Greece is well known for the richness and diversity of its fresh and locally sourced gastronomic delights. Buying local and quality ingredients is something that is appreciated and sought after. Lately, this demand has increased and inspired the overall population to ‘return to their roots’ and begin questioning the quality of the food they consume and its origins. Buying local, in-season and supporting smaller, family-run and Greek businesses has become the overwhelming trend. But this effort did not happen overnight, it has been an evolution and process for over 20 years.
In the early 1990s, a group of neighbours in an apartment building in the northern suburb of Chalandri discussed the desire for purchasing local, organic goods which at the time were difficult to find in Attica. To satisfy this need they decided to utilise an available space beneath their apartment building and brought in a group of Greek farmers to sell their organic, pesticide and chemical free produce. This was just the beginning of a movement and the birth of the Association of Organic Farmers’ Markets–which is now thriving in not only Attica but Crete, Thessaly and throughout Northern Greece as well. The Association ensures that only organic farmers and produce are sold at their markets through a vigorous inspection and approval process. This is a unique opportunity as well because the consumer can speak with and purchase their produce directly from the farmer who grows it.
The organic, bio, and locally grown trend reflects a shift in a mentality towards a healthier and down-to-earth lifestyle. In the past, organic produce came with a hefty price-tag but this is no longer the case. Consumers pay a premium for organic produce purchased at a grocery store because it has been shipped halfway across the world, however locally-grown organic fruit and veg are incredibly reasonably priced and simultaneously support your local economy while reducing your carbon footprint.
An inspiring programme in Attica called, “Love by the kilo” allows organic farmers’ markets to cooperate with the local municipality without any exchange of money. The municipality gives farmers free space to sell their goods each week in the agreement that as soon as the market grows to have 20-25 vendors, the association must assist an in-need neighbourhood foundation or centre that aids children, such as the SOS Children’s Village in Vari and the Aghia Anna Children’s Foundation. Then, the farmers’ market helps the municipality by supplying the local organisation with all the organic goods they need.
And suspicions about how a product is labelled organic? As in the rest of Europe, the process uses independent organic certification organisations, which are subjected to rigorous scrutiny. To receive certification, farmers first go to one of the certification institutions. The organisation checks the area the produce will be grown, if the area is deemed suitable, a contract is written where the producer must follow a strict sense of guidelines under scrutiny for approximately one year until the farmer can sell goods marked “organic.” During this time and afterwards, if traces of a chemical are found, there are economic and legal prices to pay. This process is a relief and ensures legitimate economic, food safety and environmental regulations and consumer concerns for us all.
Organic farmers’ markets in Attica – schedule