Young Families in Rural Bulgarian Communities Embrace Sustainable Farming
Family farming is no easy task, but one young Bulgarian couple has shown that sustainable farming can be a successful business venture, while also helping to revive one of the EU’s poorest regions.
The young Bulgarian farmers, Dimitar Stanchev and Ralitsa Kuneva, have been tending to their beehives located in the Strandzha Mountains, south-east Bulgaria, for more than 12 years.
The two young farmers produce and process 35-40 tonnes of organic honey annually, 18 tonnes of which is exported to the EU market.
As well as producing coveted products such as manna honey, registered as an EU protected geographical indication, and other novel honey products, the couple are also heavily invested in their local community.
Alongside their honey production, they run their own processing factory and grow 30 hectares of organic vegetables which supply their restaurant, where guests can sample food coming directly from the farm.
“Almost everything sold in our restaurant comes from our farm,” Stanchev said, adding that what is not produced in-house is bought from local farms, which they work to promote.
Besides investing effort into their thriving business, the couple also invests in their local village, Indzhe Voyvoda, paving its streets with their own money, building eco-trails and bike lanes, and also aiming to soon launch a festival to present the unique foods of the region.
In doing so, the couple exemplifies the key goals of the EU’s flagship food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy, which aims to shorten agricultural supply chains and, in doing so, offer better incomes for farmers.
Likewise, the reform of the EU’s farming subsidy programme, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), aims to prioritise small and medium-sized farms and encourage young people to join the profession.
To this end, the CAP reform puts forth a number of measures, such as offering a higher level of support per hectare for small and medium-sized farms and setting aside a minimum of 2% of direct support payments allocated to each EU country for young farmers.
Another key aim of the Farm to Fork strategy is for at least 25% of EU farmland to be farmed organically by 2030. But while Stanchev and Kuneva are already working towards this goal, meeting the same target will be a great challenge for Bulgaria.
Latest Eurostat data from 2018 shows that Bulgaria is one of the lowest-ranked in the EU in terms of land used for organic farming, with only 2.4% of agricultural land farmed organically.
But in the last few years more and more young people follow Dimitar and Ralitsa's showing that such an approach could work elsewhere in the country, helping to safeguard natural resources of Bulgaria. /euractiv
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