During the time we’ve been here in Romania we have taken an interest in the way of life we have chosen for ourselves – a sustainable and abundant peasant(ish) life. One of my first impressions of Romania (from my first visit here in 2009) was of the market in Piatra Neamt – I was blown away by the abundance, quality and affordable prices of vegetable produce in Romania. My jaw literally dropped, especially when I realized what a heaven this could be for a vegetarian like myself. Mind you this was in December – winter time when there the market offerings are not nearly as rich as in spring and summer.
However when, less then a year later, we arrived in Cluj, my impression of the market was … disappointing, especially since I expected to find an even richer offering since Cluj is a larger city and in Transylvania (west Romania) which is considered a more economically and culturally developed then Moldova (east Romania). The market had much less to offer and the prices were much higher.
Since this is intended to be a celebratory post I will keep my rant short. The peasant way of life in Romania is under a relentless attack from many directions. However we believe that the peasant way of life is not just a wonderful path towards an abundant life but is a strategic national resource in terms of sustainability. Simply put: Romania is still a country that can feed itself and that makes it a rare and special place on this planet. We feel that should be nurtured and protected.
With that in mind and heart, and as a celebration of both spring and Romanian Peasants, we are excited and happy to share with you a project, one that has been slowly brewing for almost a year. At first it was just an idea we tossed around openly. Then, shortly after moving out to Mociu we met Ildi and Levente, neighbors and peasants from whom we purchased most of our winter food supply (an abundance we are still enjoying), who, despite their justified skepticism listened to what we had to say and ultimately agreed to partake in our little experiment. Our idea was to create an alternate sales channel that would enable peasants to directly bring their produce to city-customers in a simple, reliable and sustainable way (bypassing the existing obstacles and abuses peasants have to deal with). The code name for the project was “Peasant Box” which in Romanian translates into “Cutia Taranului”.
The idea isn’t original, it has been applied in various forms in many places around the world. Peasant families offer boxes of produce that are delivered directly to customers in the city. Customers in the city can choose a box they would like delivered to them but not it’s exact contents. The contents of these boxes are a result of a delicate and miraculous collaboration between a peasant family, their work and Mother Nature. Therefore it changes with the moods of nature and the seasons of the year. By joining a box customers get healthy fresh food and a direct, continuous and co-supportive relationship with a peasant family.
Currently the project is an experiment with one peasant family. All it takes is 50 families in the city of Cluj-Napoca for them to sell almost all of their produce (available as either a small or large box). It would guarantee them a steady and reliable income without having to pay the outragous fees of the city markets and without having to stand in the markets long days. There are other long term benefits – but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves 🙂 If this experiment works we hope to see many more boxes being offered by peasants to cities all over Romania.
All that is left is to invite you to have a look at Cutia Taranului, and if you live in Cluj-Napoca maybe you too can enjoy the wonderful produce that Ildi and Levente grow 🙂