece simply by using our social networks to help them sell and distribute their products online. Our purpose is to establish a core audience of ethical consumers with whom we can test a diversity of authentic products before scaling supply of the most popular items through a variety of complementary channels, from e-commerce to wholesale, monthly delivery services to the establishment of long term and binding agreements with local buying groups.
It all starts by selling a few hundred Christmas hampers, which is a striking way to demonstrate how simple food trade can be when stripped back to it’s basics.
Here’s how it works. Origin Club:
- Source the best products made by a diversity of small-scale, single-origin, organic farmers.
- Promote theses products online using social media and email marketing.
- Deliver a selection of healthy and tasty products in time for Christmas, shipped directly from Central Greece.
- Reinvest 100% of their profits back into the regional communities and farming networks which make the scheme possible.
- Adopt an innovative multi-stakeholder ownership structure from day one, so that purpose always comes before profit.
- Ensure competitive pricing by relying on data-driven specialists and encouraging early adopters to sign-up to monthly subscriptions.
If you like their idea and wish to participate, you can go ahead and pledge on their crowdfunding campaign, buy direct from www.originclub.org or place a bulk order for your company or team by emailing email@example.com. It’s a simple transaction in which you make a measurable impact on a network of small farmers in Central Greece, and in exchange will be rewarded with some of the finest local produce available anywhere in Europe.
This campaign is just the beginning. In the coming months and years Origin Club will become a diverse and active community of stakeholders who share expertise and help to co-create new regenerative solutions for fairly priced and ethically distributed food trade. More specifically, Origin Club will focus on three key issues in their efforts to transform food trade in Europe, always starting from the critical perspectives of both small-scale farmers and ethical consumers.
- Authentication: Origin Club will explore the potential of blockchain technologies to disrupt and enhance the way certification works over the coming decade. Quite possibly one of the most impactful innovations in tech since the internet itself, blockchain has the potential to change the way human beings do governance in almost every way, shape and form. That means we can vastly reduce the complexity and expense of third party certification to guarantee a product’s identity, quality, quantity and place of origin. Put simply, it’s entire supply chain origin story will soon be authenticated for and by the people who grow, buy and sell it. Changing the way we establish and maintain trust — moving away from often inaccessible certifications and towards greater transparency — is literally a matter of survival for small producers who exist on the margins of our European common market.
- Marketing: Origin Club’s pilot scheme in Central Greece will seek to establish a regional innovation hub that supports farmers in telling their authentic stories to the world. Their belief is that by sharing these unique and deeply personal origin stories, a new breed of ethical consumers can be inspired to drive change in the way we grow, buy and sell food across Europe by voting for authenticity and relationship over homogenisation and brand recognition, each and every time they shop.
- Distribution: Thinking critically about the distribution of our food is essential when it comes to assessing our environmental impact. This includes assessing not only how products made in Greece reach customers in places like the UK, but also the ways in which any packaging used can be reintegrated as valuable technological ingredients which flow within emerging circular economies. As well as expanding from Christmas hampers to a monthly delivery service, Origin Club will seek to develop as a platform cooperative in collaboration with FairMondo by helping to make it more convenient for ethical consumers in places like London and Berlin to establish long term relationships with small farmers from all over Europe. They are furthermore engaged in early but exciting discussions with FairTransport regarding the sail shipping of selected product lines from 2017.
Relating to each of these complex fields of endeavour, Origin Club will work in partnership with those organisations and actors who are already leading the way. Setting up as an agency designed to bring greater democracy and transparency to food trade in Europe, their value proposition relates most specifically to an ability to shrink distances between small farmers and ethical consumers. If they can achieve this— and if Origin Club’s small team can successfully initiate groundbreaking R&D in their pilot regions— then perhaps their influence as agitators for change will be of greater significant than any future market share.
“We want to create systems that ensure that the food we buy is organically grown, ethically sourced, fairly priced and efficiently distributed. We want to support small local organic farmers by helping them sell and distribute their products online. That’s why we’ve created Origin Club.” – Irene Psifidi, PhD candidate and Origin Club supporter.
In essence, Origin Club seeks to establish a simple truth: that a healthy and flourishing food system depends on small scale farmers and ethical consumers — as well as every other stakeholder group with vested interests— working together to drive innovation and positive change.
If you believe this too, then here’s how you can take action and make a difference today.
- Join the conversation by signing-up to the mailing list at www.originclub.org
- Pledge your support for the crowdfunding campaign by October 31st at http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/origin-club/
- Or, simply amplify Origin Club’s social reach by sharing this story with your friends via https://www.facebook.com/origincluborg/
You can also feedback on everything included in this article in the comments below, or by getting in touch with a co-founder directly via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Origin Club is the launch venture of Transform Evia, a cross-disciplinary campaign designed to help kick-start an exemplar regenerative development in a fertile and biodiverse region of the second largest island in Greece. You can find out more about our mission and vision by watching the clip below — filmed on location at a convergence of over 40 purpose-driven entrepreneurs and activists from Greece and around the world — which inspired Origin Club’s startup back in June 2016.