During lockdown we discovered, among many other things, that we can make our own bread and that it’s possible to spend more time cooking and savouring what we cook, with patience. And if we use local products, we benefit our farmers, ranchers and artisans. This is precisely what’s at the core of Arrels, an initiative born in Catalonia with the intention of devolving power to the consumer, eschewing large distributors and multinationals and directly connecting the country’s agricultural producers, farmers and artisans with consumers without any intermediaries adding extra costs.
“Without roots, nothing sprouts. Without roots no fruit is possible. Let’s take care of them to nurture our future.” Arrels Manifesto
Arrels aims to disrupt the current food distribution system and wants to defend the rural lifestyle and the empowerment of consumers and small producers. But how? In the initial phase, seeking 5,000 founders able to attend to the logistical and technological complexity of the project, which will include an online farmers’ market, a website, an online radio and even a quarterly magazine. On the MercatsArrels.cat website, anyone who wants to be a founder of the project can make a financial contribution that they will later be able to exchange for products in the online market as well as having the chance to become subscribers to the magazine.
This cross-platform project is directed by Josep Sucarrats, director of the magazine CUINA, one of the publications of the cooperative group Som. “Local products guarantee greater sustainability”, explains Sucarrats, but there are other reasons behind this initiative: “There is a national model we want to defend, in which the rural sector earns its living by feeding us, while it also enriches the territory by keeping the crops alive, through active citizens, and with successful life projects. We must support it”. In addition, “the food giants support an unsustainable system: immediate result, maximum benefit and minimum diversity.”
“The rural sector earns its living by feeding us, while it also enriches the territory. We must support it”, affirms Josep Sucarrats
All initiatives and producers who have decided to eschew the conditions imposed by large food corporations and want to participate in Arrels are welcome. As Sucarrats says, “Arrels is a project that was born to add value. We do not want to create an environment of competition, but of cooperation”. The idea of creating Arrels has long been considered, “but in these times of crises we have accelerated it,” reveals the project director. For much of the population, the standby experienced during the pandemic has allowed them to dream up another way of doing things, valuing calm and closeness, focusing on what they have closest to them.
The MercatArrels.cat website is the meeting point of the project, which must connect producers with consumers who want to enjoy their products, “as a bridge between the past we love and the future we want”, as stated in the founding manifesto of Arrels and signed by various Catalan personalities in the field of gastronomy, culture and sport, from chef Carme Ruscalleda to athlete Kilian Jornet. For all of them, going back to the roots is not going backwards. It is about reconnecting with the pace of the harvest, restoring the freshness of food and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that is beneficial to the environment.
Journalist and blogger, Oscar has worked as an editor for several travel, nature and science magazines for the last 20 years.
Josep Sucarrats, director