Farmers’ markets offer a welcome opposition to solid network of wholesale supermarket chains, that occupy a disproportionately large area and its ongoing unsystematic building has a significant impact on the urban landscape not only in Prague, but also in other Czech cities. Farmers’ markets full of satisfied customers with filled baskets in their hands eloquently suggest that food shopping does not have to necessarily take place in depersonalised hyper or super markets and more and more people do care about the quality and origin of what they eat.

Over the past few years farmers’ markets have moved from peripheral parts of Prague right into the main arteries of the city and yet retain the status of not only a culinary but also a social event. Your purchase gains another dimension when all your favorite vendors of meat, dairy and bakery products or seasonal fruit and vegetable are brought together in one pleasant place. In addition to regular exchange of money and goods you can also swap few kind words with each of them.

Find your own farmers, who regularly unpack their stands in many locations throughout Prague. We’d like to highlight Jiřák, where farmers’ markets are held from Wednesday to Saturday, and Náplavka riverside, where it's possible to go shopping every Saturday.

You hold markets at Náplavka and at Jiřího z Poděbrad square. Why did you choose these two places?
Both Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad and Náplavka are really close to our hearts – our civic organizations has mostly people from Prague 2 in it so we’ve known these places since we were kids. Everyone who has lived in Prague for a while will tell you that both places are similar in that they were not used for public events very much until about 2009. Jiřího z Poděbrad, for instance, used to host a sad little Christmas market every year compared to, for example, the Christmas market at Náměstí Míru, which has always been very successful. Apart from that, nothing much was going on at Jiřího z Poděbrad. A certain joint-stock company which ran a business at The Old Town square tried to start a farmers’ market at Náplavka not long before we did and it was a failure. Our concept was quite simple – to have a farmers’ market which would appeal to us and which we would go to as well and which would support the sellers and their wonderful work and the products they offer. That’s what we have been trying to do. Náplavka is also important in that it is quite impossible to drive a fridge van or an insulated van to any of the squares in Prague and this is a key aspect in running a successful farmers’ market and in keeping the goods fresh. At Náplavka, however, it has been possible to keep a few vans at the market, which was also one of the reasons it caught our eye in 2007.

How does your cooperation with municipal authorities of Prague 2 and 3 work?
The city hall of the Prague 2 district has been communicating with us since the very beginning, that is 2009 and it had very positive influence on moral level in case of revitalization of Náplavka. Our organization is apolitical and the idea we uphold is both universal and simple. It always depends on the approach of the various municipal authorities towards this idea – they either understand it and consider it good, or not. We’ve never requested much from the authorities, just a normal and stable agreement to keep going. The authentic farmers’ markets aren’t downright commercial matter, they have its own concept that doesn’t stand solely on commercial basis at all. It mainly depends on the way municipal authorities approach it. Recently it has been problematic that the successful locations of the markets put the authorities under great pressure of various lobbies for using the venues, also for different kinds of events. Following the motto of making other “desirable activities” possible, there has been a strong tendency to take space from the successful farmers’ markets and give it to more and more new events, depending on the lessors’ will. It is probably quite clear to you that a clash between business and a farmers’ market doesn’t usually turn out in favour of the latter. The decisions about Náplavka aren’t made at the city hall of Prague 2, however, the lease agreements are made at the municipality so all the decisions happen there. The municipality is a giant body of departments and people and it is basically a labyrinth of interests and that makes the negotiations harder.

Do you have any strict criteria that determine what belongs to a farmers’ market and what doesn’t?
Yes, we’re constantly clearing the matter out and try to establish where we’re going and what we want to avoid.

Can you think of any products, that are necessary in the kitchen nowadays, but one can’t get them at the market?
Yes, I’m currently trying to persuade farmers to grow buckwheat and legumes. There isn’t much here in general and there is almost nothing left to sell at the markets.

How do you see the future of the farmers’ products? Will they make it on the supermarket shelves anytime soon?
The farmers’ market isn’t designated for big agrarian producers, for the brutal industry, so to speak – those can’t get in. We cooperate just with small farmers, who offer what they have just picked, harvested or prepared. They often farm ecologically, manual work in general. Small farmers may struggle with the production and therefore have a hard time meeting the demands of supermarkets. The market is great for them because firstly, they get their money right from the buyers and don’t have to pay any extra profit margin to a chain store which makes it possible for their business to stay alive – check out the sales prices at the warehouses – they’ll make you dizzy. Secondly, the farmer himself, can establish how often he would supply us and how often he would take part. The organizers of the market should be flexible and try their hardest to meet the farmer’s needs such as changes and unexpected swings in climate or farming. This is something that would never happen with a dealer or a chain store. I just can’t imagine that happening with a supermarket. A good example of this is organic milk. Organic milk that you get in a supermarket is produced at factory farms. It is produced in a special eco regime but still, it’s produced at a factory farm. The milk you get at a farmers’ market is not only organic but it comes from a small family farm where the cows graze on meadows and live lives that feel natural for them. Small family farms farm their own land which is passed down from generation to generation. Factory farms are usually run by joint-stock companies which farm rented land (90% of the arable land in the Czech Republic is being rented). The attitude of the family farmers towards their cattle, animals and farming in general is simply very different. Having to care for their own land makes family farms behave more ecologically.

Have you yourself had any experience with farming?
Yes, everyone in our team is somehow connected to farming. We’re all aware of the hard work and risks a farmer has to face and that is also one of the reasons why we respect their work so greatly. We see it as something that has real value and that can’t be influenced by an empty advertising campaign.

(Šárka Sedláčková, Archetyp Civic Association co-founder)

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Spud. is an unconventional Prague city guide, that highlights its interesting spots and local businesses that are really worth visiting. With a Polaroid camera, we’re mapping four different areas: food and drinks, shops, workplaces of creative people and architecture. Spud. is focused on fresh places with unique atmosphere, cafés with the best coffee, shops with the finest goods, workshops and studios of the most skilled designers and architectural attractions with the greatest charm. Spud. is also mainly about people, who stand behind these projects. Without their invention and courage to fulfill their dreams Prague would be a much poorer place. That’s why we’re so grateful to all of them!
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