Plattform 2020 für gute Lebensmittel
Based in Markthalle Neun in Berlin-Kreuzberg, the Plattform 2020 für gute Lebensmittel markets and distributes ecoregional food from small producers. With their farm-to-table concept, they not only supply Michelin-starred restaurants and community catering facilities, but can also be experienced by all end consumers. We talk to Pia Linde and Jiro Nitsch about the advantages of working with small farms, the resulting impact on restaurants, and the overarching goals they are pursuing with the platform.
With what intention was the Plattform 2020 founded?
For us it was clear that regional agriculture must be supported. How can we create a need for regional food that sustains supply and simultaneously gives farmers incentives to move back to the countryside, or to stay there and keep the farms in the region? How can we illustrate to them that ecoregional agriculture is lucrative and sustainable? How can we break up large structures and make diversity and originality visible again? These questions have driven us in recent years.
Do you have a focal point on which you concentrate?
We focus on the small producers in the region – precisely those who slip through the cracks at organic wholesalers, even though they offer excellent qualities and sometimes rare products. Whether due to too little yield from too small a cultivated area or too low economic efficiency. As an intermediary platform, we also must look at the price of regional food from organic farming – we try to make this as fair as possible for all sides. For the producers, for the customers and for us. We try to advise and support the producers and work with them to determine the best price for the product, if it is absolutely justified, to enforce it and to communicate this to the customer accordingly.
What is the advantage of working with small businesses for you?
The exciting thing about working with small producers is that we do not distribute standards and products according to norms, like large systems, but focus exclusively on very well-made and high-quality products. Smaller producers are dedicated and focus on special qualities, nose to tail, leaf to root and rarities, through which they can distinguish themselves – and that is exactly what we think is interesting and what we want to emphasize. Multifaceted, diversity and, along with it, the taste and culinary richness of the region.
How do you find new partners whose products you sell?
This question cannot be answered in this way because we are not looking. The collaboration with producers or food artisans is a matter of course. We often know each other over corners, or we know about one another. However, we only form a cooperation if certain criteria apply; there are soft and hard criteria – depending on the product group involved. The decisive factor for us is the requirement that the products are grown according to organic guidelines or that the raw materials come from organic farming. We prefer those who are serious about it. In the past years, we have noticed more and more that organic farming has been stamped with the organic label and often treated lapidary, like “organic is not important to us, the main thing is regional”. We want to clarify that with this, it is not about the fact that we demand the organic label, but we demand a flawless organic agriculture out of conviction!
Do you notice changes that occur over time within your organisation?
Of course, you must move over time – in the beginning, we worked very much from the grower, true to the motto that if the grower grew something, we offered it. And if the grower needed a certain price, then that was it – we still do it in this way today. In the meantime, however, the products on offer are developing more and more in dialogue with us, and we are doing joint cultivation planning with many partners from the catering industry. We see ourselves as a network and connection between farmers and restaurateurs. In addition, we are creating new logistics opportunities. If small producers are lacking the necessary logistics, we try to bundle it or find common collection points to make the transport route efficient for all and to pick it up at these collection points in the region itself and directly.
What does the strong orientation towards the producers mean for the cooks?
The cooks must clearly orient themselves to the producers – because agriculture can only orient itself slowly and with difficulty to the fast-moving gastronomy. The conventional ordering method, which means ordering from wholesalers at night and having it delivered the next morning, does not work for us. We do not have huge warehouses where all the products are stocked and available all the time. Instead, we are a farm-to-table concept. The product comes in fresh and goes out fresh the next day, at most it remains with us for a second day. We make sure that we have a constant supply. Of course, we are in constant contact with both the producers and the cooks. With private customers it is a different thing, they order according to their usual needs, as they need the things, or completely spontaneously. So, there are two different needs that we and the producers have to attend to.
For the restaurants, it is a big change to have no longer always everything available. What kind of feedback do you get?
Very different. There are those who understand when a producer is not able to deliver and can react spontaneously, and then there are those who are annoyed and complain that delivery bottlenecks only become visible when the goods arrive at our premises and are already on their way to the customer. Sometimes we do not get the information until the morning of the delivery and then we must pick up the phone and tell the customers that they won’t get what they ordered in the next few hours. Especially special products cannot be replaced, and the cooks must come up with something new – which they do. But there are also customers who are not able to cope with this, because they do not have the possibilities and structures. And there are those who have got used to it and rely on us to organize alternatives for them. Many agreements must be made here. This also has a lot to do with customer education and an awareness of how our food is grown and where it comes from.
“We demand flawless organic farming by conviction.”
I would like to talk a bit about die Gemeinschaft. What motivated you to become a member?
Through our strong relationship to Nobelhart & Schmutzig and Horváth, we were very near to the community from the beginning. Also, Jiro (founding member of Plattform 2020, editor’s note) helped plan and organize the very first symposium – so it was clear that Platform 2020 would also be a member of the community. After all, the goals that the community is pursuing are, in principle, what we are also pursuing – we are concerned with raising awareness in society, about networking among cooks and producers, about exchange. In this respect, we are pursuing the same goals and we support that. The more people who step up, the better.
What would you like to achieve together with the community, are there specific goals?
We pursue the same goals, which is why we have been part of the community from the beginning. One overarching goal is to raise awareness about the unfair relationship between the city and the countryside. If young people earn more money in the city than in the countryside, we will not be able to achieve a revolution in agriculture. The goal must be for the so-called “scene” to shift to the countryside. There are primary successes, but it is still far from sufficient for a system-relevant movement.
Looking at the big picture, what changes do you think are needed in the food system as a whole and where exactly?
It is not so easy to explain in short words. The global food system has reached dimensions that are unimaginable, a universe of grievances, exploitation and consumer deception. The path towards local food systems is indispensable, the global flows of goods are superfluous – a regionally-seasonally emphasized diet is possible, but it also means sacrifice. In our opinion, this is exactly the solution – leaving it up to people to decide what they can eat and when is not politically correct. There must be natural limits.
Who is responsible for these changes and why?
All people in the value chain, including politicians, are responsible.