I spent last Saturday at the Comptoir General unloading boxes of the last of summer’s tomatoes and the first of fall’s harvest: bundles of swiss chard, carrots, yellow onions, wrinkled savoy and bright purple cabbages, potatoes, herbs, apples, and pears. We carried jars of ratatouille, home-made tomato sauce and brown paper sacks filled with walnuts.
I was there for La Ruche Qui Dit Oui (the Hive Who Says Yes in English), a new initiative which brings together local farmers and consumers looking to buy closer to home. The idea is a cross between online shopping and an AMAP, the French equivalent of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Unlike an AMAP however, you buy what you want, when you want, rather than adhere for an entire season.
It works like this: someone starts a Ruche in their community, people and producers join, once every week or fortnight you’ll be notified of that week’s sale, you fill up your virtual shopping cart and a few days later you go to the designated delivery spot with your printed shopping list to pick up your goods. The producer sets a minimum sale amount to guarantee a certain number of sales. If they don’t reach the minimum, they don’t deliver and that item is deleted from your cart. By taking out the middleman, most of the proceeds go directly to the farmer or producer and more importantly they set their own price. La Ruche Qui Dit Oui takes 10% for administrative costs and 10 % goes to the person who set up the Ruche.
Last week most of the producers were on hand to give out their products and answer questions but members of the Ruche also helped with the distribution, which is why I was there. I try to buy local produce but have always hesitated joining an AMAP because I love going to the market. The Ruche was the perfect compromise because I could pick and choose what I wanted and still got to meet and interact with the producers.
The Comptoir General was an ideal spot for the distribution, with a decor unlike any other you are likely to see in Paris. The light-filled space is a treasure-trove of strange artifacts where taxidermied crows seem right at home with old phonographs. In the back of the main room is a bar so you can sit and have a coffee after picking up your purchases.
In addition to the vegetables above, they had delicious honey from Fontenay Sous Bois, freshly baked bread, local beer, all sorts of dairy-cheese, yogurt and milk, freshly killed chickens and homemade terrines. Right now there are only 10 Ruches functioning in France, 2 of which are in Paris, but many more are on the way as you can see from this map.
The next sale is on now and will end on Wednesday, 19 October, with distribution on Saturday, 22 October from 11h00-13h00. Maybe I’ll see you there?
To order go to: La Ruche Qui Dit Qui
More about buying local food in Paris: