IF the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is to appreciate the importance of local commerce – specially when it comes to food.

Producers, transporters and sellers of basic foodstuffs put their own lives at risk and worked tirelessly through the worst period last year, including the two-month total lockdown in Spain from mid-March to May.

As stocks of certain items that we had previously taken for granted dwindled, on Spain’s Mediterranean coast there was no shortage of fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk, cheese, meat or wine thanks to the many local farms dotted about the land.

This came on the heels of a nationwide movement demanding protection for Spanish farmers in the face of diminishing returns and increasing financial instability, forcing many smaller farms out of business.

Numerous projects have since popped up to help revert the situation, the latest of which is led by a German resident in the Valencia region.

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Lena Edich launched the CampObert (‘Open Countryside’ in valenciano) project with the aim of encouraging a trend that is common in her native Germany but still very much in its infancy in Spain: farm shopping.

CampObert consists of organising an open day for a regional network of farmers to welcome families into their grounds, show them around, explain what they do and sell their own products directly without losing out to the middlemen.

The project is aimed at small, family-run farms of any description, including livestock, agricultural, dairy, beekeepers, wineries, oil mills, and all manufacturers of natural products.

However, one basic rule is that all participating enterprises must be as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible. This means no single-use plastics, so visitors are required to take their own containers and reusable bags for any purchases they may make on site.

In addition to opening up their businesses to the public, producers are encouraged to make a big day out of it, with suggestions including live music, product tasting, workshops, art exhibitions and anything else they can think of.

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The benefits of the open day will work both ways. While producers sell their own products straight to the customer and hopefully establish long-lasting relationships, families have a chance to meet the animals, find out how farms work, and enjoy a nice day out in the open air.

Furthermore, several routes will be suggested offering families the opportunity to cycle or drive easily between four or five different farms on the same day.

No date has yet been set for the event, as Lena is waiting to get as many family-run farms on board before reaching a consensus on the best time.

She is currently in the process of contacting producers and setting up a network of participants, and has already enlisted more than 20 throughout the Valencia region.

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Lena’s next steps are to create an association and, if the first open day is a success, she plans to hold at least four a year – one for each season, to promote the different seasonal products.

If you have your own business or produce any kind of natural product and would like to take part in the CampObert open day, get in touch with Lena and join this fascinating and sustainable movement.

“The hardest part for me, but also the best part, is finding and approaching the farmers,” Lena told The Olive Press.

“Local farmers are not so active on the internet and do not respond to email. Instead, we go to markets and talk to people directly, and once one is convinced, it’s a divine experience, because people are then on fire and keen to take part.”

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