In today's world of complex supply chains, international supermarkets and big agribusiness, it has become more and more difficult for small farms to sell their produce directly to local consumers at a reasonable price. But one farm in Germany, Peter-und-Paul-Hof, thinks they may have found a solution: set up vending machines which distribute produce instead of junk food.

The idea is unconventional, to be sure, but it isn't unprecedented. Back in 2007, a Spanish company based in Barcelona -- Lof -- also used vending machines to distribute healthy food such as nuts, prepared fruit, ready meals and even gazpacho soup. But the application of vending machines by Peter-und-Paul-Hof is the first time they have been used to deliver local produce.

The effort is part of a collaboration between the farm and vending manufacturer Stuewer, and currently the specialty machines (labeled Regiomats) are set up to dispense fresh milk, eggs, butter, cheese, potatoes and sausage. What more could a hungry German ask for?

Perhaps even more unusual, the company has chosen to place several of these upstart Regiomats alongside popular hiking trails in Switzerland.

Peter-und-Paul-Hof spawned the idea as a solution to a problem which faces many local farmers worldwide. After efforts to deliver milk directly to customers became too time-consuming and costly, they first tried to encourage customers to collect the milk from fridges on their farm, but of course that only shifted the burden onto the customers. Vending machines simply offered them the smartest middle ground solution to the problem.

And the machines offer more than just convenience to local-loving consumers, they also offer a 24/7 farmers market available to them 365 days a year. Moreover, since the system cuts out the retailer, consumers get to pocket money that would otherwise end up in the hands of middlemen.

At the very least, vending machines like these could offer a healthy alternative for people who need a quick snack while on the go, at the workplace, or in school. Despite today's fast-paced world, Peter-und-Paul-Hof may have stumbled upon a great way to deliver fast food that's still good for you.

Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

Farmers use vending machines to sell produce
In an effort to save money and labor, a farm in Germany has begun selling fresh, local produce from vending machines.