Coanegra, a consumers and farmers cooperative
In 2011 decided to organize together to produce and sell organic or local products from Mallorca. Mallorca Sostenible interviews its president Francisco Mengod.
Who are your main customers?
Our customers are quite varied: mostly young and families with children who want to have a healthy diet. Also people from Es Figueral, where our store is, who prefer local products. Currently, we are expanding through consumer groups.
Which are your most demanded products?
70% of our sales are fresh fruits and vegetables, the rest are organic elaborated or artisanal products from Mallorca.
Do you have any awareness campaigns?
In addition to our own website people can find us on different social networks and we also participate in fairs when invited. But our main goal is to work more closely with our costumers so that hopefully we become partners. We want to open the cooperative to everybody for that reason we have two role models: the associate and the collaborative partner.
Which significant problems did you encounter while forming the cooperative?
The main problem has been to get a sufficient core of young people willing to work together as farmers in a organization formed by farmers and consumers. The cooperativism, in general, is quite unknown or too often used without following its principles: voluntary participation, democratic management, economic participation of the members, autonomy and independence, education, training and information, cooperation among cooperatives, etc. It is difficult to create a non profit and social enterprise based on values and not on interests and to be, at the same time, economically sustainable within the capitalist system that dominates the markets and consciences of people. It is only possible with the cooperation and complicity of the social sectors that want a social transformation.
What difficulties has the cooperative in promoting the distribution of organic and local products?
For many years, small farmers and consumers opted for a respectful production model; producing proximity and healthy food, promoting responsible consumption, keeping the seeds of each place, respecting the cycles of the earth, etc. Large sections of the population have realized that multinationals food production brought more harm than good. The organic products demand grew but now large stores and supermarkets offer it too, competing with small farmers in the sector. The "organic" label refers to farming without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, but does not take into account other concepts involved in the production as fair wages for farmers, maintaining bio-diversity and indigenous seeds, maintenance of the landscape or the fruit, etc.
Have you any marketing plan?
The Communication Commission is drafting a communication plan with our own resources and with the cooperation of partners and associates. With this plan we intend to spread what we do, the products we offer and how to have access to them.
What are your future projects?
Organic production itself, consolidating a core of young farmers who can work and develop their life project with enthusiasm and dignity as well as to ensure the fair trade of what we produce. We are also working on the design of an interpretation center of organic farming in our garden as we would like to receive visits from schools and families to disseminate the benefits of organic farming. We are also working to commercialize our own brand products and we are trying to build a collaborative network with other small farmers who share similar goals and, above all, our same difficulties. And we want to promote the sustainable tourism within the Santa Maria and Coanegra areas.
Do you get any help from the government?
The government has not been keen to promote organic farming, let alone small farmers. In four years we have received 5300€ in fundings to incorporate workers in the cooperative.