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La Ruche qui dit Oui (avc.com)
78 points by jpkenobi on June 16, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments

Summary: this is something akin to a farmers market with pre-orders. Consumers order local produce, farmers and consumers all arrive at a pre-determined location and time for delivery, and farmers keep most of the money (with a small cut going to the location owners, and a cut going to the company that handles all the market-making/financial transactions.)

At present, this exists only in Europe, but it sounds like a US expansion might be possible.

No need. CSAs have existed throughout the US for a long time. Wrapping them under a single brand and adding in a middle man to handle the transactions doesn't really add value to the consumer.

I hadn't heard the term "CSA" before. Interesting.


I just tried it, the whole process is a bit confusing. There's no store/location ("assembly") in my city (Germany), but my s/o lives in a somewhat more hip city which has a few.

To get any details for any individual assembly -- including finding out what's for sale! -- you need to register (full name, password and email). After registering, you still need to "join" each assembly individually before you see any goods, which feels a bit weird: I thought I was shopping for groceries, apparently I'm now in some sort of club. Or rather three clubs: the first two I tried had nothing for sale, which almost had me give up, but the third one does have some stuff:

A variety of vegetables, ranging from very to extremely expensive, think 2 to 4x of what you'd pay in a regular supermarket -- I guess they're artisinal or something. But the potatoes I bought earlier today were the same kind, also sourced from the region, and still cost half of what they're asking. They do have a huge variety of tomatoes, and I'd be happy to pay 3x the regular price for a tomato with an actual taste.

Apart from the veggies, that assembly also has wine and bread for prices that are average for good quality stuff, and overpriced chutneys and condiments, the kind you only buy as a gift.

This is not a terribly convincing display, to be honest, but I imagine the experience is very different in France, where they seem to have a much higher concentration of assemblies. Not completely different, though, since I can't imagine they have any chance of competing on price -- the regular food retail chain is bound to be ruthlessly efficient in that respect.

The whole concept has the huge downside that you have to pre-order AND be at the assembly location at a specific time, compared to the supermarket (no pre-order required, open all the time), the farmer's market (no pre-order required, open more often than any single assembly) or, I guess, web deliveries (though I don't intend to order a tomato from the web, ever).

There's one not far from me, so I may look into it. Well, 20 min... far enough that "drove 40 minutes to pick up local produce" starts to sound dumb, though. I'm in central France.

But in context -- it's not hard to find local produce, including plenty of local, organic produce, without relying on a specially-organized meetup point. The closest large town to where I live has about 8K people; that's big enough for them to have a (smallish) dedicated organic/specialty grocery store, and street markets every weekend, year-round, with a few organic farms selling their produce there.

If I drive into Limoges, there are several large grocery stores that sell only organic produce, and highlight local produce.

These are all noticeably more expensive than shopping at a regular Super-U or Casino/Geant (big chains), but the selection and quality is quite good.

I'll check into the Ruche near here to see what it's like; but if it's the same farmers we can buy from directly at the weekend market, I'm not sure I see the point.

Edit: "276 Membres"... Huh -- that's significant. Oddly, the producers include a "Safranier", i.e., a saffron farmer. I didn't think that could even grow here.

I use La Ruche in Lyon, France. They have several assembly locations across the city. I think it is more expensive that usual market but I suppose it is worth it. For example, a 1.4kg chicken is about 14€. In the market I would buy it for 9 or 10€, so it is not that overpriced, considering that the La Rouche chicken, supposedly, saw some sun's light in its lifetime.

I may seem not very convinced, but I do like it. Each Thursday I go and get my stuff, taste some local brewery beer and chit-chat with the producers. Oh and the bread from the bread lady is awesome. Full disclosure: My girlfriend started all the let's buy La Ruche and Marechal-Fraicheur stuff... I don't think I would have done it by myself.

The assembly thing is indeed annoying, they did it this way because it's a franchise model. Anyone can request to open an assembly in their area, providing they fit the criterias. You're in charge of contacting farmers and animating the assembly, and you split the profits with La Ruche Qui Dit Oui.

Since I'm living in Paris, I have one quite close to my place, with plenty of choice. Prices are expensive compared to normal groceries, but veggies are mostly organics and the price is on par or cheaper compared to normal organic seller. The taste is great, it's better than most farmer's market and much better than the usual groceries. Can't eat that everyday because of the price though!

This is pretty common in the US, it generally goes under the name "community supported agriculture" (CSA) or "farm-shares". People usually pay a yearly fee or pay a monthly subscription and get a weekly box of produce and whatnot mostly from one or a few local farms.

No, it's not the same at all. Here you get to select online the product you want to buy, you are not "forced" to receive a box of produce. And there is no monthly fee at all, you just pay for what you buy.

Apologies if I elided mention of how they are different, I didn't mean to do so. This sort of thing is a pretty big innovation and offers the potential to increase the reach of direct to consumer local farm produce sales.

