Monday, February 16, 2009

We're gonna farm!

In Slovakia, a vast majority of agricultural land is leased, only a few owners mange their own land. Slovak farm size structures, which formed as the result of transition, are amongst the largest in Europe. On average, Slovak co-operatives manage about 1500 ha and corporate farms roughly 1190 ha. Individual private and household-plot farming remained a rather marginal activity occupying just 7 % of total agricultural land with an average size of 7.7 ha.

The co-operative, or Drustvo, of our village Cerovo, manages 2500 hectares including the land of all our neighbours and 6 hectares of ours. They have been using our land since 1993 when Slovak Republic and Czech Republic separated. So there we are, freshly arrived westerners, and we want to begin farming our own land. We’re starting a reverse revolution!

No leasing or other contracts were binding us to the Drustvo, however local customs should be respected. We want to live in harmony with the people around us, and since the Drustvo is owned by all of them, claiming back our land had to be done with diplomacy.

we would love to have a small campsite for nature lovers

After five months of living in Slovakia, our Slovak language skills are still to basic to have a normal conversation without pantomime playing and our dictionary playing the leading part of the drama. Therefore we asked Siggi to accompany us when meeting the Drustvo’s president. He is German and has been living for over six years in this little big country and understands both our background and the culture and customs of rural Slovakia.

We we’re a bit stressed before the meeting since we had heard all kind of stories from other immigrants ("you will never get your land back"), and the president of the Drustvo most certainly must have heard negative stories about offensive foreigners as well. However, when our intentions were explained and we said we wanted to do it in concord with the Drustvo the sky cleared up and the atmosphere became positive and understanding. It seems that we have to write an official letter, get our land surveyed and then, from 1 October 2009 on, we can use all our eight hectares as we want.

What we want to do is to keep, pigs, goats and tourist on our land as well as growing Abies Nordmann trees. The latter will take eleven years from seed to marketable Christmas tree. The first three years will be spend in a nursery in Denmark, the last eight over here on our land. This is a long time involving many risks, including frost damage, browsing by game, diseases, infestation of insects and nematodes and a fluid assets shortage of the growers. Therefore, the earlier we can plant the seedlings, the better. The Drustvo has decided that they have no objections with us already planting 5000 plantlets this spring.

It’s a big thing for us, making big investments and taking high risks (it is officially slightly to cold to grow Normann over here!), and it is already the talk of the town. Before even telling it around, our neighbours were informed that we are gonna farm our own land! They said it with amazement. We hope they like it and they like us, two Dutch people just trying to make a living of their land in harmony with people and nature…..

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