Are you interested in knowing where your food comes from? Or a bit concerned about what exactly the pesticides that your food has been sprayed with are doing to your body? Or are wondering where you can get your hands on favourite vegetables currently unavailable in Poland (butternut squash in my case)? Then read on. A new, Krakow-focused direct-from-the-farmer organic fruit and vegetable delivery scheme is about to get going for the
2011 season, and they need customers.
The scheme was set up by a small group of organic farmers from the Rzuchowa area, 83 km from Krakow, who got together to offer an organic fruit and vegetable box scheme that they started last year. For a minimum order of around 80 złoty they will deliver direct to your door in Krakow once a week, but if you’re willing to go and pick up your shopping at a central drop-off in Krakow, you can buy much less.
The scheme started last year, when brothers Jan and Paweł Czaja were persuaded by Jadwiga Łopata and Julian Rose of the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside to try out the direct-from-farm delivery service that has
become familiar to city dwellers in Western Europe and the US.
The brothers had left their corporate jobs to take over the family farm when their father passed away in 2004. In the beginning, they farmed grass to feed their 30 traditional rare breed Red Cows (there are only 3,000 of these in Poland, 2,600 of which are in Małopolska), but the lack of interest in organic food meant that their premium quality milk was simply bought up by the major dairies at the lowest possible price and poured into a pool from all the other farmers in the region.
The Czaja brothers realised pretty quickly that this wasn’t going to give them the income they needed, so they looked around for other ways to earn cash. With milk production dominated by a
few large dairies and the cost of starting up being so
high, milk processing seemed like a dead end. So reluctantly, they sold off all but the best animals, and to ease their conscience they set up the Odrolnika project.
The first year went well and they supplied boxes to customers in Krakow, Tarnow and Katowice. In fact, they couldn’t keep up with demand and the project now involves 12 certified organic farmers who supply numerous varieties of fruit and vegetables, herbs (including many of the old varieties that are no longer available in today’s markets and shops), as well as eggs, smoked trout and unpasteurised milk and cream.
The farmers are getting ready to start up again after the winter break and this year’s deliveries will start in May. Their products will also be available at a healthy food store in Podgórze and on 5 June they are planning a larger organic food fair in Brzuchowa when you will be able to visit the farms and see the animals.
What is really interesting is that the Odrolnika farmers also want to work more closely with their customers, so they are also willing to grow food to order. If you’re missing butternut squash or Jerusalem artichokes, or unwilling to pay 8zl for
a single Hokkaido pumpkin, download the form from the Odrolnika.pl website and let them know what you’d like them to grow and how much of it you are willing to buy. But do it quickly because they really need to sow the seeds by St John’s Day (24 June). This really is slow food at its best.