Fresh-off-the-farm food bundles entice urbanites

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Fresh-off-the-farm food bundles entice urbanites

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Members of a farmers’ cooperative in Suncheon, South Jeolla, package farm products to send to customers. By Oh Jong-chan

Lee Hyang-kyeong, who lives in Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang received a package last week filled with products fresh off the farm. The delivery included lettuce, chicory, tofu, bean sprouts, eggs, green peppers, shiitake, grapes, peanuts, lettuce kimchi and anchovies.

Chamneuri SC Local Food, run by farmers in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, sends out the packages to members once a week. For a 100,000 won ($93) monthly payment, members get fresh farm products chosen by the farmers themselves, not by the consumers.

“The products are very fresh since they are usually harvested in the morning,” said Lee, who is a very satisfied customer.

If they like, recipients can order more products right away.

“Bundled” farm products are emerging as a new form of farm-to-city direct marketing. The farmers choose a bundle of local products for residents of nearby cities. It’s great to city slickers with a hunger for freshly grown food.

It’s also popular with families in which both parents work and have less time for household shopping.

The bundled farm products usually consist of fresh vegetables, fruits and about 10 processed goods. The products are organically produced and the bundles are designed for household of two to four members. Customers get packages once a week or month depending on their needs, and the prices range from 25,000 to 40,000 won per order.

The farmers are organized in groups and about 100 associations are estimated to run the businesses nationwide. The most organized is Sister’s Vegetable Garden, founded in April 2009 in Hoengseong in Kangwon. It has branches in 16 other cities including Suncheon, Naju, Yeonggwang in South Jeolla and Gochang in North Jeolla. About 150 women farmers ? the “sisters” ? send bundles to 2,000 members nationwide.

Kwon Sun-ho and Lee Eul-jae, a couple in Icheon, Gyeonggi, are running a Three Bean Bundle business. They send out vegetables, fruits and pastes that they produce to customers. They have about 50 members.

“We normally have profits of 3,000,000 won per month,” said Kwon. “We sometimes have meetings at the farm with our customers and do family camping altogether. We also make kimchi with them and bond more than the usual producers and consumers.”

Mom’s Vegetable Garden Products, founded last December, is located in Jinju, South Gyeonsang. However, out of its 280 members, two thirds are living in metropolitan areas or the Chungcheong region.

Yoon Gye-ja, who runs the business, said social networking services like Kakaostory and Facebook were effective in promoting her business.

The bundle of products is usually delivered the same day. Menus and prices are regulated by the producers, not the consumers.

Alcongdalcong Bundle, run by the Hansol Agricultural Association in Suncheon, South Jeolla, is totally dependent on the customers, who choose what products they want and when they want delivery.

“We have about 362 members and make 200 million won profit annually,” said Cho Hyeong-sik, its director.

“This new method of distribution helps small farms,” said Yoon Byeong-sun, a professor of Economics and Business at Konkuk University.

BY SONG YEE-HO, LEE HAI-SUK AND HWANG SUN-YOON [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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