I have been using this service for a year. It's nice. Definitely more expensive than going to the supermarket but the food is way better. We have to eat less and more healthy anyway.

> How can we get back to a time when the food we eat is produced nearby, is high quality, and is healthy?

That time never existed. Factory farms and food processing have historically represented huge improvements in safety as well as affordability and availability. Not that this isn't a great idea, just that it's not a return to any kind of wonderful world of plenty.

He's not saying that variations of "a marketplace that connects farmers to people who want farm fresh food" doesn't exist. He's saying that this mythical utopia where everybody ate locally-produced, high-quality, healthy food didn't exist.

I don't know, I wouldn't say the downsides of the old ways were that the food was non-local, low quality, or unhealthy. A lot of the food regulations were necessary because when you try to do things on a large scale you run into quality and health problems. The downsides are more like people ate way less meat because it was too expensive, there was much less international variety, and there were a lot more farmers, like 25x more. It's really hard to be a farmer. That said, I think the typical person nowadays can afford to eat much better than your typical peasant in the past, at a lower total percentage of income. It's just that because there's so much to spend money on in life now, today's typical peasant chooses not to eat better and ends up romanticizing the past.

The main point you're missing is that people were tied to local produce. Cold snap during summer? Potato blight? Sorry, you're going to starve. Even when the harvest came through, staying healthy through the winter and spring was a major problem, with all sorts of vitamin deficiency diseases like scurvy, beriberi, pellagra and rickets endemic.

There's definitely more food now. Most of it is lower quality than what was eaten before, when it was eaten of course. For survival reasons, I would choose availability over quality any day. However, we have more than enough food to survive, so much so that we throw it away. So maybe quality could go up a bit. Like say by banning the use of antibiotics and growth hormones in milk producing cows.

Antibiotics are banned in dairy cows (at least, in the US and EU). They can be used to treat illness, but the milk produced while they are used must be discarded.

Growth hormones are banned in the EU, not in the US, but many US dairy producers advertise the fact that they produce milk without using them.

Sorry, I thought there were antibiotics in US milk.

We built http://www.attmatr.com with a similar philosophy. The difference is we strive to actually be farm-to-table as we deliver to the customer's doorstep - and our platform caters to B2B too. We're only in Denmark at the moment but will soon expand abroad.

In France there is the AMAP association (http://www.reseau-amap.org/) which shares some of the same goals, but for non-profit and with a focus on organic products.

The AMAPs are subscription based, and you get a box (panier) with whatever the farmer happens to have this particular week.

Here you can actually order things.

In the case of AMAPs, the nice thing about not knowing what you'll receive in advance is that it forces you to learn a certain number of recipes so you'll be able to cook whatever you get.

We are part of a similar subscription based system here in Belgium. Prices are somewhere between supermarket normal and organic. Mostly local, but some stuff is shipped in when the local crops really suck. Indeed forces you to learn to cook and enjoy whatever weird stuff happens to be growing well locally. This results in less effort deciding what to buy, but more effort figuring out what to do with whatever you received. I really don't think giving consumers ~more choice is going to help solve the problem of getting people to eat whatever is growing locally.

I used to live in Grenoble, and some local AMAPs offered some cooking classes. You could choose to take your basket to a kitchen and people helped you with cooking and canning your vegetables. It takes a little more involvement from the consumer but then they only have to reheat what they've cooked, and they don't have to consume their weekly basket immediately.

I'm happy to read a french startup has access to top talents outside Europe. I wish them the best.

Oh and it's here: https://laruchequiditoui.fr/en

Who in the US is doing similar? I read an article about japanese fishermen doing this recently on wsj


Is the name a play on "La vache qui rit"?

I'd assume not -- because la vache qui rit is sort of the French version of American cheese (a factory-produced cheese-based product, not an actual cheese), so it's not really the sort of thing they'd want to be associated with.

The name is ringing a vague bell -- maybe there's a childrens' story about a talking hive? No idea, but a quick google didn't find the answer either, so I can't say for sure.

Most French people love La Vache qui Rit. They don't eat it as adults but it revives memories of their school trip lunches.

Sure; it's not considered an evil thing generally; it's just that the subculture of people who go out of their way and pay more to get organic/local/etc. generally aren't eating much of it: they're paying more for the AOC-certified, locally-produced real cheese.

They're also (in my experience) buying a ton of homeopathic remedies for just about everything, which I have trouble not rolling my eyes about, but that's another subject.

Actually the producer can set a minimum revenue under which it's not profitable for him (then he doesn't have to deliver). When the minimum is reached, the Ruche says "yes" to the producer -> thus the name :)

For french speaking people, this video explain it: https://vimeo.com/17644285

French article interviewing the founder, http://www.youminga.org/?p=530, no details about the origin of the name, the jury is still out.

Definitely not (I'm french).

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