Some small towns in the KZN Midlands are really enjoying the benefits of their local REKO rings.

The concept of REKO started in Finland ~ the term means “fair consumption”. It is a form of trading that is carried out by a loosely formed group of smallholders and small farmers. There is no fee for joining the group. Volunteers handle the admin. They start a closed Facebook group page. Customers ask to join the group. The producers then advertise what they have to sell each week and the customers pre-order the goods and sometimes pre-pay.

There is a set time on a set day, where producers bring their produce and consumers come to fetch it. The collection time is limited.

Advantages to the producer

The advantages to the producer include being able to deal directly with your customers, thus cutting out a middleman. the full retail value goes to the producers.

They are able to build up a relationship with their clients. Smallholders find out what produce is popular and can be led by suggestions from buyers.

They only take their orders, so produce is not lying around a stall losing quality.

The sales take place regularly, so they can rely on some income. Some producers take goods to more than one REKO ring.

Because there are other smallholders involved, amongst you all there is a regular supply. The producers learn from each other too.

The advertising is free.

They don’t have to spend the whole day at a farmers market, leaving them more time on their farms and plots.

No re-selling is allowed.

Producers can spend less on packaging.

Advantages to consumers

starting a REKO ring
Producers find buyers for unusual produce in a REKO ring.

They are able to buy fresh, locally produced produce in season. Often the producers follow organic growing principles.

Producers do not only sell fresh produce. They can also take craft work, baked goods, pickles, jams, etc. So customers can draw from a wide variety of goods.

In building up relationships with the producers, consumers are able to ask about growing and production methods and confirm the ethics behind the goods.

Facebook is easy to work on and administrators have control of the group.

The customers feel so much more in control, and can plan their other purchasing becasue they have pre-ordered some produce. They also feel closer to the agricultural process.

It is also a pleasing social event. One meets new people and catches up on the local news.

Starting a REKO ring

Either by the producers or the customers can start a REKO ring.

Using word of mouth, Facebook and other social media, get together a group of producers with different produce to offer. Most of the producers should be based within a limited area, to keep down the food miles. Draw up some guidelines for them to follow.

Decide on a central venue which is convenient for most customers and suppliers. Work out a set day and time when the exchange of produce will take place.

Set up a closed Facebook group for your area. Advertise it and ask all the members of the group to advertise it.

Establish a volunteer committee to run the group. They need to moderate the Facebook page, to ensure that everyone abides by the rules.

Use the events page which gives the details of the delivery venue, day and times. This will be linked to the original Facebook page, so that buyers can see what is on offer each week.

The organisers need to carefully work out a good balance between the number of producers and the number of customers. You need a wide variety of produce and goods from the producers, but not too many, otherwise some will not sell their goods. Just enough customers will mean that nobody becomes frustrated because they weren’t able to buy what they wanted.

If you want to start your own REKO ring, help is at hand. Kait and Andre Kauerauf of Bramleigh Farm introduced the concept to the Midlands and they feel so passionate about it that they have provided a great deal of information on REKO rings in a blog on their website.

This is part of a  series on marketing your goods and services. For more, click here.

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