Activists Lucia and Filip: Marketplaces are experiencing a renaissance as people mature
Lucia Gallová, Filip Zbojek and Šimon are a family striving to improve the position of small farmers in Slovakia. This is one of the reasons they are assisting in the creation of Nivy Market’s concept, which will be part of Nivy Station. They told us how they got involved in supporting farmers, why markets are important for cities and how visitors and producers can benefit from modern marketplaces.
They took us shopping at one of Bratislava’s markets and talked to us about the new marketplace’s potential, what it can offer and the reasons they joined the project.
How did you get involved in supporting small farmers and awareness raising?
Lucia: It all started a few years ago when I met a few farmers and understood that growing and producing high-quality foodstuffs is one of the most noble and responsible things you can do. It was such an intense experience that I made it my mission to support farmers. In addition, small farmers have become a rare species, so I co-founded an organisation that helps to improve their situation. During my university studies, my schoolmate and I turned a former school kitchen into the first university snack bar, Vegget, which prepares nutritious meals from ingredients outsourced directly from farmers. I wanted to bring farmers to Bratislava, so I also organised small farmer’s markets.
Filip: A few years ago, I was working on the set of a series of promo videos for food factories and I was appalled when I witnessed the mass food production and the ingredients that were used. From that moment on, I started focusing on quality. I almost completely stopped shopping in supermarkets and visited Bratislava’s marketplaces instead. This brought about a major change in my diet and I became calmer and more creative. My priorities even changed. As a filmmaker and producer, I decided to focus on topics related to healthy diets and the environment. Then, I worked on a campaign for Jamie Oliver’s event called Food Revolution where I met Lucia and all the puzzle pieces fit together.
Lucia: Wait, we actually met at a marketplace! We can officially claim that marketplaces connect people.
Why is it important to support local producers? Why do you think it matters?
Lucia: It’s an important issue. Today, serious debates are taking place on what form of agriculture can feed the world. Filip and I believe that small-scale farming makes sense from an ecological and social perspective, and it also supports the local economy and health. In addition to this, it’s a direct investment into the region where we live.
„Small stalls with local producers selling seasonal products have and will continue to have their place in cities.“
At marketplaces, consumers can experience first-hand the variety and quality of produce. For example, during ‘Bryndza Week,’ they can taste dozens of types of bryndza, including one made of goat cheese and traditional sheep cheese. A wide selection is one of the biggest advantages of variety.
Markets are very vibrant places. What role do they play in cities apart from their primary function?
Lucia: They connect the city with the countryside. Marketplaces have always allowed inhabitants of urban areas to buy high-quality produce from farmers living in the surrounding villages. This is linked to the development of the local economy and the cultivation of the entire region. It’s been a win-win strategy over the past centuries. There’s also a strong social dimension to it.
Filip: In the past, it was common practice to design urban flats with a pantry where seasonal products were stored for winter months. Markets and marketplaces remind us of the romance of natural laws. Some people still look forward to May because it’s the month of bryndza, they remember June as cherry season and July as the month when watermelons get ripe in Slovakia.
„Markets and marketplaces remind us of the romance of natural laws. Some people still look forward to May because it’s the month of bryndza, they remember June as cherry season and July as the month when watermelons get ripe in Slovakia.“
Lucia: Luckily, people have become more mature and marketplaces have experienced a renaissance. More and more customers look for products that are linked to real people instead of brands. For example, in the UK, marketplaces used to make around 210 million GBP annually, but in 2018, it was 3.1 billion GBP. In the past, it was very hip to shop in supermarkets, but today it’s trendy to shop at marketplaces and buy directly from farmers. Small stalls with local producers selling seasonal products have and will continue to have their place in cities. We are excited that Nivy Marketplace will become such a place.
What is the concept of the marketplace based on and what can visitors find there?
Lucia: Visitors will have access to a seasonal calendar of fruits and vegetables. We will remind people which fruits and veggies are in season. When they are really fresh and ripe their taste is incomparable to imported produce.
Filip: A farmer’s market is like a coin market. A passer-by sees a coin and likes it, but won’t buy it because he feels that it’s too expensive. He doesn’t see it as a long-term investment. A high-quality farmer’s product is also an investment. You invest in your health and in the country you live in. Our aim is to maintain the honesty and transparency of sellers and to raise awareness. We want to present shoppers with the producers’ stories and show them where products are made, the work behind it and their benefits. We will regularly post articles and videos on these topics.
What will be the most attractive thing about the marketplace for customers and sellers?
Lucia: The marketplace will include a Farmer’s Zone with actual producers and farmers. This is very important for the producers as well. Many sellers distort marketplaces because they take up space which could be rented by people who actually grow and produce foodstuffs.
Apart from seasonal offerings in the Farmer’s Zone, there will also be special weeks – e.g. watermelon or tomato week, with presentations of producers from the greater area, including neighbouring countries. This means a wider selection and new flavours for customers. We hope we will manage to attract Bratislava’s chefs as well.
„Our aim and vision is to help revive agriculture in Slovakia. We believe that Nivy Marketplace will create the opportunity and space to make this much easier.“
Filip: Schools, tourists and the general public will be able to take part in the Tour de Farmer’s Zone – regular, guided tours and tastings. In the future, we want to organise trips to nearby farms. This will give people from Bratislava the opportunity to meet farmers and see them at work.
Nivy Marketplace will combine a marketplace, a food zone, an outdoor atrium and specialised food stores. Does this combination have any special function or benefits?
Lucia: First of all, this combination means high-quality food! We hope that restaurants will outsource ingredients from sellers in the marketplace as well. I think it would be a great synergy.
What will make this marketplace different from other markets in the city?
Lucia: It’s a brand new concept of an indoor marketplace located in an ultra-modern multifunctional space. On one hand, it’s a challenge, but on the other hand, it opens an entirely new dimension of experience.
Filip: I think the main point is that mothers can buy vegetables and fruits that have not been sprayed with chemicals for their children without worrying whether the seller is trying to rip them off.
„Apart from seasonal offerings in the Farmer’s Zone, there will also be special weeks – e.g. watermelon or tomato week, with presentations of producers from the greater area, including neighbouring countries.This means a wider selection and new flavours for customers.“
Why did you agree to join this project?
Lucia: Our aim and vision is to help revive agriculture in Slovakia. We want to inspire young farmers and people who are considering becoming farmers or producers. We believe that Nivy Marketplace will create the opportunity and space to make this much easier.
Is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to?
Lucia: The seasonal foodstuff calendar and regular shopping.
Filip: I hope that visitors will buy plants, flowerpots and books on plant growing, start growing plants on their balconies and maybe even think about having their own garden. To put it simply, I hope that the marketplace will help bring up a new generation of farmers and gardeners and that it will revive the traditional eating culture.
He is a filmmaker and producer and a graduate of the Institute of Hospitality Management in Prague and the Film and Television Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts. He co-founded the film portal www.kinema.sk and the web TV site focused on freestyle sports, www.pome.sk. He produced and directed 82 episodes of the animated show HiSTORY for RTVS as well as online and TV spots for various PR agencies. He would like to create a medium specialising in topics related to agriculture and gastronomy.
She studies social anthropology and as a social activist, she co-founded Countryside Platform. Lucia launched the first university snack bar, Vegget. It produces its own foodstuffs and high-quality snacks made from farmer’s ingredients and provides catering services. She plans to build a rooftop farm.