(text by Dominika Zareba)
Almost 40% of the population of Poland inhabits rural areas, which are distinguished by their high natural, landscape and cultural assets and valors, as compared with rural areas in other European countries. Polish rural areas feature a large variety of areas and landscapes and are dominated by sustainable family farms, thus ensuring healthy, organic foods, regional products (more and more often protected by registered designations enforced by the EU) and a rich culinary heritage to draw on. Ecotourism is becoming an important tool for developing an entrepreneurial spirit in local communities, creating new and innovative job markets and creating green jobs.
Areas in rural Poland where farming continues to follow a traditional model characterized by organic or near-organic practices and by and large features small, family-run farms, have at their disposal an invaluable asset which can be used to drive local economic growth. Healthy food, more and more sought after by domestic as well as foreign tourists, is the foundation for developing the culinary side of the tourist experience, including within the context of sustainable tourism. Tourists are interested in a combination of rich, healthy cuisine, high quality foods as well as traditional dishes typical for a given region and made with locally sourced ingredients, which can be found in restaurants, local inns and taverns as well as agro-tourist locales.
A very important piece of the puzzle is also a local network of retail points which help support local entrepreneurship, products and authentic local souvenirs by enabling purchases in local shops, galleries, markets or directly from producers/artisans. Some regions in Poland – and in particular Local Action Groups – have leveraged EU structural funds to launch pilot projects designed to create and promote local product brands. The main remaining challenge, however, is product distribution, reaching the customer on a broader scale and linking product marketing to tourism.
Boosting promotion and distribution of local goods is a critical means for expanding entrepreneurship in local communities, growing and exploring new job markets and creating new green jobs.
text co-funded by the European Union
Examples of local product brands on Polish Greenways:
Local products in the Land of Bicycles in the Lublin region. The “Green Ring”, a local action group, teamed up with municipalities from NW Lublin Voivodship to create and mark 500 km of bike trails running through various sites and localities in a well-known tourist hot-spot ‘triangle’ in the area of the towns of Nałęczów, Kazimierz Dolny and Puławy, as part of the international Amber Trail greenway. The ecotourism offer of the “Land of Bicycles” region is based on local initiatives such as ecomuseums and questing and aims to develop an array of local products and a retail network in the region to support sales. 2014 saw Poland’s first ever Local Product Bike Rally take place here. Rose hip and petal jams, the Kazimierz bagel, pancakes with locally produced dandelion honey, elderberry and jasmine syrup, grass pea pate, sour cherry borsht, broad bean dumplings, rasberry juice and mousse, buckwheat mints are just some of the tastes awaiting the curious tourist visiting the Land of Bicycles. This wholesale effort to promote the culinary riches of the region have brought together local restuarants, B&Bs, agrotourist farms, community history museums, family-run jam & preserve factories, Local Product Chambers and many other local stakeholders.