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Photos from the Reference Regions

There are a total of 30 reference regions in the SALSA project encompassing the extraordinary diversity of form and function of small farms and food businesses in 19 European and African countries.  Let's bring the reference regions to life with photos!

Please post photos of your reference region to this discussion thread.  Come back as often as you wish, show us farmers, landscapes, farming systems, related businesses - basically anything that moves us beyond data and statistics to understand and celebrate the characteristics, qualities, challenges and essence of your reference region(s).

And let's discuss what we see!  Let's share experiences......and learn!

Please keep your images less than 2MB and of reasonable dimensions. 

Comments

Some initial photos from Bistrita-Nasaud in the north of Romania.  It's a hilly / mountainous region.  80% of all farms are less than 5 hectares.  Land use is predominantly grasslands (64%), plus arable (33%) and some perennial crops, notably orchards and vineyards (3%)

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And more......

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And a few more......

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Great idea, Mark! Thanks for sharing. This is useful to better understand small farmers' living and work conditions in our regions. In your photos of the green beauty of Bistrita Nasaud, I noticed the different kinds of hay stocking - traditional heaps, then 'bricks' and finally rolls. They tell me of the different level of machinery, technological equipment at farmers' disposal. Lack of appropriate machinery is mentioned as one of the key problems for Latvian small farmers. How well equiped are small farmers in this Romanian region? Are there some machinery rings? If yes, who owns them?

Hi Sandra - it's an interesting observation you have made about the different hay-making techniques in the photos I posted from Bistrita-Nasaud.

Agricultural land use in the region of Bistrita-Nasaud is dominated by semi-natural permanent grasslands.  Many of these are species-rich, so-called "High Nature Value" (HNV) grasslands - which have been created and maintained by hundreds of years of traditional patterns of low intensity grazing and hay-making.  These HNV grasslands are still largely mown by hand, turned by hand and stacked by hand.  Indeed, the Romanian Rural Development Programme (RDP) offers agri-environment payments to farmers of up to 242 EUR/ha to maintain traditional management practices on the HNV grasslands.

HOWEVER, the photos that I posted were NOT of HNV grasslands.  They were from the more fertile and productive south-west of the region where the small-scale farming systems are slightly more intensive and technologically advanced - consequently in addition to hay-making by hand, there is (as you have observed) some use of mechanical mowing and baling machines (small bales and round bales). 

But overall, small farmers in the region are not well-equiped with machines.  According to the Eurostat Standard Output data for the region, some 65% of farmers are subsistence; 28% are semi-subsistence; 6% are small commercial, and; less than 1% are medium-large commercial.  This is not a wealthy farming region!  Mechanisation is usually associated with the slightly larger, more commercially-orientated farmers who have purchased imported second-hand equipment for their own use, as well as providing a "service" to other farmers in the community. 

Furthermore, there is still relatively little co-operation between farmers regarding the joint ownership of equipment (including more sophisticated concepts such as machinery rings).  Indeed, with a few notable exceptions, the persistent reluctance of small farmers to co-operate remains a major challenge to development of the small-holder sector in the whole of Romania!

Continuing the discussion about the persistent resistance of Romanian small farmers to co-operation........we actually have an interesting "exception-to-the-rule" in our second reference region in Giurgiu

In a village 30 km south of Bucharest in the fertile (but increasingly arid Danube plain) there is a very interesting and innovative cooperative founded by a major supermarket and four local vegetable growers (each with less than 5 ha of open field and plastic poly-tunnels / greenhouses).    

The unique characteristic of the cooperative is that it collaborates with an additional 80 smallholder families in the village within the framework of a common cropping plan to boost annual production to around 5,000-6,000 tonnes of tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, courgettes, beans, eggplants, cabbage, celery, onion, garlic, dill, parsley, spinach, radishes etc. - all of which feeds into the supermarket's national supply chain. 

It's an inspiring  example of a "buyer-driven cooperative" overcoming the classical challenges of connecting small farmers to conventional agri-food value / supply chains - and thereby effectively enhancing their contribution to food and nutrition security 

 

 

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More photos from the greenhouses and cold store

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Produce from the cooperative for sale in a supermarket store some 200 km away

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Inspired by the photos placed here by Mark I also hereby display some moments from our first interview trip in the Pierīga region (R15) in Latvia, which turned out to be a very interesting experience. While two interviews were pre-arranged, following the contacts made with the help of the local advisory service, the first one was cancelled by the respondent when we were already on our way. Thus during our walk around the neighbouring area while making use of the spare time for testing our GPS for the upcoming field point photo work we initiated a conversation with a female farmer working in a garden that seemed to fit well with our SALSA SF criteria. And we were very lucky that the farm really met our criteria and that the farmer agreed to have an interview together with her husband right on the spot. So this is also an option that doing field photos can be combined either with prearranged or spontaneous interviews with farmers. Another interesting experience was an unplanned stop at a small roadside shop with a sign of a biological farm selling its produce. While it was not open for sales at the moment we stopped by to see if we can get some coffee and it turned out that the owner was just having a conversation with ladies from some regulatory body. So having had a small chat we agreed to have an interview with the owner some other day. So another spontaneous contact for an SF interview! Last, but no least, the other prearranged interview was an interesting experience of the wide diversity of domestic animals on the farm - not only those grown for consumption and sales but also pets (including a turkey!) which is something small farms are also rich in:)

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Great to have an opportunity to share fieldwork photos – thanks Mark!

Scottish fieldwork began on Skye with a croft at the very northerly end of R30 or NUTS3 UKM63. The challenges of getting around the vast expanse of this region are daunting and a long day was spent  driving on single track roads to farms around the island. From a croft that had Hebridean sheep  with its own on-line wool shop, to a gourmet salad grower supplying a Michelin star restaurant, Skye provided a glimpse of the range of small producers throughout R30.

My journey continued with an equally long trip from our Aberdeen base, this time to the Isle of Arran far to the south of UKM63. Ferries criss-cross between islands and mainland, taking holiday makers and their cars, alongside trailers with livestock and other freight. Here I met a small farmer struggling to get a fledgling enterprise up and running in the face of soaring land prices and scarcity of available tenancies. She raised poultry and horticultural produce seeking to be sustainable and environmentally friendly.  I also met a second gourmet grower whose parting gift of a bag of sugar snap peas was delicious (and hopefully didn’t breach ethical guidelines).

My interviews were revealing common problems in terms of access to land with several small farmers unable to expand or worried about insecure tenancies. Land pressures on the islands include demand for second homes, holiday lets and retirement properties which can drive up the value of small agricultural plots where planning permission or market speculation inflates prices. Agricultural land that does become available is often consolidated into larger farmers limiting opportunities for prospective small farmers. This pattern was repeated in the Isle of Bute where a son who had not inherited the family farm had become a part-time farmer on a tiny plot but whose Highland cows were award winning pedigree beasts. Another part time Bute cattle farmer had magnificent Dexter cattle. He also bemoaned insecurities over his rented grazings.

So far, I have been hugely impressed by the passion and energy of many people working in difficult circumstances. I look forward to sharing more photos and telling their stories.

 

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