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Popular Science: Farmers´ markets in Czechia – unique or just a copy?

Between 2009 and 2011, Prague experienced a huge increase in the number of farmers´ markets: from zero to forty-one in the summer of 2011. This phenomenon, which is well-known from the most developed countries, had arrived in Czechia. The question, however, remains: are the Czech markets the same as the markets in the “West”? An assessment of this phenomenon was carried out by Lucie Fendrychová from the Department of Social Geography and Regional Development together with Petr Jehlička.

Farmers´ markets are one of the features of alternative food networks. This concept reacts to today´s agriculture, which is actually a global industry with negative consequences for the environment, the quality of the food and the farmers themselves. On the other hand, the concept is criticized for elitism and exclusivity – the higher price of the food or the location of the activities in middle- or upper-class districts.

The huge and rapid increase of farmers´ markets in Prague has been reflected by geographers. But this study wanted to investigate the reasons behind this boom without the simple explanation, that the trend is from the West. The authors interviewed the managers of markets, farmers and politicians from municipalities and observed the markets as well.

It all started in the small district of Klánovice in the eastern part of Prague, where food enthusiasts established the first farmers´ markets in Czechia because they were frustrated by the slow development of the alternative food networks. This topic was caught by two NGOs, which started their own first markets in Prague – na “Kulaťáku”, Vítězné náměstí (square). People liked it and municipalities subsequently started to support markets in the run-up to communal elections.

The markets differed – the largest being organized by commercial subjects, others by NGOs and the municipalities themselves. Therefore, the authors stated that farmers´ markets in Prague are not only NGOs, “bottom-up” businesses, as they were at the start, but it is obvious that there was a demand for this concept, for example because of the different quality of the same food among EU countries. This gap was filled by the markets run by NGOs and commercial subjects as well.

An increase of farmers´ markets in Prague between 2009 and 2011. Source: authors of the article.

Furthermore, an insight into the farmers´ views is interesting: the structure of Czech agriculture is really unbalanced. The biggest companies have large areas, with the average being the highest in the EU. On the other hand, 66% of the smallest farmers have only 2% of the land and it is common that they do not sell their products at all. For example, there were only 234 farms with vegetables and 170 farmers´ markets in 2011. It was difficult to cover the demand, moreover it was sometimes hard to persuade them to sell products and even to get some locals one…

Czech farmers´ markets are full of paradoxes. There is a lack of farmers and even farms. By the way, the Czech word “farmář” comes from the English word “farmer”, but we had not been using it a lot before. Then, where are the inspirations and sources of Czech movement? In North America these kinds of markets emphasized the effects of the revitalization of locations in the city by the markets and the second source is the traditional European town markets. According to the authors, Czech farmers´ markets are the result of these two concepts and their synthesis in a specific post-socialist context.

Fendrychová, L., & Jehlička, P. (2018). Revealing the hidden geography of alternative food networks: The travelling concept of farmers ’ markets. Geoforum 95, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2018.06.012

Tomáš Janík

Published: Jun 17, 2019 06:45 AM

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