A project between Slow Food and IFOAM to support the develpment and implementation of the Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS)

The Krakow Earth Market (Targ Pietruszkowy) became the pilot project to prove the benefits of setting a participatory guarantee system in place.  

“We all know each other we are friends.” Says Daria, one of the participants. “I don’t grow carrots, so if I feel like eating carrots, I’ll go buy them from Lukasz. There is no competition. There is space for everyone.” 

Zuzana and Jacek’s stall. They sell mainly plastic-free microgreens and sprouts

If you have a farmer’s market around the corner, we bet the work that goes into creating and organizing a flourishing market each week will rarely cross your mind. It is more than logistics; these markets are complex social organizations that require many ingredients to work and be resilient in a time of crisis: active collaboration of sellers, political support from the city council, people coordinating the different parties, and lastly, sensible customers. PGS initiatives can help in putting all of these players at the table. 

Earth Markets are composed of producers that embrace the Slow Food philosophy worldwide. They are unique agoras where people can buy high-quality products, build communities, open to creative exchanges, and find education.   

Easier said than done!  

What are the tools that can effectively help them in reaching their goals?  

Social relationships and collaboration are at the base of Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS), a quality certification method alternative or complementary to third-party certification that Slow Food has been studying and implementing since 2018.   

Daria, Lukasz, and other producers and organizers of the Targ Pietruszkowy Earth Market in Krakow were the participants of the first PGS pilot project on a Slow Food’s Earth Market that took place on the last weekend of July 2022. The workshop was the final step of a feasibility study performed by Slow Food to apply and adapt this system to the Earth Market project, with the guidance of IFOAM- Organics International’s PGS experts.   

IFOAM has been supporting the PGS initiative for organic production around the world since 2008, also collaborating with like-minded organizations like Slow Food, to advocate and promote the spread of PGS initiatives in a capillary way. 

PGS initiatives find their ground on trust, active collaboration, social relations, and knowledge exchange rather than control. They are not only a way for producers to get a quality certification, but they help establish shared horizontal governance in the group rather than a vertical one. 

Moreover, they enhance education on food production and agricultural practices among the general public since they seek the involvement of consumers in the certification process.   

The pilot project took place during a two-day workshop in Krakow (Poland), preceded by an introductory online meeting with the Slow Food Community.  

One of the first challenges that arose from the start was to find a common set of standards when dealing with a combination of organic certified and non-organic producers. 

The first day’s focus was on discussing the methodology of a PGS initiative applied locally to their Earth Market while the participants shared lunch, and the second day was spent on the ground. The group of producers, organizers, Slow Food convivium representatives, and Slow Food staff visited three farmers.   

That day showed participants that PGS farm visits are fundamental in the knowledge exchange between farmers. Especially when it comes to new and improved ways to tackle problems from seed provisioning to water use and energy conversion, that will be of paramount importance in the years to come. Although there were doubts about how this certification would work with third-party certification, all the stakeholders agreed that the process of exchange that PGS initiatives start is more important than the final certification itself. None of the visits felt like an inspection but rather a guided tour of the beautiful and biodiverse fields each producer manages. 

It was a time for farmers to socialize and share the day. “I’ve been wanting to visit Lukasz’s farm for a year, and now I’m finally here. I want to come back to ask him more about his energy production”. Says Jacek, corroborating the idea that peer reviews are constructive, but farmers also rarely have time to dedicate to them unless they have been planned. 

The Slow Food Community of the Targ Pietruszkowy Earth Market involved in this pilot project agreed that this kind of initiative would be beneficial for them and the market. They proposed many new ideas to adapt the PGS tools to their local context and how to make the process meet their needs and work schedule. For example, planning the visits during off-season time for some producers and in-season for others, and vice versa.

The first pilot project was just the first step in establishing a PGS initiative in Krakow’s Earth Market and a crucial one in the collaboration between IFOAM and Slow Food in advocating PGS initiatives in Europe and worldwide. But most importantly, it provided an opportunity for the producers to sit, enjoy lunch together and talk about solutions to current issues or those that may arise in the future.   

Read more about the join protect with IFOAM here.

Take part in the meetings about the Participatory Guarantee Systems and Earth Markets that will take place at the Terra Madre event (22nd -26th of September in Turin).   

The main events related to these topics are:   


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