The “A-PLOEG” (A-Team) project builds bridges between farmers from around the urban fringe of Antwerp and the lively city centre area. Through a dynamic social media group, three innovative projects and several “matchmaking” events, “A-PLOEG” provides Antwerp farmers with the opportunity to expand their network. This is achieved through entering into partnerships which aim foster cooperation, opportunities for mutual benefit and new ideas and inspiration.
Through “A-PLOEG” Farmers can choose to participate in a number of structured initiatives. These aim to strengthen the entrepreneurship of the farmers and to increase their resilience and future sustainability. A central aim of the project is to promote partnership responses to challenges and opportunities and to build a confident future which is responsive to changing expectations, societal demand and consumer trends.
“A-PLOEG” offers farmers the opportunity to participate in a range of distinct activities:
Facebook Group: This active social media forum allows participants get to interact with like-minded farmers and entrepreneurs, to exchange ideas and to keep up to date about “A-PLOEG” networking activities. The social media group can also promote specific services or products and can help to link suppliers with consumers.
Taste Fairs: Scheduled Taste Fairs help to introduce farmers and entrepreneurs, from the catering and processing sectors, to one another. Through such events, farmers have the opportunity to present their products and business enterprises to customers and the wider public. “A-PLOEG” also organize a number of “speed dating” events which enable farmers to quickly get in touch with the relevant entrepreneurs.
Action Trajectories: “A-PLOEG” have identified three opportunities to help farmers from the Antwerp area to market their products in more innovative ways. They are currently working intensively on these focus areas to transform the ideas of farmers and entrepreneurs into reality and to bring local agricultural products into the heart of the City.
Origins and Development:
“A-PLOEG” is a project initiated by RURANT, a non-profit organization which is committed to improving the countryside of the Province of Antwerp. To this end, RURANT coordinate and support numerous innovative projects to make the region more attractive, liveable and dynamic.
Over the years, RURANT has been developing a range of initiatives related to local product branding, open space, liveable villages, entrepreneurship, innovation, regional development and stakeholder participation. These projects are never undertaken in isolation; each initiative, involves a diverse range of partners who work together through a process of creative synergy. These partners include municipal authorities, non-profit associations and local companies. The “A-PLOEG” project is financially supported by the European Fund for Rural Development and also by the Province of Antwerp and Flanders. In addition, “A-PLOEG” relies on the wider expertise of a number of enthusiastic local partner organisations.
The Region’s Farmers – the real “Local Heroes”
However, it is the local farmers themselves who are the real local heroes and driving force behind “A-PLOEG”. The participating farmers are all passionate professionals, who not only put in hard graft, but who also take innovation seriously.
Along with the Facebook Page, the “A-PLOEG” website provides an important online resource and directory of farmers involved in the network, thereby facilitating the fruitful exchange of knowledge, products and services.
All images Courtesy of “A-PLOEG”