Have you ever heard of REKO?
Nope, not Reko the brand of mountain bikes, nor riekko the willow grouse (a pheasant like bird). The acronym REKO is a network of local markets across Finland where food producers and consumers meet to exchange goods.
The first REKO market in Finland started in 2013 in Jakobstad, a municipality in Ostrobothnia, by Thomas Snellman who was inspired by a novel farmers’ market system in France known as AMAP, which stands for “Association for the Preservation of Peasant Farming”. In Finland, the acronym “REKO” comes from the Swedish “Rejäl konsumtion” (“Reilua kuluttamista” in Finnish), meaning fair consumption.
The REKO-system had a slow start, but by 2015 it had gained popularity and reached Helsinki. Nowadays, there are over 120 REKO groups in Finland, all working via social media. In a series of Facebook groups, producers post their offers, consumers make their orders, and then both meet in an event for the exchange of goods. The REKO market events are usually held bi-weekly, but the frequency may vary depending on the location.
The REKO group of ‘Kantakaupunki’, central Helsinki, meets bi-weekly in Hietalahdentori.
The main advantage of REKO is that it provides a meeting place, where producers and consumers exchange goods directly without intermediaries, allowing for producers to get fair prices and for consumers to get fresher local produce. The direct interaction between producers and consumers also allows customers to know more about the production system and to give feedback about the produce.
The farms ‘Mäntymäen’ and ‘Rintasenpuutarhatila’ are among the producers supplying REKO markets in Helsinki.
Consumers queuing to collect their orders.
The producers attending the REKO groups are usually based near where the event takes place. For example, producers supplying REKO markets in Helsinki are mostly located in Uusimaa region and are often active in more than one REKO group, so prices are similar across REKO groups. Additionally, many do organic production or have farms with more diversity of crops than large scale farms, making them more environmentally friendly. And so, transactions in REKO markets support both local food and ethical production systems.
Throughout the year the produce diversity changes, and it is possible to find not only vegetables and berries, but also meat, fish, eggs, bread, jam and honey, among many other options. One of the great deals in REKO are the “summer bags” that for a fair price give you a considerable amount of fresh vegetables.
Summer bags from ‘Puutarha R. Okslahti’ ready to be collected. Some suppliers choose paper bags, others give you the produce in its natural packaging, while some others still use plastic bags. But one can always kindly request the preferred packaging. The advantages of direct contact with the producer!
Fresh bread stand from ‘Leipä & poika’
Becoming a member of a REKO group and participating actively in the market has several advantages:
- You can influence agriculture by giving feedback on your preferred production systems and quality standards, and by increasing the demand of certain types of products.
- You can support local farmers and food producers. You will not only be giving a fair price directly to them, but also reduce the CO2 emissions that are produced when your food is shipped from far away.
- Direct transactions between producer and consumer have the potential to give the best balance of price vs quality.
- You can take an active role in community building, not only getting acquainted to the producers but also to other consumers in your area.
- You can explore cooking with new ingredients. When checking the producer’s offers, one can often find new products outside one’s regular shopping list (for example purple potatoes!). It is always good to try new locally produced vegetables and food supplies, it is the perfect chance to diversify your diet and to cook healthier food.
Want to know more? Check the links below!
List of REKO groups in Finland (in Swedish): http://www.ekonu.fi/reko-2/reko-ringar/
REKO map (in Finnish): http://www.aitojamakuja.fi/reko.php
REKO in google books: https://books.google.fi/books?id=oSIpDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA190&lpg=PA190&dq=reko+market+Finland&source=bl&ots=ni1Vlcmrs0&sig=YjMh8cf6nKbHuW28kjjn-mVGDr8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiVoZvhgfjVAhXqDZoKHeyyCDUQ6AEIMzAC#v=onepage&q=reko%20market%20Finland&f=false
Climate friendly food (in Finnish): https://ilmasto-opas.fi/en/ilmastonmuutos/hillinta/-/artikkeli/ab196e68-c632-4bef-86f3-18b5ce91d655/ilmastomyotainen-ruoka.html
REKO (in Swedish): http://www.ekonu.fi/reko-2/