What is a consumer group? How to create and manage it.


It is a group of people who buy food regularly and jointly directly from the  farmer  or  producer .

The products that are purchased range from fresh fruits and vegetables, to cleaning products, clothing, etc. They have at least an informal agreement among themselves on how they organize themselves, and sometimes they have a legal structure, such as cooperatives.

Benefits for members:

There are many reasons to belong to a consumer group, these are some of them:

 Most affordable price. The price paid to producers is much lower than that paid in stores. This is because the store, the supermarket, the distributor, etc. they are earning their margin, not to mention the cost of packaging, gasoline for transportation, advertising, etc. In this way, organic food does not have to be more expensive than conventional food, since it is bought in large quantities to supply the entire group and directly to its producer, avoiding intermediaries. This benefits people who otherwise would not have access to organic or organic food.

–  Food matures naturally until its optimal moment of consumption.  So fresh, seasonal, local and organic products are consumed, since they do not have to travel for days or weeks from the producer to the consumer. This means that fruits and vegetables ripen naturally and have the maximum of nutrients, and in addition the pollution produced by transporting them from other countries or even continents is eliminated.

 Social benefits.  Some groups meet and organize social and environmental events. They are actively involved in the dissemination of healthy eating, food sovereignty, fair trade, conscious consumption, habits that respect the environment, etc. and for this they organize talks, tastings and tastings of organic food, fairs, markets, activities for children, etc.

 Access to special products.  There are groups that have the possibility of obtaining food that is not available in supermarkets because it is produced locally, in small quantities, of rare or local varieties. This in turn is very important to promote and preserve local biodiversity in terms of crops, and makes indigenous seeds continue to be cultivated and not lost.

 Comfort.  There are people who find it more practical to receive a regular delivery at home instead of going shopping.

 Support for ethical food production.  Consumer groups are of vital importance for their support of an ecological, ethical and local food production system. Its members know how their food is produced and where it comes from, and they can even visit the garden.

Consult the national directory  of Consumer Groups


Benefits for the farmer and producer

 Increase in income.  Many organic farmers struggle to survive in a hostile global economy, run more by money than principle. The price they receive for their production is normally determined by global events, and reduced by the availability of cheap, imported, mass-produced food. The prices paid in the shops are higher than the prices paid when buying directly from the farmer. Although less than the prices of the stores are paid through the consumer groups, the farmer is receiving more for his products, since the amount is received in full.

 Predict income and increase cash .  Many farmers plant crops at the beginning of the season without knowing what price they will receive per ton at the end of the season. In some cases, crops are planted without knowing if someone will buy the produce. Consumer groups can commit to pay upfront or regularly, and can pre-order and provide the farmer with a safe market.

 Sale of difficult-to-sell products.  All farmers produce food that is difficult to sell elsewhere. For example, supermarkets set very strict specifications and reject foods that do not meet them. If they do not meet the appearance or size conditions or are ready outside the period.

 Simplify processes.  In general the farmer is qualified and motivated to perform his tasks as a farmer but performing the necessary marketing and distribution tasks can be expensive and time consuming. That is why many want to supply a consumer group on a regular basis. The farmer also needs to support a consumer group, and thus maintain a minimum demand for orders.

 Social benefits and other supports.  Farming can be a very isolated profession and many farmers have no contact with the people who eat their food. A relationship with a consumer group provides relationships with the community and especially for those farmers who rarely go out. Some find unexpected rewards working with consumer groups. This can extend to helping with farmland, loans, etc.

 New members and / or groups.  Consumer groups receive new members thanks to word of mouth such as neighbors, friends, family, acquaintances, etc. Once the group has established a strong relationship with the farmer, they encourage others to try this alternative form of consumption.



How to start a Consumer Group?

Consumption groups can be created by individuals, worker communities, or farmers.

The first step is to have a rough idea of ​​what you would like to do and advertise it to potential members and vendors. You will then need to set up an effective plan with them on how to proceed. You will need to:

 Good system of orders, payments and collection.  A written agreement on this could help. You could consider the following:

  • · Deadline for payments before receiving food.
  • · Well-announced deadline for orders.
  • · Write an order form.
  • · Deadline for collecting food once it has arrived.
  • · Minimum and maximum orders.

Try to minimize the number of times an organizer or supplier has to receive phone calls, especially the farmer.

 Agreement with the supplier.  You will need a clear agreement, including:

  • · Frequency of delivery.
  • ·Payment time.
  • ·Price.
  • · Minimum and maximum order.
  • · If the farmer agrees to fulfill your order even if there is a better market.
  • Duration of the agreement, etc.

It is best to have a written agreement, even between friends.

 Distribution system.  You can pick up your orders at a local, address, or even some farmers could deliver it to your door. In some cases, a transport company is hired to pick it up and deliver it.

–  Appropriate place for deliveries . You will need to consider access (delivery truck, disabled access, etc.), security and parking.

 Trade and environmental health standard.  You will need to check with your local authority for advice on your legal responsibilities.

 A bank account.  You may get by with cash. Some groups need a bank account. If so, you will have to decide who acts as administrator, it could be convenient if there were several administrators and that their signature was necessary. Ask your bank about the requirements for group accounts. Consider using an ethical bank, they may have social accounts for these types of entities.

 Equipment, accessories.  It depends on what you buy, you may need a scale, freezer, trolleys, etc.


How to find a supplier?

If you are thinking of creating a new consumer group, look for potential farmers and discuss your idea with them. Your group will need to establish its size, and fit your business. If they are used to treating in tons and you in kilos, they might not be interested. You will need to talk to them in some detail about what the deal will look like. Unless you are dealing with a small farmer, it is not usual to find a farmer who produces a wide variety of foods, so you will still need to buy from several farmers. Some groups have agreed with farmers to grow food specifically for them, others have rented their land and hire a farmer to grow food for group members.

You can find suppliers for your group in the directories of  Organic Farmers and Producers  throughout Spain .


Search for new members.

Some consumer groups are made up of friends. Others are made up of circles of people interested in organic food. If you start from scratch, try to put ads in your neighborhood, tell everyone you know, advertise on social networks, blogs, websites,.

You should consider a maximum and minimum size that is practical for your group. You may want to reserve places for certain people, such as those with low incomes. You may want to make sure that it is social and practically easy for all types of people to join. It may be easier for some people to spread the payments over a period. You should also have a regulation stating why a member can be expelled (for example a member who does not pay his debt) and how the expulsion will be managed.


Organization of work.

A consumer group needs a good organization. Orders need to be collected, money needs to be collected, the bank statement needs to be verified, an order ordered, maintaining the relationship with the supplier, signed deliveries, cleaning, answering calls, etc. The work needs to be done by a trained person, and the money needs to be controlled by a trusted person. All of this can become a nuisance after a while for a volunteer.

This is why some groups require members to take turns doing tasks. This works best if there are sheets explaining how to do each task. Other groups can pay workers in some way, either in money or in free food. It is foolish for all tasks to fall to one person, and this should be taken into consideration when the group is first planned.

It may help to have an explicit policy on expenses such as phone calls and gas.


A structure for the Group.

Many groups do not have an established legal formality. This can work well when the risk is minimal, for example a group of friends. However, it is also possible to organize in different legal forms, such as cooperatives.


Other activities.

Some consumer groups are actively involved and develop activities that promote healthy eating and ecology, such as visits to organic farmers, organizing meetings where organic or organic food is tasted, informative and informative talks about their activity, etc.


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